By: Tracy Theemes, Certified Financial Planner & Financial Advisor in Vancouver
"Love. It will mess us up every time." This familiar lament was vocalized by a woman in my office last week as she told me about a lifetime of putting her head in the sand and letting other people, including her husband make financial decisions for her.
I am a financial advisor with a background in psychology. We run a full service financial advisory firm in Point Grey.
I always ask why. Why didn't you pay attention? Why didn't you talk about money together? Why don't you confront this situation?
It may because of socio-cultural norms, the ingrained way many women expect a mate or someone else to provide for them, even in this day and age. Or it could be because of the chemical makeup of the female brain versus that of the male brain. A result of being, literally, wired differently.
I have a female pro bono client, aged 68, who gave her son $300,000 to buy a property, which left her with $72,000 for her retirement. She had no loan agreement and had not established a payback plan. Her son, who approached her because the bank would not lend him money, (first hint of trouble) cannot pay her back. He is broke. So now she is too.
How many women have given up their careers to raise their family, only to have their marriages break down, and are left with few prospects for earning their living after a fifteen year absence from the work force? How many women are scared to ask for a copy of their husband's tax return or pension statements? Or even worse, how many of us become small so someone else can be big? Like the vice president of a national bank who has her husband manage their money "so he won't feel threatened". Or the business owner who after thirty years of running it by herself, gave him half of the value of her company on their wedding day. True stories. I have hundreds of them.
So, why do women so often sacrifice their own financial well-being and independence in their relationships?
In both of her books, The Female Brain and The Male Brain, Louann Brizendine explores the nuances between men and women, and helps to explain how our brains - and notably, hormones - cause us to value different things, at different stages of life. The result of these different valuations affects everything - from career decisions to who we form relationships with.
Essentially, Brizendine asserts that the brain is deeply affected by different hormones that shape our values and desires. She states that girls have a heightened ability to observe and feel emotional cues from birth, based on studies of babies in a maternity ward. Because girls are born with the ability to hear emotional tones in voices and the ability to read facial expressions, they are built for connection, literally born to form relationships.
Recognizing the biological differences between men and women helps increase our awareness. Once aware of what is triggering an impulse, we can then choose to act, or not to act, on it. "Choice" being the operative word here.
I believe there are three courses of action for those who find themselves experiencing the consequences of putting personal relationships ahead of their well-being: change the circumstances, negotiate a better situation, or leave the relationship that is keeping you down.
We need to interrupt the patterns that don't serve us. So where an imbalance is created by one partner working and the other staying at home, the partner at home might need to start working or maybe even charging for their labour. And perhaps, the other needs to contribute more in the way of traditional household tasks. First, acknowledge the imbalance, next interrupt the pattern. But don't expect it to happen easily or without some storms.
It's not in your best interest to not show up for your life. Eventually, this will catch up with you, whether in the form of unhappiness, low self-esteem, or even, depression. Not to mention financial dependence and insecurity. No one can save you from you.
Love and money. They both matter. And when they come together in our relationships lots of trouble - and opportunities for growth - can be stirred up. But instead of passive acceptance that things are this way, we can begin to bravely address our own patterns. Relationships matter. Money is the currency of survival. They both need our full attention.
Reach out to the team members of Collaborative Divorce Vancouver. We can help you deal with all of the areas in your life that are affected by separation and divorce. Learn more about Collaborative Divorce and contact one of our team members today!