Money is by far the most common point of conflict between separating couples. It is important to realize that money in of itself is often not the primary issue; rather, what money symbolizes for people, what it represents, and how it provides identity are the real underlying points of contention.
Just like in psychology, it can be understood that there are also financial attachment styles. Understanding financial attachment styles is key for professionals working with clients in the Collaborative Divorce process. Money is by far the most common point of conflict between separating couples. It is important, then, to realize that money in of itself is often not the primary issue; rather, what money symbolizes for people, what it represents, and how it provides identity are the real underlying points of contention.
People have complex relationships to money because money can be understood as symbolic. That is to say, money in of itself does not retain value but it represents purchasing power, or status, or a certain set of rewards. A full bank account symbolizes or represents a lifestyle where one can afford a beach house. For others, it symbolizes access to exclusive events. For others, it’s a form of security that can rescue them from the memories of a childhood with limited resources. In this way, money represents rewards.
It helps Collaborative professionals to understand that money can be a means to an end. It is more than a number in a bank account or a stack of cash. When professionals understand how clients view money, they can connect more closely to the heart of the issue. Money represents a very human attachment to important identity markers, felt needs, or a desire to avoid interpersonal shame.
Collaborative Divorce professionals can utilize the broad categories of the Four Financial Attachment styles to develop a helpful framework for understanding their clients. These categories help professionals identify similar markings among clients, and can help them make decisions about how best to posit solutions or to avoid particular common trigger points.
People who have the Recreative attachment style understand money to be the source of leisure. Money symbolizes for them travel, a much-needed vacation, a new entertainment system, fast cars, interior decorations, and more.
Money, for those who present with the Recreative style, see the purpose of money as the gateway to “the good life,” unique experiences, and adventure. When people with the Recreative style feel that their finances are under threat, they might believe that their opportunities to be surrounded by exciting things or to share travel stories with friends might evaporate.
Collaborative professionals can alleviate concerns with this group by looking for solutions that can answer the felt needs of comfort, leisure, or adventure, perhaps through budgets that allow for (less expensive) excursions or which provides a spouse with Recreative attachment certain household resources that are associated with this lifestyle.
For those with the Influential attachment style, this personality understands that money is an open door to special privileges and access that isn’t normally available. They might appreciate that influence doesn’t only mean power or leverage, but connection. That is, one partner might share bank accounts or a monthly alimony check as some sort of connection to their former spouse.
Money represents a sense of control for this attachment style. Having money means an individual has open opportunities and access to freedom.
The Collaborative team should take care to avoid presenting compromises that could be interpreted as closing doors, limiting connections to others (perhaps their former spouse but especially their children), or boxing them in, in some way.
TO LEARN MORE
To learn more join us at the 2022 Florida Academy of Collaborative Professional (FACP) where we will presenting: Money Matters – A Team Approach to Understanding the Emotional and Practical Needs of Clients Facing Complex Financial Issues in the Collaborative Process.
This workshop will explore how "Money Matters" differently to each client, and how it influences their decision-making process. We will explain how four categories help describe a client's relationship to "Money," and, we will demonstrate how the roles of the Lawyer, Mental Health and Financial Neutral can support the client emotionally and help set reasonable expectations by understanding the category a client identifies with. Attend this workshop to learn how the professional team can explore complex financial issues with the clients when "Money Matters".
Catherine Eaton, Esq., The Eaton Family Law Firm, P.A.
Jacqueline Green, Esq., The Green Law Firm of Jacksonville, P.L.
Kristin Wallace, PhD, LMHC-QCS, Counselors for Change
Megan Wolfe, CPA, Wolfe Financial Group