When your relationship with money is broken, it can seem like you are stuck in an endless cycle of repeating desperation. Occasionally a glimmer of hope peeks through, only to be stomped back into place by the next financial crisis. That’s how broken relationships work: They repeat again and again. Nothing changes if nothing changes.
If you stay in a broken relationship with money, remember that money is not going to be the one to change. And it’s impossible to really break up with money. Face it: You’re going to have a relationship with money whether you want to or not. If that relationship is broken, you are the only one who can fix it.
The Symptoms of a Broken Relationship With Money
A major symptom of a bad relationship with money is that your financial problems repeat. Fear of financial matters prevents many people from making the adjustments necessary for real change. Sometimes it’s simply fear of the math involved. The delusion in many bad relationships is that somehow the future will be better; somehow the pain will not repeat. This despite the history of endless repetition.
Trust may also be an obstacle to change. People often stay in the same cycle because they don't know who to trust, what to trust, or where to turn.
Sometimes the delusion is not that things will necessarily get better, but that they can’t get worse. Then reality again shows that to have been a false belief.
If you find yourself in a repetitive pattern of money problems, are afraid of financial matters, and don’t know what your next financial step should be, then you have a broken relationship with money. Failure to address a broken money relationship will inevitably lead to a worse financial situation. So how can you get back on track? There are a few steps you need to take.
Further Reading: “8 Steps to Take if You're Completely Broke”
Acknowledge the Problem
It’s nearly impossible to fix a problem that you deny having. You have to acknowledge it. The interesting thing is that your problem probably isn’t as well hidden as you might think. True friends will not judge or condemn, and there is a therapeutic value to being honest with them about your situation.
As with other broken relationships, it may be necessary to put intellect over emotion. Change comes from altering our behavior. Changing our feelings can wait. Your money doesn’t care how you feel. That’s the cold, hard truth. Money’s like that.
In severe situations, it can be necessary to seek professional help. Sometimes money problems are the symptom of other issues. Sometimes a financial therapist or coach can help you root out the basis of the problem.
It also helps to get a clear picture of your attitude toward your finances. You can delegate a lot. If you loathe crunching numbers, you can use systems like TurboTax and QuickBooks that do all of your calculations for you. You will find that many preconceived notions and barriers that may have prevented a healthy relationship with money in the past can be removed by using some basic rules and systems to regulate your financial behavior in a positive way.
Further Reading: Check out tips for finding the right financial adviser to help you.
Plan and Prioritize
Financial success is not a random target. Nor is someone else’s financial target necessarily appropriate for you. You have your own unique goals, objectives, and plans. You alone are uniquely qualified to pick the direction of your financial life. Using someone else’s financial plan will not get you what you want, nor will it motivate you.
Long-term plans are essential in establishing a financial roadmap, while short-term plans are essential for day-to-day decision-making and are the root of long-term motivation. The successes achieved in the short-term fuel the hope and belief that long-term success is possible. And it's essential to prioritize these short-term plans.
If your financial ship is sinking, you’ve gotta plug holes. But not just any holes.
You need to assess the situation and determine what you need to do in order to stay afloat. Then you can work on improving the ride. There are crises to be dealt with and steps to be taken to prevent more crises. Both have to happen in order.
Further Reading: Learn how to set achievable financial goals.
Find Support Systems
There are a lot of options for support systems. Living in a broken money relationship can be incredibly difficult. That unhealthy relationship is also easy to slip back into by becoming complacent in our efforts to redefine it. Support can be as simple as being open and honest with a trusted friend or some other accountability partner. Or it can involve enlisting the help of a group or a professional. Progress is easier when you don’t carry the burden alone.
Define Your Mindset: Warrior or Victim
The financial warrior and financial victim are opposite ends of the same spectrum. One stands tall and controls the outcome of each situation. The other allows his or her situation to dictate the outcome. It’s as simple as that. The two ends of the spectrum are defined by different behaviors.
It isn’t necessary to always be the warrior, but it is necessary to not be the victim. You can become the warrior if you choose to. Or you can rent one. You don’t need to know everything, but you do need to know enough to act intentionally with your money and to either learn what you don’t know or outsource it to someone else.
Once you’ve moved from the crisis situation of living in a broken relationship with money, stepping back and reassessing your situation may prove useful. It can also be quite beneficial to spend some quiet time getting in touch with who you are financially and what you want from your money relationship. You never need to cede control of your financial destiny ever again.
You may choose to be the warrior. Or you may simply choose to take a few steps in that direction. That’s fine. Small actions, taken cumulatively, can accomplish anything.
Further Reading: “Is Your Mind Keeping You Poor?”