One of my favourite stories is about a senior client who once said to me, “I’ve had five marriages!”
“Wow!” I replied. She continued, “All to the same man!” She had been married 65 years. Regardless of how relationships unfold or their time frame, one of the most helpful ways to view our relational journeys is to see them as constantly unfolding transitions. We move into, through and out of many stages in a relationship. We can be confined by a limited perspective when we assume that every relationship follows a similar trajectory and that endings are always bad. The biggest stressor I see for people going through these transitions is the idea that an ending is a failure. And yet, failure is not what I traditionally observe.
The biggest stressor for people going through these transitions is the idea that an ending is a failure.
Over the decades, I have witnessed hundreds if not thousands of clients, colleagues, friends and myself go through relational changes. I have concluded that it is the narrative we create in our head that is the source of our best and worst experiences. If we are determined to label an ending as a failure, we will naturally experience distress. I have also observed that the vast majority of people who slowly, thoughtfully and compassionately move through their transition, whether it is rebirthing a stale partnership or ending one, the transformation yields positive outcomes. People often end up in a better place having gone through these changes. They are wiser, braver, happier and end up with more fulfilling lives.
It is just so hard to have faith in this process in the midst of the maelstrom.
Regardless of the outcome, our resistance to relational truths will inevitably make things tougher. When it comes to the financial end of things, resistance is futile. With money, there is always a reckoning. And from my perspective, these reckonings if not resisted, consistently bring about new knowledge, wisdom and power.
With money, there is always a reckoning.
Most people go into marriage or cohabitation without having the slightest idea of the fiscal statutes governing their relationship. You may have thought money was one of the areas that could be abdicated to the other partner in the form of, “I will do the laundry and you do the money.” This is the source of most of the angst I see because it inevitably leads to inequities of power, reduction of shared responsibility and a diminishment of opportunity. The most economically successful relationships use the different perspectives of both partners to create a broader worldview of opportunity and risk. Even if there is some conflict, one plus one tends to equal three. Repeatedly I have witnessed the alchemical success of two people who go through the demands of co-creating and implementing a financial plan in tandem.
Regardless of how money was handled in your relationship, its ending will lead to a reckoning. Light is shone on every corner of your financial life. And although this may be shocking or painful, it is always illuminating. This is the source of the greatest growth I have witnessed. When people step up to the plate and throw away their former roles of impotence or secondary decision maker, the very fires of the challenge burn a new path forward of self-direction and truth. And I will never say it is easy. But I will always say it is worth it.