As much as we might like to think that we can compartmentalize our lives, fitting everything into its respective area with no bleeding from one area to the next, it's simply not possible. Case in point: relationships and finances.
Our finances are just as susceptible to relationship turmoil as our emotions are – sometimes even more so because we may not immediately see the pressure that one exerts on the other.
Just like we are taught to establish physical and emotional boundaries with the ones we bring into our lives, it's also essential to establish financial boundaries as well. But first, it's important to fully awaken to the way you have come to intertwine finances into your relationships, both in the past and in the present.
Here are a few common ways we allow our finances to be negatively impacted by relationships and tips for turning the tide.
You spend beyond your means to please a significant other.
In our society we've learned to replace meaningful words and thoughtful actions with gifts. And the rule of thumb is, the more you spend on a gift the more significant the sentiment is. We've also come to see grand gift gestures as a clear indication that someone is worth sticking with, that they will be able to provide something more than someone else.
But that sentiment is shaky and the relationship is faulty if it's based on the unsustainable act of giving something that you can't technically afford. Not only is it a statement about what you think your worth is – because you aren't willing to show an authentic picture of "you" – it's setting the relationship up for failure down the road.
If your significant other (or friend or family member) has unrealistic expectations about what you can do for them financially, it's time to set the record straight. The ones who have issue with this will disappear one way or another eventually anyways, but it's empowering to stick to the truth of what you can and cannot do.
You try to "keep up with the Joneses'" in order to keep certain relationships.
It is tough to keep up in any kind of relationship where one person is on entirely different level spending-wise. When this is the case, it's easy to just try to keep pace, temporarily forgetting the financial obligations that will feel a strain as a result.
But it's not really the difference in income that's the problem, it's your willingness to be truthful and honest – with yourself and the people you choose to surround yourself with. This act can be painful because it will undoubtedly bring to light your own beliefs (and our beliefs as a society) that money equals self worth. If this is what you're dealing with, the real issue at hand is how you can establish your self-worth in other, healthier ways.
Dealing with this head on is far more productive than dealing with debt in private down the road. The choice is yours.
You make compromises in your work life to accommodate your social life.
Work/life balance is essential. But there can be times when life crowds out work for reasons that aren't necessarily in your best interest.
I've been in relationships where I would place work projects – projects that would propel me forward and add to my level of fulfillment in my work – to make room for people that weren't nearly as accommodating of me and my schedule. Why? Because I was fearful that they wouldn't make time for me otherwise or, even worse, that they would leave.
Since then I've learned that the ones who leave would have left anyways – regardless of the number of massive sacrifices I make along the way. The ones who stay will be understanding of my need to dedicate a certain amount of time and energy to fulfilling my work obligations and improving my financial life.
Seriously – it's that simple.
You allow emotional ups and downs to mean financial ups and downs.
Relationships can, at times, be emotional roller coasters where logical decision-making goes out the window and a kind of quiet desperation makes us do crazy things.
In these moments, it can be incredibly easy to allow the emotion to take center stage, crowding out all other obligations related to work and finances. But, unless you want the aftermath of the storm to include cleaning up a few financial disasters, it's essential to pay attention to these everyday things.
Does emotional turmoil equal overspending for you? Does it mean you forget to take care of things like paying bills on time?
If you need support to stay grounded and take care of things that, in the moment, seem entirely unimportant and insignificant, ask for it. As emotionally taxing as it is, think about the entirety of your life – not just the whirlwind of emotion you're currently in the middle of. That will pass – it always does.
Among the many lessons we learn in relationships, one of them is to be strong in protecting ourselves and keeping our own best interests in mind. One way we are pushed to do this is in our financial decision-making.
Once you are able to see your patterns and how you may be using money to patch holes that need a far deeper remedy, you're on your way to long-lasting financial health – regardless of your relationship status.
Kayla Albert is a proud Colorado native and personal finance writer for ReadyForZero, a company that is helping Americans manage and pay off debt online. She enjoys sharing tips on saving money and getting out of debt. You can follow @ReadyForZero and @KaylaAlbert33 on Twitter.