How Does Money Become a Problem in Relationship?

Does money crop up as a problem in your relationship?

January 23, 2019

Many couples have told us that money is often a problem in their relationship whether they have very little money, enough money, or a lot of money!

We stumbled on a key to this conundrum in the window of a knitting shop in Norway! There was a sign that read:

Money can’t buy happiness …
But it can buy yarn,
which is sort of the same thing.


Maybe money becomes a problem in relationships because each of us has our own individual list of “sort of the same thing as happiness” … which money can buy.

We all want happiness. But in any relationship, two people surely have different “sort of the same thing as happiness” lists. And those lists are practically endless!

Carol’s list actually does include yarn. Yarn doesn’t appear on Paul’s “sort of the same thing as happiness” list, but Native American flutes do. And each of our lists goes on and on.

Do this exercise:

Take a sheet of paper and write at the top,

Money can’t buy happiness …
But it can buy ________________________,
which is sort of the same thing.

Now fill up the page with words that you would put in that blank space.

For added fun and insight, have a person you’re in relationship with do the same thing. Then compare the lists.

With just a few moments of thought about what’s on your list (a nice home, education for our kids, a new car, retirement security, a week in Hawaii…) you’ll probably see that your “sort of the same thing as happiness” list is very long.

But why is this a problem in relationship?

Because … like everyone else … you are in a relationship to get what you want! And money is a path to having much of what you want – tangible, intangible, and “sort of the same thing as happiness.”

And no matter how much money you have, money is finite.

When your partner spends money, maybe a fearful voice in your head is whispering, “That money could have bought something I want!”

But wait! You also want the happiness that comes from the experience of love, connection, and intimacy! How often have love, connectedness and intimacy been undermined in your most important relationship by your urgent desire to get your own individual way about money?

So what can we do?

Well, you can’t change the nature of money and what it can buy.

And your lists of “sort of the same thing as happiness” aren’t going away.

So you can relax and let those be: you want what you want and you have the money that you have.

Notice that your problems with money in your relationship have been occurring in an “I-based world.”

In that world there is always a fear that I won’t get the happiness I want. A fear that I will miss out on something that’s sort of the same thing as happiness … for me.

We assert that there’s another world to live in: a “WE world” where money can buy “sort of the same thing as happiness” for US.

In that “WE world,” money does not get in the way of love, connectedness and intimacy.

We can’t give you a map to the “WE world” of relationship. It doesn’t exist until you create it. In fact, you (singular) can’t create it. Only a relationship can create it.

You can start by being aware of your fear that you won’t get what’s on your individual “sort of the same thing as happiness” lists. In your relationship the two of you can communicate about your fears.

The more often words like “our happiness,” “our money” and “what we want” come out of your mouth, the less frequently money will occur to you as a problem, and the more freedom you will have to experience the happiness of being in relationship.  

We would love to hear what you discover.

With love,

Carol & Paul

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