We’ve all heard the old adage that money can’t buy you love. I’d wager to say that this truth runs a bit deeper. It’s easy to treat wealth as a relationship safety cushion—something that buoys us up and keeps our relationships floating along toward security. It’s a theory that makes sense on a surface level. But if this is the case, then why is money consistently the number one relationship stressor?
We may think this statistic relates solely to scarcity. Struggling to make ends meet would stress out any couple, right? But financial abundance doesn’t guarantee relationship bliss. As a wealth advisor, I’ve seen many family relationships, business relationships and friendships fail, time and time again.
In reality, financial stability is a tool that can move us closer to our goals and afford us the comfort and peace of mind to pursue a life that’s in line with our values. But the same goes in reverse: When we’re living out of alignment with our core values and not being true to ourselves, our finances tend to suffer.
I’ve seen this truth play itself out again and again across the board among people of all upbringings and cultural backgrounds. One of the most common scenarios is staying miserable in a toxic marriage in an attempt to preserve the family. It comes from an honorable motivation; wanting to keep the family intact and cause as little disruption as possible to growing children. I’ve seen many couples “riding it out” until their youngest goes to college. Staying in an unfulfilling marriage, however, isn’t a gift to your kids, your spouse or yourself.
Not only do children typically pick up on the relationship tension despite these efforts, this kind of arrangement also lends itself to financial recklessness. Over the years, I’ve seen serious overspending habits develop as people dig themselves into debt trying to soothe themselves or overcompensate with their children to make them feel happy and secure. Staying in an incompatible relationship also makes it all but impossible to take a team approach to working toward joint financial goals, like living your best life now while building your nest egg, and planning out your retirement dreams. Sometimes this pattern plays out in another way, going through with multiple divorces and remarriages only to continue repeating the same mistakes.
Romantic relationships aren’t the only bonds that can lead to financial stress. Business partnerships and friendships, when not tended to and nurtured, can wreak havoc on our financial life. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve advised people against these types of risky financial decisions, from lending a large amount of money to a friend to borrowing against a home to finance an unstable business venture. In almost every scenario, the person’s heart is in the right place, but our judgment is easily clouded when emotions come into play. We’re more likely to disregard sound advice and leap without looking first. The implications can affect our relationships, our finances and even our health.
Enjoying the wealth we have has everything to do with maintaining healthy core relationships. This is what leads to a rewarding life where our money is empowering us to live the life we really want. So how do we create positive relationships in our lives, and get rid of the negative ones that drag us down? Like anything else, it requires conscious goal-setting.
Take a minute to ask yourself: What is a good relationship to me? What kinds of relationships do I want to have? Whether it’s a deep dive or simply an acquaintance who shares your interests, some details should never be compromised. We should surround ourselves with people who share our values and make us feel connected and appreciated; people we can open up to and be vulnerable with, whether it’s a friend or significant other. Our closest relationships ought to be ones that make us feel secure and good about ourselves, not worried or stressed.
Healthy relationships are also ones built on mutual respect and kindness—each participant wants the best for the other and is open to learning and growing together during whatever chapter of life you find yourselves in. And while social media has expanded our social circles tremendously, it’s no replacement for flesh-and-blood friendships. What we see online isn’t always authentic, and spending quality time together in real life is what enriches relationships and fosters authentic human connections.
JJ Burns & Company understands that our personal and business relationships aren’t independent from our financial lives. One influences the other, which is why a fresh perspective can go a long way in growing our wealth and making the most out of this one life we have.