Studies show that money issues are the highest cause of marital conflict and cause for divorce. Conflicts over money and money management outweigh conflicts over sex (including affairs) and differences over raising children as the greatest trouble area in a marriage. Money management stirs up deep seated fears and anxieties about being nurtured and loved. This is because partners enter a marriage with an intensely personal history of how their families have handled money and the solutions they used to deal with this anxiety. Without getting to the crux of these issues, it is impossible to deal with the monetary anxiety at a superficial level. Following is a marital counseling case to illustrate the issue.
Ramesh & Jagruti (names changed) were attracted to each other by the very differences that they now found impossible to live with. Ramesh appeared casual and confident about his earning skills which greatly relieved Jagruti who always worried about spending money. Jagruti’s tight hand on monetary issues on the other hand brought immense relief and stability to Ramesh who was aware that his casual attitude towards spending money actually created constant anxiety in him. They therefore seemed to perfectly compliment each other; but one is incomplete without the other. They were like opposite pairs of bookends; both had deep anxieties about money but their reactions were different. But both their solutions to handle monetary anxiety by themselves were inappropriate.
Ramesh would rather take bold money risks to get quick money and not consciously deal with his anxiety over money and thereby constantly stay in an unstable financial circumstance. Jagruti on the other hand approached her monetary anxiety with a lot of caution and control; in effect loosing on many opportunities and feeling constantly deprived. Soon after marriage their illusion of safe monetary environment was broken and they realized the flaw in each others money handling solution. Along with this, it stirred up past experiences of being neglected or hurt due to financial reasons by their family. Both were loosing money but were quick to point the others fault. Ramesh opined Jagruti was miser and therefore she would never make huge success, whereas Jagruti believed that Ramesh was careless and took unnecessary risks which ultimately lead to loses and greater monetary anxiety. Any discussion about monetary dealings or resolving this issue would end up in a fight as they were both blind to the consequence of their behaviours while busy blaming the other for their issues.
As the sessions progressed we looked at their past family patterns in dealing with monetary issues which might be affecting their current behaviour. Ramesh’s father was a person who lived lavishly with little financial security; whereas his mother constantly worried about diminishing bank balance. Ramesh got all the luxuries but also was passed on the anxiety about the future finances. He learnt to deal with this anxiety by taking bold and risky decisions in business, which initially gave him quick money and paid off well but when he faced a major loss he unable to get around it. His lifestyle remained extravagant; he would not compromise and in his constant search for quick money got into deeper financial losses. His was an escapist / avoidance attitude in dealing with financial anxiety and wanted quick relief from it by making big money even if it required greater risks. Therefore when he met Jagruti he unconsciously realized that she would bring in stability and heal the hurt caused by his father, but did not realize that he was infact reliving his parents marriage, putting Jagruti through these anxieties.
Jagruti on the other hand hailed from a middle class family who lived under constant financial pressures. She at a very young age started earning to supplement her pocket money. Her parents encouraged her decision and soon she learned that money was earned through hard work and consistency. She also learned to compromise on her needs and save for the future. So she lived in a constant state of deprivation and wished all her financial worries be taken away. When she was dating Ramesh, his casual attitude towards money and him indulging her in her personal needs seemed to answer her prayers. It brought about a great relief on the financial front and she felt she could now rest her worries about finances. But soon after marriage when Ramesh faced loss, her illusion was broken and it stirred up feelings of being uncared for and neglected from her past hurts of her parents financial struggle. Without realizing she had in fact recreated her child hood experiences of her financial situation and made Ramesh responsible for neglecting her needs, not being good enough and taking care of her.
Therapy helped them to understand their different histories and expectations and over time, each one slowly moved slightly towards the center. Their disastrous fights lessened and they could begin to remember why they fell in love in the first place. It took courage for each of them to learn how to listen to the other and to give up pieces of their own dearly cherished beliefs. By the time they left therapy, money was rarely an issue between them.
Money is both a metaphor and a reality. Talking openly and communicating about money becomes another way for you and your spouse to get to know each other. Attitudes towards money range from the penurial to the extravagant. There is no reason to run to the divorce court just because you and your spouse have different ways of managing your finances.
Attitudes and relationships towards finances are unique to you and reveal a good deal about who you are and how you operate. Rupees and paise are the interface or unit of exchange between you and society and learning where you stand along the continuum, from prudent to expansive, can help you learn more about how you negotiate through life. The more you understand about yourself and your spouse when money matters, the better chance you have of working out a successful marriage.
1. TALKING ABOUT MY PROBLEMS WILL MAKE IT APPEAR BIGGER THAN NORMAL AND CAUSE MORE RIFTS.
Just like when a wound when cleaned causes more pain, so does talking about your hurt does. Talking about the problems brings about catharsis and a release of emotions. This can be perceived as threatening initially but is an essential step in healing.
2. PROBLEMS SHOULD BE LEFT ALONE. WHEN THEY ARE LEFT ALONE, THEY WILL AUTOMATICALLY DISAPPEAR.
Wounds when left unattended to are likely to form abscess and increase the pain. Similarly emotional wounds do not disappear over time. They need to be addressed carefully to avoid further problems or even amputation in worse case scenario.
3. ALL MARRIAGES HAVE HITCHES 2 YEAR HITCH, 5 YEAR HITCH, 7 YEAR HITCH AND 10 YEAR HITCH. IF I AM ABLE TO KEEP UP THE MARRIAGE THROUGH THIS, THE MARRIAGE WILL SURVIVE.
Dragging along with negative emotions actually leads to further damage to the relationship. Emotional content of one incident adds on the next and carries on till it becomes unbearable.
4. IF I TALK ABOUT MY PROBLEMS TO MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS, IT WILL CAUSE THEM UNNECESSARY PAIN. IGNORANCE IS BLISS
People listen and trust non verbal or body language more than verbal messages. It is of no surprise that 80% of our communication is non verbal. Family and friends, if they are closely bounded, therefore will already have some idea about the problems. Keeping it hidden from them not only isolates you, but causes greater anxiety and even conveys a message to them that you do not trust them. In effect your efforts to keep them from being in pain actually cause more damage to your relationship with them and ultimately greater pain to both. Sharing pain with the family gets each other closer.
5. NO ONE CAN HELP ME IN A MARITAL RELATIONSHIP. I HAVE TO WORK IT OUT MYSELF.
This is self induced pain and helplessness. This belief is the language of a victim who at an unconscious level prefers to remain as a victim. There is no basis to this belief.
6. IF MY PARTNER IS NOT WILLING TO WORK AT THE MARRIAGE, NOTHING WILL CHANGE FOR US. I ALONE CAN NOT BRING CHANGE IN MY MARRIAGE.
Marriage is a relationship between two dynamic individuals. Changes in one lead to changes in the other. It has a ripple effect on the other. It is also a well known fact that one can only bring out changes in oneself and any attempt to change another is a foolish act. In my 10 years of practice I have worked with numerous marital conflicts and more often than not only one person consults for therapy as the other is either unwilling to come for therapy. Relationship has been resurrected despite only one member being present.
7. I AM NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR THE BREAKDOWN IN THE RELATIONSHIP; IT IS FATE OR FAULT OF THE PARTNER.
Blaming fate is an unconscious unwillingness on our part to bring about changes in our self. Change in any aspect is perceived and experienced as stressful and therefore unwelcome. However we verbally say that we are willing to work on the marriage, there is a resistance to change in a similar manner and its outward manifestations are in the form of helplessness to fate or blame on our partner. Our age old saying “taali ek haath se nahin bajti” goes a long way to explain this phenomenon.
8. HAPPINESS IN OUR MARRIAGE IS DEPENDENT ON CHANGING NEGATIVE HABITS OF THE OTHER PERSON.
Taking on the responsibility of change in your self is the first step to healing a marriage. Any attempts to change the other is seen as an evaluative, judgmental and a corrective act and therefore sabotaged at the first chance. I have more often than not worked with only one individual with equally effective results and in as much time.
9. ONCE THE RELATIONSHIP IS TARRED, THINGS WILL NEVER BE THE SAME FOR US.
The basis of this is negative thinking and the focus on what is not there. We can spend our time on focusing on how there is a speck on the drawing sheet or paint something so beautiful that the speck although there does not catch our attention. How we view things, a glass half full or a glass half empty is the premise of our belief in working out a marriage.
10. TRUE LOVE IS MAGICAL.
This is a powerful and omnipotent belief that love is magical. Therefore one can not really work on it or create it. It is either there or not there. If damaged, one can not create it. The fact is marriage or any relationship is not magical. We all need to work on it and resurrect it from time to time. Communication is therefore a crucial element in its survival. Even the purest form of unconditional love of a mother and child needs efforts to keep it alive. There is nothing magical about it. Any mother will tell you how she struggled with her child and that only conscious effort and good communication helped.
11. GOING TO A COUNSELOR WILL ACTUALLY SPOIL THINGS FOR US FURTHER.
Many clients feel that going to a counselor will spoil things for them yes, many have experienced this too. Counseling is good; unethical practice in the name of counseling can have devastating effects. You need to be careful in choosing the type of marital counseling you are opting for.
Also, one may be aware that the marriage is not working out and may fear discovering that during the counseling. Some clients opt not to go for counseling as their fear of discovering this is higher than their pain. Some realize this in the middle of therapy and tend to push the blame onto the counseling sessions. Remember it is always your choice what you want. There is nothing right or wrong about it.
To avoid disappointments check out these basic premise of counseling before you enter therapy sessions:
• Consult a person who is non judgmental and non directive in his approach. We do not want it to be a verbal court battle in the counselors room where the counselor decides who is right and who is wrong.
• Another crucial element of counseling is confidentiality and therefore for any marriage counselor to take counseling sessions together with both the clients can actually do more harm than good. It actually turns out to be the power experienced by the counselor himself when he sits on a judgment on who is right and who is wrong.
• The counselor needs to empathize and work with you as an individual. If he is able to take you to a different level working with you, things automatically improve. The interest of the client is at the forefront in a session.
• Explore how comfortable are you with the changes in your life and decide for yourself what are your comfort zone. A good counselor can help you work on this.
Rahul was 12 years old when he was referred for bed wetting (enuresis) and passing stools (encopresis). He was referred by the family doctor who found a non medication approach to his bedwetting and encopresis a better solution, especially considering the long term side effects of the medicines and the fact that there were no physiological causes to his problem.
His problem had escalated soon after they had shifted into this new house. Parents didn’t think that shifting house could have been the reason for the same as he always wanted to shift back to this house. In fact he had many friends here and would initially quickly finish off his homework to go down to play. But soon he started wetting his bed in the night more often and the ‘accidents’ at school too increased.
By the time he started with play therapy, he was regularly wetting his bed in the night and the soiling his pants at least once a month. Rahul was so unsure of his own bowel movements that he refused to go for school trips or for a sleep over at his friends or cousins house. Off late he was fearful of going to school too, as he was now teased for being a sissy boy. At home too, he would play with his play station for hours on end and would be generally. His parents had tried every thing from making him visit the toilet at bed time and before going to school to more frequent visits when outside, but to no vain. Normally an active boy was now unsure and irritated most of the times.
During the case history on enquiring about any traumatic history the parents recalled that just before they had shifted the house he lost his grand mother and around that time the van in which the school children traveled had met with an accident. Although no one was injured Rahul had recounted the incident in great detail. They found it difficult to believe that these could again be the reasons as it was not the first time he was dealing with a loss of a grand parent or meeting with an accident. In fact he had lost his grand father the previous year, to whom he was more attached. Since his grandmother suffered from Alzheimer he hardly ever interacted with her over the years.
Bedwetting is considered to be problematic for children only above 6 years of age. Till about 5 it is considered normal if the child occasionally wets the bed. Usually children have considerable bowel control by the age of 4 and do not soil their clothes. Enuresis can be primary (the child did not grow out of using diapers) or secondary (child stopped wetting beds but suddenly after a period of time started wetting them again, as in Rahul’s case).
It is often connected to psychological issues of emotional stress / anxiety. Often the causes remain unknown to both the child and the therapist. Therefore using cognitive or reasoning approach is difficult with these children and it is not in their awareness or consciousness. Also emotions of shame and guilt are quite complex for the children to express verbally. This coupled with threats or punishment from parents (who feel an extreme sense of concern and frustration dealing with this problem) can become quite traumatic for the child. Play therapy, being dynamic, non directive and symbolic allows the child to reenact and work out his emotional issues leading to the problem in a safe and trusting environment without having to get into verbal communication. This is further supported by some parenting sessions where parents are usually asked to bring about certain changes in the child’s routine to support the sessions proves extremely effective.
The following are some of the changes that parents are requested to introduce:
• Having liquids at least 4 – 5 hours before the bed time.
• Setting up alarms at regular intervals and encouraging Rahul to visit the toilet.
• Keeping an extra pair of clothes and bed sheets so that Rahul need not wake his parents every time he had an accident.
• Not humiliating / threatening / asking too many questions to the child to rectify his behaviours .
Rahul began his play sessions. Initially he found it quite boring to play with toys that were around and often asked if he could carry his video games or whether there was access to computers. But slowly as the sessions progressed he started playing with animals, clay and balls. The therapist noticed that in most of his sessions he would give instructions to the therapist to follow. He would make loud noises and fight with the wild animals. With the clay he would often make snakes and then turn them into turbans which the therapist was instructed to wear and become the care taker of the animals. Some times he used the ball to knock down the animals. After many such sessions, he moved on to drawing. He initially drew only symmetric drawings but soon moved on to draw themes. Most of the themes again reflected anger, punishment and morality issues.
Around the 8th session, the mother mentioned that Rahul had wetted his bed only once and had soon woken up to change his clothes and the bedsheet. The therapist had given a list of instructions to the parents to follow. Soon after that Rahul showed greater interest in his play and also in the sessions.
After his summer break when he returned for the first session, he sent a message containing smiley face and to inform the therapist that they were on their way to the clinic. He seemed to have settled down with not a single mishap of soiling his clothes or wetting the bed. He had returned to his original confident self and seemed less tentative about things. Although he was apprehensive on the first day of school, he settled into his new routine pretty soon. On the follow up terminating sessions, the bedwetting and soiling behaviours had consistently shown improvement with no further accidents. His academic marks also returned to their earlier levels.