30 Apr Money & Sex in Relationships: It's All the Same Thing
This blog entry was written by guest blogger, Roger Schwarz, MFT, JD. He specializes in couples and family counseling and psychotherapy. He combines years of training and experience as a therapist with the wisdom cultivated through a previous career as a lawyer/CPA. His approach is to facilitate change by complementing the insights the client already has with a perspective on how emotional triggering challenges one’s ability to make good judgments and carry them out effectively. On that foundation effective tools are provided that promote confidence in one’s ability to handle the situations that previously resulted in triggering behavior. A sub-specialty is work with couples where finances and business matters are a focus of struggle.
Please note that the opinions presented in the article are that of the author and not necessarily the opinions of RHN. RHN chooses to publish articles and share individual sites to evoke discussion and show all options, ideas and beliefs.
How’s this for an opening challenge – it’s never about the money or about the sex. They are symptoms of what it’s really about, which is the relationship. And of course, the relationship is about how the participants relate to each other. And if this isn’t simple enough, how each person relates is all about how they see, think and feel about themselves. To boil it down even more, look in the mirror and that’s what it’s about.
Every good recovery program teaches this so my job is to add a little something that can move the work ahead by one step. While looking in the mirror ask: “What is it about me that I see this as his/her money or sex problem, or that I always blame myself?” Let’s take an example to illustrate how asking the right question can produce the right answer.
Typically couples describe money problems as, for example, not limiting spending to income or spending based on optimistic assumptions that do not come true. However, even when a couple tries to address these issues, each member of the couple tends either to point to something about the other that produced the crisis or degrade themselves with unbridled self-criticism. One says he earned the money and expected to be informed if expenses had to be reduced to remain in the black. The other says she made the credit card bill available but he never discussed it. Had each done what was necessary, one way or another the problem would have been addressed constructively and in a timely way. If one tried and the other did not step up, then action necessary to forestall the crisis would have been taken. For example, she might say, “If you continue to spend like that, I’m going to cancel the credit card.” Even a less severe consequence might have gotten the attention necessary to avoid a crisis.
Love Will Find a Way, the song goes. I believe that, so it’s necessary for each person to ask with optimism how he can see the struggle in a way that prompts a new idea and creative action to make headway. When that seems impossible, it’s time to reach out for support.
Sex is no different. “She is always tired or pushes me away if I try to cuddle.“ “He loses his erection every time we try to make love.” “She’s afraid of sex but won’t do anything about it.” How come? There is an answer but getting to the core and knowing what to do about it isn’t always easy. Nothing so gets in the way of intimacy than fear of rejection. The fear either prompts not speaking up or speaking up aggressively; neither works. But what about saying, “I miss you. Whatever the reason, I want to understand it and do my part to help.” If you’ve asked and got a reply blaming you for the problem, suggest that the problem is an “us” problem, not a “me” or “you” problem. Really, it does take two to tango and two to perpetuate an unsolved problem without doing something different to break the stalemate.
We all want the same things: to love and be loved; to feel secure with the other; to feel free to be oneself without taking undue risk of paying for candor with angry replies or silence. So, if your money or sex problem has become chronic, you both are responsible for it. If you can’t break the pattern via the recovery work you’re already doing, consider bringing the issue up more straightforwardly in your program. Ask a sponsor or seek professional guidance if your existing support system is not sufficient. Do something different to get a different result.