Money Baggage and Relationships (Part 2)

Here is the story of Ellen, an independent woman. Ellen’s money baggage is: I have to do everything all by myself, and I’ve got to work really hard to get money.

“When I was six years old I wanted to buy some candy or a toy. I asked my dad if he’d give me some money and he replied, in his deep voice with his arms crossed in front of him, ‘Well, I can’t just give it to you. You’re going to have to work for it.’

I said that I would wash the car. He agreed and away I went. I pulled the hose across the front yard, got a bucket of warm soapy water and some rags, and proceeded to scrub and soap and wash the car. What a sight that car was to behold! All shiny and clean. It was beautiful and I had done it all myself.

I ran inside to tell dad and collect my reward. He said, ‘Well, I’ve got to inspect the car before I can give you the money.’ So I nervously followed him outside and watched him walk around the car looking here and there, sighing, and nodding to himself. Finally, he pointed out that I missed the lower part on the car door. I bravely listened as he told me I had to clean that first before he’d pay me.

So he left and I proceeded to scrub that part and check all the other parts of the car. I called him again and this time he pointed out the hubcaps. They had spokes and he told me I needed to use a toothbrush on them. So I choked back the tears and cleaned the hubcaps.

The next time it was the car’s roof. I had only hosed it down, because I was too short to reach it. So I had to get a chair and wash it with soap. My dad left and I started crying.

I can’t remember how many times we went through this but eventually he laughed at me as he pulled a quarter out of his pocket and gave it to me.”

Ellen’s dad might very well have been trying to teach her the values of working hard and doing a complete job. But he forgot he was dealing with a sensitive six-year-old girl and it was the first time she had ever worked for money.

It’s no surprise she grew up to be a workaholic and a perfectionist. She also vowed not to ever let anyone lord over her with money. She became very successful and an “independent woman.” That sounds good on the surface, but it arose from a deep underlying belief that people with power and money will humiliate and control you. So she set out to make sure that never happened. She was determined she would earn what she needed and rise above the need to ask anyone for money.

She did eventually marry, but even within the relationship she held on to her independence, in one case insisting that she save up for her own maternity leave instead of letting her husband help out. She always had to do it herself because her money baggage would not let her trust anyone else with her fate as it related to money, especially not a man. They did not fight about money, but her money baggage created an emotional gulf that prevented a true partnership.

How is money handled in your relationship? Who pays the bills? Have you ever deferred your own career choice in the interest of your partner’s? Do you feel as if you have to rely on another person for money or that you can’t rely on anyone but yourself? Do you argue about money? Is money misused as a source of power in your relationship? Does the person who makes the most money typically make the decisions? Ask yourself why these patterns exist.

Sit down with your partner and discuss your money issues with each other. Ask if there is any fear about money. Share your own fears. Discover your money baggage together and see how each other’s money baggage creeps into and affects your relationship.

Next week, we discuss how Money Baggage can affect you at work.

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