Does The Pursuit of Financial Success Affect Relationships?
We all have our individual dreams, goals and idea of what a life well lived means to us. I have worked with many people where achieving financial wealth and success is their main focus. Their work or financial status is how they identify themselves, which is great if it works for them and does not impact other areas of their life. By that I mean it doesn’t impact their physical, emotional and mental well being through over working and pushing themselves so hard or cause them to have strained relationships.
I’ve seen all too often the pursuit of financial success damage relationships and even end in divorce, so it is important for me to shed light on this topic and share my top tips on how to reduce the impact of financial goals on your relationships.
To start, I want to highlight how the pursuit of financial success can hurt relationships, I’ll share experiences of a few couples I have supported, with their names changed.
Adam and Lara came to me because they were on the brink of separating and decided to give their marriage one last chance. Lara had come to hate Adam because she was carrying all the financial burden, when Adam lost his job at the start of covid. He had been unemployed for a year five years back and she was distraught that it happened again. Adam believed he was doing all he could in a sector that had collapsed and he firmly believed he would make more money so that the financial burden would balance out in the long-term and wanted Lara to relax. Lara owned 3 properties and had ambitious goals to gain more assets in different countries. Financial success and living a great life were so important to her and it crushed her that the man she loved was ruining her dreams and plans. Adam was hurt by her approach, yes she had been saving, but he was still contributing financially – he had used all his savings and borrowed money to cover the basic bills. Lara couldn’t help feeling how unfair the past 7 years had been and was holding a lot of resentment. Adam couldn’t believe that their love and marriage did not mean more than money to Lara.
Lara and Adam aren’t alone in this situation. In fact, a study carried out by the American Sociological Review found that from all the men they researched, there was an increase of 32% risk in divorce amongst men who had lost their job compared to those that were in full time employment. This study supports the fact that many couples need support in transitioning into a new way of life where the husband is no longer working. It is one of the many reasons why I facilitate a comprehensive intensive breakthrough for individuals to regain confidence and for couples to release the resentment and adjust to a new situation because of unresolved feelings.
I have worked with many couples where one person is driven to save and build an empire, so they are extremely tight with money; they don’t want to spend on holidays and only want to pay for the basic essentials for their children.
Chloe and Dan booked my relationship transformation program with me because they had finally hit rock bottom in their relationship due to Chloe being overly tight with their finances. She questioned everything that was paid for, including essentials like medical expenses or special occasion gifts for friends and family. Although Dan wasn’t careless with their money, Chloe refused to let him take control of any family finances in fear that he wouldn’t be able to manage their money as well as she could. This left Dan feeling like he wasn’t trusted with his own earnings and made him feel guilty about spending money to do nice things for their daughter. It was pushing them further apart and this was a major concern for Dan because Chole wanted more children, yet did not want to spend on them.
Something that is common in a lot of people who are financially driven and have a desire to be extremely successful, is the amount of time they dedicate to their work or goals. Many work around the clock, rarely engage in family activities and take their work with them wherever they go. This is fine in a relationship where both partners are on the same wavelength, however if they are not then it can cause problems. Workaholism is something I help people with weekly, it’s like an addiction for many and it can cause strain in relationships especially when the couple have children.
Bobby and Amy booked a short break because they wanted some quality time together. They both agreed to minimize their time on their phones, and it was going to be a no work holiday. However, just before they left a contract came through and Amy needed to have a couple of online meetings during their holiday and send off a proposal. Bobby reluctantly agreed, however he felt like he was beginning to resent Amy for going back on her word as this was always the case when they agreed to have quality time together. Amy felt like she was cutting back on her workload when on holiday and so she couldn’t see why a few meetings would impact their holiday when she was spending more time than usual with Bobby.
Bryan Robinson, a professor in University of North Carolina and psychotherapist, conducted a national study on couples with and without a workaholic person. The findings were concerning – relationships where one or both partners were workaholics, were 40% more likely to experience conflict and/or separation than couples without. These stats are understandable as in my line of work, I see firsthand, the impact workaholism has on couples that have different ideas or values when it comes to work/life balance. I am not judging on putting workaholics in any shape or form for many they love their life like that and are happy, however they are often best suited to another workaholic or very independent person.
It’s evident from what I’ve shared so far that one of the biggest driving forces behind workaholism is being financially successful and this can add a lot of strain on a couple if they have different views on financial success.
Everyone has different ideas on what being successful means, for example, some might see completing a degree as success, others might see having a big family as a sign that they are successful in life and then there are those that see financial worth as marker for success.
Interestingly, there was a study carried out by the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships on whether people who base their self-worth on financial success have more financial conflicts in their romantic relationships.
Researchers Park, Ward, and Naragon-Gainey (2017) found strong connections between self-worth based on financial success and the impact this had on their ability to connect to other people. This makes total sense as individuals who are driven by financial success will prioritize increasing finances, over their need to connect to their loved ones and this will directly impact how happy they are, or their partner is in the relationship. Relationships take work to be successful and if that is placed lower down on the list of priorities, it can make a partner feel disrespected and unloved which affects the way they treat their loved one.
If you can relate to any of the aspects of financial conflicts I have discussed so far, I want to share my top tips on how to reduce the impact of financial gain on your romantic relationships.
Firstly, I want to emphasize the importance of having compassion with one another. In the beginning of relationships, it is much easier to overlook any disagreements and skim over deeper conversations about money values, fears, and dreams. However, it is so important to remember that a lot of these beliefs stem from childhood and are deeply ingrained in people. Some people grow up in poor households where their parents struggled to feed their family, so naturally, being an adult, they want to avoid living like that again and this becomes their focus. The same can be for people who grew up in a wealthy family and were constantly reminded that earning money was the only way to live as financial freedom was the main thing in life.
If your values and beliefs in your relationship are not aligned with one another, I want you to know that with the right amount of love and support it is possible to make long lasting changes whilst still maintaining wants and desires to be financially free.
For couples experiencing financial conflict and control –
- Work out your lifestyle choices together
Make a note of lifestyle choices that are important to you, for example, wearing designer brands or having regular holidays, then you can share what is important to you both and why, as well as what you are both willing to compromise on. If one of you prefers designer brands, maybe you can explore shopping at outlet malls that are cheaper than high street prices, or if holidays are important, you can research cost effective package holidays rather than booking the first holiday you see. This is a great way to meet one another halfway without spending frivolously.
Create a spreadsheet where you can input income and outgoings together. This will help you avoid any financial misunderstandings and conflicts about where money is being spent. This is also a great way to log down savings and in case of emergency funds.
- Salary differences shouldn’t affect how you see one another
There is rarely ever a couple where both partners are earning the exact same amount. This is not a reason for anyone to feel inferior or superior based on income. Instead try to look at the total income combined and how you both agree to spend the money. Remember you are both working towards a common goal – to be happy and thriving together so you both have a say in how the combined finances are spent. If you or your partner is a stay-at-home mum or dad, this doesn’t take away their right to say what they would like done with the finances. Many often forget that looking after the household is a fulltime job without a salary and keeps the family home together so stay at home parents shouldn’t be undermined for not financially earning. If it is causing resentment however which it does in many couples before having children you need to outline the expectations of when the person will return to work and whether that work will be full or part-time.
- Steer clear of hiding what you spend or earn
It can be tempting for some to hide shopping behind their partners back or to stash money away in a secret savings account “just in case”. This leads to an unhealthy relationship between you and your partner and will most definitely be heartbreaking if they find out. If you are hiding money you may make your partner feel insecure about why you are hiding things and they may question what else you could be hiding. Trust is essential in a relationship and hiding and lying breaks trust. I’ve had many couples come to me because one person has racked up a load of debt on their credit card which has caused huge conflict. Money should not be something to cause mistrust. It is healthier to be open and transparent about what you’ve spent or earned so that any plans you make together are based on honesty.
Being financially driven isn’t a bad thing or way to be. It can help you reach your dreams and goals in life; however, it has to be something that works for your relationship and family too.
Having a one-sided relationship where one person works too much that they don’t see their partner or children will take a toll. So will someone who is controlling of finances. Not only does resentment build, it can make the other person feel inadequate, unwanted, unseen and insecure. This will only negatively impact your romantic relationship.
Know your reasons for financial success and be realistic. Does this work in your favor or will this hold you back from enjoying making real connections with your loved ones? Finding that healthy balance will allow you to thrive and be successful, whilst maintaining a romantic relationship with the person who is on this journey with you.
I will leave you all with something to think about. Bronnie Ware a palliative care nurse shared the top 5 regrets people had that were terminally ill –
- I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me
Instead of making others happy, do what makes you happy. Find people who are on the same wavelength as you so you can shine rather than hide what you really want to please others.
- I wish I hadn’t worked so hard
When you are told you don’t have long left to live, you can’t help but look back and think there are so many things you could have done instead of focusing on work. There is a whole life out there waiting to be explored and enjoyed so don’t hold yourself back from truly living life. Look after yourself and your relationships.
- I wish I had the courage to express myself
A lot of people tend to suppress emotions to avoid any difficult conversations or confrontation. However, there are healthy ways to express your views in a confident manner. The more you suppress emotions, the more you open yourself up to dis-ease in your body.
- I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends
It’s easy to get caught up in life and responsibilities that we neglect our nearest and dearest. Try to maintain contact with loved ones so that you never regret focusing on finances and spending less time with friends who have made an impact on your life.
- I wish I had let myself be happier
Getting comfortable in a busy working life focusing on only financial goals can hold you back from doing things you enjoy. The stress of work can become overwhelming to the point where you are no longer happy. Many stay comfortable in a job they hate and instead of making career changes to fulfil their happiness and purpose, they carry on and complain.
If you right now are fed up of the mundane routine of work, home, sleep and repeat kind of life and want to explore finding your purpose my breakthrough intensives can help people break through in all areas of life.
For those called to help others, the Holistic Life Therapy School maybe a great fit for you. There is a one hour special masterclass on this and the link will be provided along with the show notes, do check it out while you, it’s up for a limited time only.
Ideally we want everything right loving close relationships, fun times, financial success and career fulfillment – we can have them all it takes commitment to be balanced and it is so worth it.
Stay focused on your goals and aim to be on the journey together, as the journey to your dreams is just as important as the end goal.