16 Apr 2021 • 4mins • Yolt

Relationships and money: understanding attachment theory with Indira Chima

Relationships and money: understanding attachment theory

Managing money with a partner can bring up challenges you might never have encountered. But most of these challenges won’t have anything to do with the strength of your relationship.

Therapeutic Counsellor and Relationships Expert Indira Chima tells us how attachment styles can affect our approach to sharing money.

What do attachment styles have to do with money?

Attachment theory is used to explain how different personality types can contribute to a stable relationship. Your attachment style can show in a number of different ways, including the way you manage your money.

Let’s take a closer look…
• Anxious: Worries about being able to pay their way in a relationship and feel guilty if they can’t pay back expensive gifts from their partner
Avoidant: Very independent and might feel uncomfortable with the idea of sharing finances
Secure: Has a very structured relationship with their money, but might find it hard to understand if their partner doesn’t see things the same way

Two people can have very different ideas and relationships with money. However, recognising these personality traits in you and your partner can be a useful step in understanding each other and helping you work toward financial harmony.

Spot the attachment style

Can you recognise the anxious, avoidant and secure personality types in these common money scenarios?

Scenario 1: One of you doesn’t feel comfortable sharing finances

If you’re an independent person, the idea of sharing money can make you feel out of control – especially if you have significantly more savings than your significant other.

Refusing to share money can cause negative feelings between you and your partner, particularly if your partner is keen to work with you toward a big money goal. You wish there was a way to make you both feel secure, but sharing money just doesn’t feel like something you can do.

Did you guess it right?

A strong fear of losing independence usually points to an avoidant personality type. There’s nothing wrong with independence, it’s probably one of the reasons your partner loves you. But it can also make working toward shared money goals more difficult, and make your partner feel like things aren’t equal.

The need to be independent is something you need to explore together, finding a way to share finances while still feeling in control of your own money. Having individual spending accounts for example, still gives you independence while allowing you to work toward shared savings goals.

Scenario 2: You want to feel you’re contributing equally, even when one of you is earning more

Imagine you earn a bit more than your partner, and you really want to go away together. You pay for the trip, but now your partner is feeling pressure to pay for the next one, even though they can’t afford to.

When money worries aren’t talked about, they can feel like a much bigger problem. They can even lead people to get into trouble such as debt or depleted savings by trying to keep up.

Did you spot the anxious personality type?

Here we can see an anxious personality type trying to prove themselves by keeping up financially – even when they don’t need to.

In situations like this, it’s important to understand the reason these anxieties are happening. Sometimes the solution can be as simple as showing the lower earner all the different things they do for the relationship – how much they clean the house, how often they cook, or how often they take the dog for a walk. It’s not all about the money!

Scenario 3: You’ve had a sudden change in circumstances

You wanted a career change, so you’ve sidestepped into a lower-paid position. This could mean you’ve had to re-mortgage or give up a household car. These situations suck, of course they do. But if you’re both on the same page when it comes to your finances they can at least feel manageable while you get used to your new budget.

The problem comes when you’ve got two people who have been doing things a certain way for a long time. If it’s just you in control of the money, this can seem like a huge burden and might put unnecessary pressure on you keep things running smoothly.

Can you recognise the secure personality type?

Here we can see how secure personality types can get stuck in patterns that feel hard to break. But nothing should ever feel beyond talking about.

It’s important for both partners to know what’s going on with shared finances. If you’re both in the loop, then there’s less risk of one of you shouldering all the responsibility.

Check out the first part of this Relationships and Money series.