Growing up, my parents argued about money constantly. Having been raised by a single mother in extreme poverty, my father worried there was never enough. Having grown up somewhat entitled, my mother believed that as long as there were checks left in the checkbook, she had spending power. And while my family was firmly middle class, many of my childhood memories are about money, emotions, and drama.
Still married, my parents are now retired. And they still disagree about money. While my mother has recently acquiesced to my father's conservative budget, I know she misses those higher rolling days when travel and fine dining were a regular occurrence.
It's no surprise that I carried some of my parents' money drama into my own relationships. In my 20s, I looked for a man to rescue me financially. And while I found a sugar daddy, he was also abusive and controlling. I narrowly escaped that relationship with my mind, body and spirit intact.
In my late 20s, I became the responsible one. I maxed out my company's 401K matching plan, and started saving for a rainy day. This was also the time I began dating men who were wildly irresponsible with money. There was the hot 22-year old who had committed credit card fraud, but who was just so adorable I ignored his past (though I wisely never lent him any money); there was The One I Wanted To Be The One, who also happened to be the one who couldn't afford his truck payments and whose father constantly bailed him out of credit card debt; and then there was the magician who was too cocky to work for anyone else, but wasn't sure how he was going to pay his mortgage. In each and every relationship I found myself in, money was a key issue that ultimately contributed to our demise.
And then I met my husband. By far, the smartest, wisest, most financially stable individual I've ever known, this is a man who, regardless of what he makes, will always have more than enough because he lives by a strict code of Living Within Your Means.
Problem solved, you might think. Lessons learned. Right?
Meeting and marrying a man with a healthy money mindset didn't end my financial drama. Because the truth is, men and money weren't ever the problem. Worthiness and self-worth were.
After leaving my stable corporate job to build my own business ten years ago, I quickly over-invested in my success. Which led to years of making great money but also spending every dime — some going back into the business, some going to pay off the debt I'd accumulated and was still accumulating.
This yo-yo effect of money-in, money-out wore on my self esteem. I often wondered how could I be so successful, while still struggling to make ends meet.
I've long heard it said that "What you resist persists." Because I never faced my inner self-worth issues head-on, nor did I change the way I talked money with my man, this neverending cycle of financial-gain-meets-financial-need persisted. The only times I did share with my husband what was happening in my business was when I needed what we'll call a bail out. After a couple of bail outs, my husband wisely put his foot down.
Enter Baby. Also known as my 13-month old niece whose parents both landed in jail. While my husband and I had never wanted children — partly because of the financial burden having and raising them implied — we immediately stepped in as full time foster parents. My husband took time off work to care for the child while building his own business.
Which meant I became the sole breadwinner. The woman who for five years had struggled to keep herself afloat was suddenly faced with financing an entire family.
Cue the musical crescendo in the movie version of my life. This was a make or break moment. I had a choice: show up for my family or let them down. I chose to show up. After all, my husband had been there for me so many times when I needed it. Now he needed me to show up for us. I not only wanted to do it, I needed to do it.
What followed was the most excruciating and extraordinary two year journey into instant motherhood, money mastery, a deepening in my marriage and a self worth wakeup call. What I've learned along the way has been priceless and life changing.
If you find yourself struggling in your relationship with yourself, the men in your life and money, my hope is that these hard-won lessons may help:
Get To Know Your Gremlins You cannot and will not heal any shame or blame you have around money and men until you understand what the messages you send yourself on a daily basis about worth actually are. My gremlins connected back to a conversation I had with my father when I was 15 and asked for money to go to the movies with my friends. "It's like throwing it away," he said as he tossed me a twenty dollar bill. Mind you, my father wasn't a horrible human being. He was in the muck of his own money gremlins and I took them on. I internalized the beliefs that when someone gave me money, I threw it away. I wasn't worth investing in. As you tune in, take time to explore what your gremlins are saying about your worth. They'll most likely be nasty and hateful at first. Allow yourself to listen. Until you give them a voice, you cannot change the channel.
Turn Fear Into Fierce Commitment. You will not change your financial future until you face your fears. For me, I was terrified to actually write down a budget and to know what I was spending, what I was making and what I owed. I spent years burying my head in the sand. The results? My pain persisted. It wasn't until a child came into my life that I forced myself to get real about my debt, my expenses and my financial drains, so that I could create an action plan. By facing my fears once and for all, I became fiercely committed to a better way. Creating a plan allowed me to inch my way from financially burdened to financially free. This wasn't always easy. But it was necessary. Now is a great time to sit down with your partner and admit your fears while asking for help as you cultivate your fierce commitment to changing your behavior and beliefs.
Be The Change. Nothing will change in your financial picture until you're willing to be the change. Accept that the part of you that got you into your financial pickle is not well equipped to get you out. Now's the time to be brave and bold and ask for help. Talk to your partner about what's happening. Get on the same page about your present and future. Set goals. If needed, investigate debt consolidation, debt negotiation and/or bankruptcy. Enlist support and solutions to create the results you desire and deserve.
Surrender To Self Love. If you've been avoiding your money issues, facing them will initially sting. A LOT. And that's the good news. Consider this an opportunity not for shame and blame but for radical healing and self forgiveness. Love yourself enough to ask for help from your partner, from a healer or even from your spiritual source. Take on a tuning in practice. Meditation and prayer are excellent starting points. Forgiveness and mindfulness are critical in this process of undoing your money messiness.
Bring Harmony To Money & Your Honey. You and your partner are in this together. Learning to create a new and open dialogue with each other about money can heal old wounds and deepen your relationship. This takes commitment and consistency for each of you. Set a weekly or monthly money meeting. Start by telling each other you love each other. Set intentions and goals. Create a plan of action. And remember, practice makes perfect.
Want to continue the conversation about men, women, and money? Join the Standing O Twitter Chat on Wednesday, July 23 at noon Pacific | 3pm Eastern.