Breaking A Financial Addiction Cycle

While many of us are strapped for cash, seeing our income or savings take a hit, and planning our savings strategy, do you know someone who just can’t seem to help making certain purchases they’d be better off not making? Maybe your partner has this struggle, or maybe it’s even something you are dealing with personally. I call this financial infidelity (which is also the title of my latest book) and when I saw it cropping up before the recession, it was usually acted out in the form of larger purchases – maybe even something the person could afford. But now this type of addiction is even more detrimental as many people who engage in this type of behavior honestly CANNOT afford it – relationally OR financially.

What Exactly Is Financial Infidelity?

Of course, a purchase or behavior that qualifies as financial infidelity is dangerous no matter what, but what has the potential to bankrupt your relationship could also have the potential to be even more financially damaging than before. There are a number of ways people engage in financial infidelity – and they don’t always involve large, big ticket purchases. It could be as small as getting an extra $20 back from your grocery shopping, if that’s something you can’t afford and don’t want your partner to know about.

Even when we’re financially strapped, financial infidelity is still likely to be taking place – and in some cases, even more likely. The reason is that the behaviors that stimulate these feelings can easily become addictive. For instance, for any addict, the choice to self-medicate in any number of ways—with alchohol, medications, sex, or money—can begin with a desire to relieve stress or mute depression. The addiction then progresses to a preoccupation with where their next “fix” will come from, and often involves a strong desire to create rituals around obtaining the “high.” This preoccupation becomes a compulsion—to use drugs or alcohol, or to have sex, or to shop—followed by depression and despair as the effects wear off, leading to the start of the cycle all over again.

Can You Break The Cycle?

The key to avoiding such destructive behavior is communication, and there are many different ways to communicate your feelings about money and finances. You could engage in Smart Heart dialogue where you use a transition in life to ask crucial questions and uncover you and your partners ideas about money. You could focus on your “Imago” – the way you look at money based on your past – both as an individual and as a couple.

The important this is to not let the stress get the better of you and to keep engaging eachother in honest conversation. It’s hard not to let these conversations escalate, but it’s important to keep a neutral tone so that each person feels comfortable talking about their concerns:

*Echo what you hear and validate your partner’s feelings – truly listen to the other person and let them hear you repeat their thoughts and concerns back to them. This assures them that you ARE paying attention and not just continuing with your “agenda.”

*Detach from your emotions – try not to let your responses be emotional, but rather focus on the facts and the truth.

After a fair and productive conversation, remember things that each person need to work on, in order to avoid financial infidelity or a need for thrill-seeking behavior.


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