What’s Your Imago? Huh?

Imago, literally, is the Latin word for “image.” It was originally used in psychotherapy to refer to the unconscious image you’ve created which defines the type of partner you’re looking for. I use it to refer to the ideas you’ve created concerning money, and how those ideas play out specifically in a relationship.

When looking to fulfill your “imago” when it comes to a mate, subconsciously, you’re looking for someone that will “fill in the holes” left by your experience growing up and your parents, or to adults who were formative in your childhood , and you’ll be attracted to these traits right away on a subconscious level.

Your Financial Imago

A similar statement is true when it comes to your “financial imago.” Ideas about money that you’re carrying around from your parents and from your childhood WILL affect your relationship. Don’t forget, however, that you have control over HOW they affect it.

Just as “relational imago” tends to draw you to someone who possesses a number of qualities that you don’t, or excels in areas you feel you fall short (hey, opposites attract!), you’ll often be financially attracted to someone who has financial strengths where you have financial “holes,” where you have unfinished childhood business.

In short, in some areas, you will likely pick a person that gives you the most trouble!

Your Financial Imago In Relationships

I studied under Harville Hendrix, who was the first to espouse the idea of relational imago and I’m applying his idea of Imago to finances in a relationship:

While you will always carry around your family money history, the things that trigger conflict about money are equally important. When dealing with finances in a relationship, you  both have to understand the ways you’re prone to deal with money, and you have to have a road map for how you WANT to deal with money.

In other words, you have to know your weaknesses, and know how you’re going to deal with them.  As you transition through life changes with your significant other, a big part of making that transition successfully comes from the way you deal with financial stressors as a couple.

Depending on your stage in life, and your stage in the relationship, there are a number of important  questions you need to answer.

Important Questions To Answer

Things like: How do you feel about debt? How much debt do you have? Are you a risk-taker or are you risk-averse? Will the kids go to private school? Will we fund their college education in its entirety?  Who will pay when we go out? How often will we go out and how often will we eat in?

Other Considerations

Of course, these are only a few of the many things you’ll need to discuss before you head into significant life changes, but they are a good place to start. In many cases, you many not even know how to answer those questions yourself, much less how you will answer them as a couple.

The opposite can also be true: you will have a knee-jerk reaction as to how to answer them that may be completely opposite from your partners. It’s always best to get those reactions out in the open before you find yourself “in the heat of battle!”


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