Why do opposites attract? For years, I thought it was a saying generated to excuse normally nice women dating borderline sociopaths for fun, or hardworking decent guys investing several years in women who are just taking them for a ride. Yet, often we are attracted to qualities in other people that we are entirely without. Maybe that’s it- I certainly wouldn’t want to date myself, so I look for someone who is totally unlike me.
Apparently, the same goes with money behaviours. While research shows that people say they are looking for partners with similar ideas about money as themselves, they often end up marrying people totally unlike them. Thus, savers marry spenders and vice versa. It seems totally counterintuitive- finances are one of those pesky issues likely to strain a relationship, and yet we choose someone that we are bound to disagree with.
MP Dunleavey, of MSN Money, is a spender who married a saver and she tracked down a study that proved she’s not alone- beautifully entitled “Fatal (Fiscal) Attraction: Spendthrifts and Tightwads in Marriage”. The study proved that people do tend to marry their financial opposite and- shock, horror- it tends to diminish their marital wellbeing.
So why on earth do we do it?
Maybe it’s because we dislike a quality in ourselves and are looking for someone to counterbalance us. I am a firm believer that if I has a partner standing by the cash register, maybe I wouldn’t own three pairs of ugg boots. My love of spending distresses me, and I wish I could have some more financial discipline.
The solution (in my addled brain at least) could be to hitch my wagon to someone thrifty, and solve my problem without any hard work.
But we all know it doesn’t work like that. Real life gets complicated quickly, and what once seemed like a blessing can quickly look like a curse. Here are a couple of tips to try when you realise you’re in love with someone who hasn’t bought new clothes in ten years due to the cost.
Expecting your partner to revolutionise your money behaviours flies in the face of all evidence. Sure, some of their good habits might rub off on you, but you’re unlikely to change from a spendaholic overnight. Own that some of your behaviours are your own choice. If you’re over-zealous about saving, try and loosen up a little. If you can spend all day, then set up some coping strategies to avoid temptation. These are your behaviours, no partner can make them go away
Don’t try to change them
C’mon people, we all say that you can’t change them, and then we try to anyway. We’ve all tried to cure our partners of various ailments and habits, and it never works. Accept that you love your partner for who they are, and that means their way with money as well. A lot of the frustrations will ease once you accept the situation.
Learn from each other
Someone told me the other day that much of our psychological development takes place when we’re in relationships. The consideration of another person means a lot of compromise and a lot of adaptation. Learning new money behaviours (even if they only alter your own a little bit) will make your finances look less like a battleground.