Relationships and Money Struggles
with Guest Jelisha Gatling, LMFT
We push beyond the traditional therapy format to demystify, debunk, and destigmatize therapy. Hosted by Karen Conlon, LCSW, CCATP.
Your net worth does not equal your self worth.
It sure does feel like that sometimes though, doesn’t it? Money is a hard topic for most of us to discuss, but that doesn’t mean we should just ignore it completely. I spoke with my friend and colleague Jelisha Gatling (LMFT), founder of Let’s Unpack Therapy about relationships and money struggles, as well as how we as individuals relate to money.
She actually just released a course about this very topic called Money, Mindset, and Marriage.
I honestly forgot we were recording a podcast while she and I were working on this episode. I learned so much, and there were so many ‘aha’ moments. Especially around money scripts…but more on that later.
What You’ll Learn
- What financial infidelity is and how it can impact your relationships
- Shame, guilt, and scarcity and how it relates to money
- How gender norms, our childhoods, etc. can impact our view on money
- Money and intergenerational trauma
- The four money scripts and what they mean
- How to set healthy boundaries around money with those around you
- How ‘Let me think about it’ is one of the most powerful sentences you can use
Podcast Resources for Relationships and Money Struggles
- Jelisha’s Money, Mindset, and Marriage Course
- Let’s Unpack Therapy
- Jelisha’s Instagram @savingthesaver
- Free Money Scripts Quiz
Karen Conlon, LCSW
Hello, hello, and welcome again to the So, How’s Therapy Podcast, a podcast where we push beyond the traditional therapy format, to demystify, debunk, and destigmatize what happens in the therapy space. I’m your host, Karen Conlon and I am completely elated to be joined today by my friend and colleague, Jelisha Gatling. Jelisha is an LMFT, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist. And Jelisha has just launched an awesome course called Money Mindset and Marriage. One of the things that I always want to talk about in this podcast is the fact that you don’t have to be in crisis to come to therapy. Therapy is not all about just talking about the big things that are going on in life, what about the other things that are really impactful like money.
And so, here today, we’re going to be talking about that, and how it comes into play in our relationships, and in many different areas of our lives. Jelisha, welcome.
Jelisha Gatling, LMFT
Hi, thank you for having me. I’m super excited to be here.
Oh, I’m so excited, Jelisha. Can you tell us a little bit about how you got to this place? You became a therapist and you were doing that, and then how you got to talking about money.
How Money Became A Big Part Of Jelisha’s Practice and Life
Yeah. I think the opening to that was, I was seeing couples, which is the majority of clients that I see. And I found that I was getting a couple of clients where they were having financial infidelity. And that’s not the language that they tend to use, but it’s like, oh, there was a breach of trust, so and so lied about debt or something else having to do with money, and it was creating a lot of conflict and issues of trust in their relationship. And it just really opened my mind up to the psychology behind money. And I was super, super interested in it, and just started to read and learn and study more about financial psychology, and found that it was immensely helpful not just with couples that were coming in, with stress around money or conflict, but with clients that were talking about it and just exploring our individual relationships with money.
And that has transpired into, I mean, my business, my clinical work, every single aspect, it’s been really, really expansive. And as I’ve learned more about my own relationship with money, it’s impacted so many different relationships, and I’m just all about educating people on their relationships with money, how it manifests in their life, the meaning that they put on different behaviors and circumstances that happen around money. And I’m really wanting to help other therapists to bring this into the therapy room because a lot of times, clients won’t or they’ll kind of skip over it. So, yeah.
My mind is a little blown right now so I’m just recovering from all this. You dropped the mic on me within like a minute in this podcast. Seriously. Seriously. Financial infidelity. When we think about going to a marriage and family therapist, we are not usually thinking about financial infidelity, we’re thinking about traditional infidelity. This makes me feel like I want to confess that I bought a couple of new phone cases the other day. I have an obsession and then my husband caught me and he’s like, what is this, what is this? And I’m like, the phone case, what do you mean? And it just made me feel right now like I fall into that category. That’s like a true story too sadly.
So there’s the psychology behind finances that we don’t talk about, why is it important for people to get educated around money, the energy, the connections that we have with money? Why is that important? I would like to know if it’s important because I don’t know, does it impact our relationships? Why do we need to know?
Relationships and Values Around Money
It definitely impacts our relationships. One of the key places that I like to start when I bring this up of I’m working with couples around it is, trying to figure out what their values are around money. So essentially their money values. And it goes far beyond what we spend our money on we value more. But also like how we show up. If you have a lot of value around status, around keeping up with the Joneses, that’s going to show up in your money behaviors, which can cause conflict, which can cause you to hide something from your spouse, which then turns into a whole nother thing. And it also impacts how you feel about yourself, like how we relate to money, it really impacts how we show up. Especially when there’s secrecy around money or what you’re doing.
Shame is a huge, huge theme that I find in talking with a lot of people around money. And that’s a beast in itself to really work through and shed, but you have to understand, where did that come from? I mean, even what you just said, Karen, I can totally relate to it. And I don’t even know if I would necessarily coin that financial infidelity, but I think especially for women, you probably have a lot of girls, I know so many women who have said, oh my gosh, that’s me or my mother, that would hide things from their father or their dad or their husband that they bought because we shouldn’t be shopping, we shouldn’t be spending. And so, there’s this expectation that your partner is not going to be okay with it or that it’s wrong or that it’s bad. And I’m like, hey, if you have your money stuff together, if you’re budgeting, and that’s what you like, and that’s what lights you up, and it’s not impacting your functioning, go for it.
There’s this shrinking that happens in this apology around how you spend your money. And I’m like, if that’s what you value and it’s not getting in the way of your financial goals, live your life.
Therapists and Money
You hit some serious areas that not only impact the people who come into the therapy space, but you mentioned therapists. A lot of times this is glossed over, therapists are people too. Therapists come with their own issues and their own baggage around money, shame being a theme that oftentimes just, it’s across the board. The therapist feels ashamed or shameful about charging X amount regardless of how much education, how much money they’ve put into, and continuing education. Sometimes even the industry itself shames therapists. And then come into the therapy space, someone, a client who wants to talk about money, then the therapist has their own stuff come up.
So what we’re talking about here are some maybe underlying psychological barriers that may have stemmed from where? Is it from childhood? Is it from what you saw? Is it from life experience? Where do we get this stuff?
Gender Norms and How They Impact Finances
Oh my gosh, there’s so many threads. Gender norms and rules that are attached to money. Of course, your childhood. I mean, I always inquire with every client when I’m doing intake and getting to know clients. What’s a pivotal memory around money, or what’s your earliest memory around money? And it doesn’t have to be necessarily traumatic or sad or a loss, but that can tell you a lot, especially if there was some sort of emotional charge tied to that. If mom and dad got along really well and were happy, we went on vacation, it’s when dad got this promotion, that will definitely lend itself to certain messages that you have around the meaning of money or when you lose a job, or when you get an inheritance even. Some people have shame over that. What were their responses when that event happened around money, and what messages did you take away about that? And how is that showing up in your life today?
Intergenerational Trauma and Money
Absolutely. You remind me of some of the areas within my own work that I’ve done with clients around not money specifically directly, but about the concept of where do we invest, where do we spend. Do we buy the more expensive dining table that’s going to last longer or do we do the cheaper one because right now, this is what we should be doing. And oftentimes, one of the themes that comes up is intergenerational trauma. We know that it’s not just psychologically that changes us, we also know now, science has helped us to understand that there’s also, genetically there are changes, there are biological changes that happen when you’re exposed to chronic trauma. And so, that intergenerational trauma around money, around how we spend on things or do we throw away any leftover food or do we just save it, because that’s a waste, let’s not waste.
And so, because there’s that focus on that wasting, therein comes the shame, because shame versus guilt, shame is I am wrong and guilt is this is wrong. And the shame is really around this whole I am wrong, and that’s really internalized, right?
Relationships and Money Struggles: Shame and Guilt
Totally. Oh my gosh, yes. Those are such great points. And also another common theme I see alongside shame and guilt is just scarcity, which can totally come from intergenerational trauma, and just pivotal money memories and experiences. And they don’t even necessarily have to be from childhood, it could be something you’ve experienced at 21 that can really impact and shake up your mindset around money. It’s interesting, you talk about not wanting to waste food, or what impacts you, spending more or less on a dining table. I think there’s also a lot of withholding from yourself from trauma where you don’t allow yourself to get something that you really need, and that you can afford. Well, what if I need this, what if something happens like when we were evicted, when I was homeless as a child. All those different things, you can sort of become a hoarder, which is its own money disorder. It’s a real thing.
I think a lot of times when I start talking about money and psychology and helping people with their mindset, people think I’m talking about struggling with money, not having a lot, poverty. And I’m like, this is so much bigger than that. It’s so many more layers. It touches everybody. No tax bracket, I don’t care how much you make, this is something that is worth exploring.
Let’s talk about that, that you just mentioned here about withholding for ourselves, women, I think our tendency is to naturally, generally speaking, hold back already, already. Okay, we already do that.
The Pandemic and Gender Roles
Yep. I think a lot about just feeling helpless, and that’s something that I’ve heard from so many people impacted by this pandemic. And that in itself can really block. I really try and preach and put out there. Let’s look at what opportunities might be here. And I’m not in any way dismissing or minimizing that this is like a crisis, and an issue. So, no way am I saying that, but I’m finding that depending on where you were with your relationship with money and codependency, and as women, we’re totally socialized from a very young age to just give, put your needs on the backburner, to people please, making other people happy. And that also shows up in the world around money. Even with asking for a promotion, asking for more money, saying what’s your worth, not following up on those invoices, all those things, not charging your client like you talked about.
I’m bringing that up because the way that you were managing and relating to money at that point is just compounded in this way. I was on another podcast several months ago talking about this at the beginning of the pandemic, and I was saying, I totally am validating what people are going through right now. But this is a beautiful opportunity. And I was talking specifically with couples who are really struggling to start to dive into what does my relationship with money look like. And life is going to continue to throw curveballs at us, and I don’t even want to call the pandemic a curveball, because this is like, it’s a word that doesn’t even exist, I don’t even know. It’s never too late.
This will come in handy, the work that you do around this, if you really do invest in educating yourself and understanding what your money script is, what your money values are, how they show up, and the tools that you can use to combat those, which is all covered in my money course, it can be so helpful to you moving forward when one of you gets sick, when life throws unexpected stuff at you. And that’s why this is so important because that’s always, stuff is always going to come up that you didn’t plan for. And this is so much bigger than just logistically, budget, I’m not even talking about that piece.
Money Scripts – What Are They?
Yeah. Again, you brought up this other really crazy interesting term here, money scripts, because how we relate to money often manifests in other areas of our lives. And is this money script that you’re referring to related to our beliefs? What is that? What are money scripts? What are some examples of the types of scripts?
There are four core money scripts. There’s money avoidance, there’s money worship, there’s money status, and there’s money vigilance. I have a quiz in my course, but you can jump online and probably find a free one as well to take, which will give you a sense, and you usually kind of know when you kind of look at the different facets of it. But if you can even just start with recognizing where you land, and of course, there’s a spectrum for each one, it can be really helpful. Usually people are like, oh, it’s a real eye-opener. I’m money avoidant so that’s like my core tendencies.
Let’s talk about each of those though. Let’s do one by one because everybody listening here has literally perked up because we all want to self-label. Let’s be real. I definitely need to know what I am here. So let’s go with money avoidance, tell me about this.
Okay. If you have money avoidance tendencies, and that’s your core script, you tend to put your head in the sand, when it comes to money, you maybe don’t open your mail, that’s something I used to do, I would literally not check my mail for two weeks, and then I’d just look at it in a pile, because I was like, I was freaking out over bill, I didn’t have my stuff together and I just didn’t want to know.
So there’s avoidance that shows up in so many ways where you might avoid making that call, following up on that invoice or settling that debt or talking with your partner about money, just completely blinders on, everything’s fine, everything’s okay. And just not wanting to go there. And usually loaded with a lot of anxiety but not wanting to face the truth. And that can really open the space for you to make up stories and beliefs about yourself because you’re not actually dealing with reality. And so, I have stories about myself, you’re just bad with money, you’ll never be good with money, you will never be able to stick to a budget, like all these different stories, and I just kind of accepted that this is my life, I’m just going to kind of get through.
And so, those are some of the tendencies that might show up or feel familiar around avoidance. Also can show up when you’re shopping. Maybe you just swipe and pray. That’s one of my old habits.
Yeah. I just do the Serenity Prayer right after I swipe.
Just avoiding, avoiding.
And God help me with the tap thing now because I tap and pray, I don’t even swipe and pray, I just tap and pray.
Totally. Karen, even going back to what you said at the beginning with clients, I’m thinking about how that might show up for them. Let’s say that they are having a hard time financially or they’re like, I don’t know that I can afford to keep coming, I’m having a really hard time, I just lost my job or what have you, they may just say, hey, I’m feeling really better. Instead of bringing that to you. Or they may quit a job instead of asking for a raise. You know what I mean? These can be huge decisions that we make from that place that can really be a big game changer.
Oh, my gosh, money avoidance. Okay, so check for me. Let’s go to the second one.
So money worship. If you fall within this quadrant, you have a core belief that everything will be fine when I make more money. You associate happiness with money. You assume and believe that people who are wealthier, more well off are happy, have no problems. If I just had more money, I wouldn’t have this problem. If I just had more money, I wouldn’t be depressed. If I just had more money. And so, it’s constantly wanting more. And even if you begin to make more and get more and save more, it’s never enough. And so, you’re just in this vicious cycle because you are attaching happiness and satisfaction and being okay with this. And a lot of times, I ask people, how much would be enough? They can’t even tell me.
They can’t answer. Is this one of those situations where it doesn’t matter what your social economic status is. You could come from a much more humble or place of poverty, and that is the money mindset, or the money script, I should say. Or on the opposite end of the spectrum, you could come from a place where it’s so abundant that it’s just never enough.
Yeah. And I think also, let’s say you say, oh, once I get this promotion or I save up this amount of money, I’m going to be good. And then you don’t feel, it’s almost like people expect to like feel whole. And it’s like, well, what would really make you fulfilled. And also, I don’t think that happy is a fixed state that we arrive at. So I think that’s another thing on its own to maybe unpack.
One thing that’s coming up for me when I hear you say this, both money avoidance and money worship, is that the one thing that’s lacking, and I’m very curious to hear about the other two as well, but the one thing that’s missing here is being present in now, in the here and now.
Oh, totally. You hit it on the nail.
Right, right? So with money avoidance, later, maybe, I don’t know. But we’re not dealing with what’s in front of you, just swiping and saying the Serenity Prayer. And then with money worship, we’re still not present. It’s like, the future, and the future, and the future and the future. And avoidance could actually be something from the past, and that’s why we’re doing it. And then money worship is future. The one pattern is that you’re not dealing with the present here and now stuff, right?
Yeah, you’re completely right, yeah. You okay?
No, I’m not. I’m not okay but I want more, I need more tell. Tell me the next one, just tell me the next one.
The next one, money status, and it’s funny because this example shows up in status and in worship, workaholism. If you’re thinking about more, more, more, there’s never enough, people that tend to spiral into workaholism tend to fall in that camp, or in money status. Yes, in money status. Money status tends to have an element of wanting to keep up with the Joneses. People in that camp tend to, and I’m saying tend because I’m saying that all these are not necessarily true for everybody, but tend to not bat an eye at charging for something. They might not even look at how much they have or if they can afford it, it’s more like I need to have this thing, and they really value how they look in appearances. And so, the bigger, the better. They want the biggest and the best and the newest, and they’ll do whatever they got to do to get that. And they’re really about how things are presented.
What’s going on with those folks that are, and I was just about to say, but I am going to say it, struggling with money status. It’s the word that came to me because the way I see these things, these are all struggles, they may not present that way, they may not seem that way. But there’s an internal struggle, isn’t there? What’s going on with folks that are struggling with money status? What’s that about?
I say it’s really a self worth. I mean, it’s like, well, once I get this new thing or this house or this car, it’s very similar to worship, but very much that net worth, that salary is aligned with my worth and my value and what I am worthy of. Those two things are synonymous which can be really problematic.
It’s interesting, this reminds me of, one time we were looking to change our car. At some point, I was just like, I don’t see the point, we don’t drive that much< we’re in the city. Why are we going to pay X amount of dollars to lease a car that we don’t use. What do we think about this brand? It was brand that’s not a very expensive car, it’s known to be an economy car. And I’ll never forget, I mentioned it to a friend, just having the conversation around practical things. And I’ll never forget the look on her face. She was like, “You want to get a what?” And I’m like, that. And she was like, “But why?” And oh, the look on our face just said it all.
And it’s interesting because even though this is a person who is just a wonderful person, kind, sweet in every way, something about that response just changed something for me about this person. And then I started to notice after that this, I didn’t have this phrase, I didn’t have this term money status, but I started to notice other things where she would show up in that way. My friend that I love and honor and love having in my life is this person who would give you the shirt off her back. But this is a part of her that doesn’t necessarily vibe with me.
Yes. Yeah. And that really speaks to, I’m sure you’ve read that quote, the five people around you kind of really impacts, like you tend to have the similar salary, but not even just get away from the numbers, similar energies and values around money. And even beyond money. Just like mindset in general. That’s another really interesting facet of who’s around you, how do they talk about money? What are their responses to things like that? What input do they give you and how does that influence you? And how did your family, were they about getting something that was practical within their means? All these different things, it totally shapes the decisions that we make around money.
And then how we feel, because that’s the important piece. This is so emotionally charged. That’s why I say, you can get a financial advisor, you can get the best budgeting app. If you’re not dealing with the emotional side of this, I just don’t believe you can really make much movement.
Listen, I always say it, emotions drive behavior. And unfortunately, most of us are ignoring the emotions because we have learned to put them aside, that they’re not important, to be scared of them. Meanwhile, emotions are basically hijacking our brains and driving that bus and impacting our behavior every single day.
So this last one, what’s the last one? We’ve got money avoidance, money worship, money status.
Jelisha Gatling, LMFT
Money vigilance. And people, when they read the descriptions of these, they tend to think, oh, money vigilance is the good one. And I’m like, hey, there’s an extreme to all of these. Money vigilance essentially is when you’re very organized with your finances and tend to have a very strict budget. You live far beneath your means generally, like far, far, far beneath your means. There tend to be elements of frugality, which I think is relative. But there tends to be a resistance to spending anything that is not absolutely necessary. And I see this with couples a lot where one person follows your finances and tend to have a very strict budget. You live far beneath your means generally, like far, far, far beneath your means.
There tends to be elements of frugality, which I think is relative, but there tends to be a resistance to spending anything that is not absolutely necessary. And I see this with couples a lot where one person falls within money vigilance and there’s conflict because they’re on vacation, or even just wants to buy a name brand something. And this one is like, we don’t need that. And it can be a real struggle because they have different ideas of what’s necessary. And typically, the person who’s in money vigilance, they don’t necessarily value, this sounds bad, I was going to say a lot of fun.
Karen Conlon, LCSW
But you’re making a really good point because we’ve all known people who only see value in always being productive, and don’t see taking moments of relaxation as ways of replenishing your body and mind. So that as a productive exercise, as a way of initiating self-care. So it’s all relative and it’s all your perception and it’s all really I think colored by the lens of your beliefs and your values, like you said, it comes back to that. I wholly agree with you.
And money vigilance also, I agree with you, it’s not this whole thing about having fun, I was thinking also about therapy. How some people like yeah, if you have a physical health problem, you go to the doctor, you take care of it. But with mental health, it’s like, well, I don’t know if I want to pay.
Yes, it’s looked at like a luxury or something, not a necessity, or a baseline.
Or if I can, or if I can, because sometimes let’s be real. I mean, therapy is not always cheap and insurance companies make it very difficult for therapists to take insurance. Most people don’t understand all the issues that go on with therapists and insurance companies and how they make it very difficult. Even at a lower paying scale, I’ve offered it in the past, for example, and have people said, yeah, I don’t know, I don’t if it’s worth it. And I’m thinking, okay, I get that and I have to accept that.
Therapy: Is It That You Can’t Afford It Or That It’s Not Worth It?
Yes. And I think, Karen, that’s a question that I love asking potential clients, and I’ve been told that this is a little provocative, but I say is it that you can’t afford it or that it’s not worth it? Those are two different things. And sometimes we can tell ourselves that I can’t afford it. And that’s something that can come up with someone who does fall into money vigilance where they have a plethora, I mean, they usually have crazy savings, they’re usually very secretive about it. If you ask them, how much money do you make or do you have saved? They have tendencies to lie to their partner more about those things. They don’t want people to know how much they have, they want you to think they make significantly less. And they can have real anxiety. It can be crippling, where they fear, losing it, not having enough, which influences their wanting to hoard it and not spend anything unless they absolutely have to.
How The Pandemic Has Changed How We See Money
Let me ask you this. The pandemic, we’re already coming with one of these beliefs, one of these core beliefs. Has the pandemic made it better? Has the pandemic made it worse? What do you think has gone on now having to live through the pandemic and fears and working remotely and not knowing?
I think it has compounded the beliefs that you held prior to that point. I do think that for some people who, like I was saying earlier, were already sort of working on or at least just having that awareness around the mindset piece in your scripts, this could be an ultimate like test of creating this as an opportunity versus an obstacle or just complete helplessness, because, again, I think it’s really important. I’ve worked with so many clients where some have been hitting the ground, reaching out to people, starting a business that they’ve been wanting to do forever, almost grateful to have lost the job that they kind of really hated, that was sucking their soul dry. And so, it’s have them be a lot more intentional and putting out this different energy to make what they want to do happen versus people who have been completely just in victimhood, living in that space, and not taking any kind of actions or seeing that there could even be an opportunity in this. And that’s all mindset.
Are you talking about opportunities to career change or opportunities in changing the way that you see yourself in connection to money, like the value that you bring in? If you lose, God forbid, you lose your job, changing the way that you see yourself now that you’re a non-money producing part of the family?
All of those things. They’re all intertwined, I don’t even know that they can be separate. What is the value that you put on yourself as a human, as a mom without bringing in money. Recognizing the value that you bring in other ways. Because for some people, I mean, I think for a lot of people like their job, or the amount of money that they make or bring in, that is their identity. Self-worth, kind of going back to that script. It could be a time to really unpack that, to challenge that, to be curious about the other facets of yourself. How do you want to experience yourself? I just think that through so much loss, what’s been highlighted for so many people outside of even money it’s just like, what lights me up? What am I not missing? I have a whole long list of things that I do not miss that have gone away and I’ve been surprised by.
I feel like our values, this is a beautiful time to hone in on that. We can see it but what do you do with that? And what can you do? What action can you take?
That’s a really important piece because oftentimes, we focus on things that we can’t control, or we focus on things that we wish we could change, or the unanswerables. The what ifs, and what could have been, should have been, could be, would be. And maybe what would happen if we were to just allow ourselves to look at what we can do, that maybe this job or this situation hadn’t allowed us to. That can be scary sometimes though too.
Oh, yeah. For sure. Super scary.
The thought of freedom, even in thought.
Yes. Oh, hands down. Definitely will validate the crap out of that. Not saying that it’s easy. It’s super uncomfortable. Growth is uncomfortable. Change is uncomfortable, even if we’re not happy where we are, yeah, it’s terrifying.
The one thing that we know is that oftentimes when, especially in the therapy space, it’s important for people to know that oftentimes you feel worse before you feel better. And that’s the way it goes because it’s the first time that you’re allowing yourself to look at things, to feel things, to acknowledge things, to accept things. And if it’s the first time that you’re doing that, you are bound to feel worse before you feel better. But we don’t get, and I’ve said this before in podcasts before, we don’t get over things, we get through things.
Yes. Oh my gosh, yes. Say it again.
Money In Relationships
We don’t get over things, we get through things. I want to switch gears a little bit and talk about money in different types of relationships, because we’ve talked about money thus far. Generally speaking, in the sort of couple or marriage scenario, let’s talk about boundary setting with family members, dating relationships. How do we do this in a way, how do we talk about money in a way that that feels okay. Does it ever feel okay? Maybe not, I don’t know.
How much time do you have, Karen? You might have to split this up into two episodes.
So the question is, you’re talking about money with those other relationships?
Or with yourself.
Why don’t we start with our core selves because here’s what I think. You can’t deal with other stuff, with external stuff effectively before you’ve dealt with it internally.
Yeah, yeah. I think an easy place to start with yourself is, again, I urge anybody listening to take a money scripts course. I mean, not course, I’m sorry, quiz, quiz, as a starter. For most people, they’re really having a lot of aha moments, and scanning every context of your life. Make yourself go where this might show up at work, where it shows up in your relationship, with friends and dating, with your parents, with your kids. And really digging into where that was modeled, where that might have come from. I think it’s important to self-compassion, because again, we talked a lot about shame and guilt. But I feel like when we can have that awareness of like, oh, that makes sense. My mom, society, gender norms, it’s like the list goes on and on. This isn’t something that we’re just born with and I am this way, but understanding the why I think can just help you to have grace with yourself and to begin to take different actions that will serve you and that will empower you.
Relationships and Money Struggles: The First Step
So, I’m hearing clarity, the first step is gaining clarity on how you feel about money. And then the second step is taking some actions that align with that clarity.
Yes. And this is like an ongoing thing as far as the clarity and awareness, just heightening that awareness. And even I think once you begin to dig into some of this stuff and understanding, when you’re moving about through your life, you’re going to start clocking stuff. And that’s the really, it can be the juicy part in a way where you start to maybe kind of slow down before you make that purchase or before you tell your spouse that, oh, I forgot about the money meeting we were going to have. And just kind of questioning that, you’ll start to clock it because it’s in your mind and you’ve been kind of marinating on it. Those are beautiful moments where you you have those moments of like, oh, man, I almost did this thing, or I did that thing, and I understand why I did it. And what can I do next time to set myself up for a different lane.
Yeah. And you know what, I’m going to correct myself based on what you just said. The first step is actually gaining awareness because you can’t have clarity before having an awareness. So it’s really gaining awareness that there are these things going on that you are engaging in these behaviors and maybe that family members are too. Or friends, or significant other. Then you can start getting some clarity around what it is that you need to do. How do we set boundaries? How do we set boundaries? I think that most people when they think about boundaries, they think of conflict.
And I am a big proponent of no, no, we can actually set very healthy boundaries without creating conflict if we focus on making the changes within ourselves. If we’re trying to focus on changing other people and we’re setting boundaries for other people, we’re expecting that these boundaries are going to change other people’s behaviors, and that’s not so. How do we set healthy boundaries, starting with ourselves with respect to money when we have family members or friends maybe around us that are not in the same financial position or that may be are struggling or need some extra help? Or maybe that they don’t need the help but you maybe feel some kind of obligation for some reason.
Relationships and Money Struggles: Healthy Money Boundaries
Yeah, oh, my goodness. Karen, well, first of all, you rewind this a little bit, and listen to what you just said about boundaries, because I think that is so important and such a misconception, that we think about boundaries and setting a line and having you not do this thing, or respond in a certain way. And it really is about protecting your energy and your space while also loving this other person. How can I do both, that’s what I always ask myself. How can I protect myself while also not wanting to block you when you call me? Do you know what I mean? Does that make sense?
Understanding what boundaries are. I think for a lot of people, it’s a real, I have to remind myself, and I’m a freaking therapist, like constantly. Anyone who’s listening, it’s not easy, but when you’re talking about boundaries with friends and family, coming back to your why, especially if what you’ve been doing, a lot of times I think especially as women because we’re so groomed to give and be there and be the matriarch and the glue of the family and all of that, that we tend to just almost give, give, give. Not even necessarily ask ourselves, do I have this to give? Is my tank on E? Do I have the time? And we will very easily put our stuff to the backburner and say I’ll get to that later, which will lead to resentment.
I say, if you’re feeling resentment, that’s not generous. I tell my clients this all the time. I’m like, you shouldn’t feel resentful or rolling your eyes, or we spend the whole session talking about, you gave your brother money and you’re pissed, and blah, blah, blah, blah. That wasn’t you doing a kind thing. You know what I mean? And so, coming back to you, what you need and understanding why you might say no, or I say, hey, give yourself a middle ground. If someone that you’ve maybe been loaning money to or helping out and it’s an issue at this point for you and you need to change that up, even to say, and this is like, I say this as like a starting place because it can be really hard to go from yeah, yeah, yeah to absolutely not, to let me think about it. If someone’s asking a favor of you, and it doesn’t have to do with money necessarily, it could be time, it could be could you do this thing for me or pick XYZ up, like saying, let me get back to you.
And I think as women, I don’t know if you agree, I feel like we automatically, yeah, yeah, yeah, sure, sure. So slowing down and giving yourself a minute to think about, you don’t have to give a direct yes or no.
Let me think about it. Let me get back to you.
Yeah. Okay, folks. I need you to write this down in your phone, somewhere. Put it on a post it note so that you can put it in front of your mirror. Wherever it is, save it as your screen whatever on your phone, your lockscreen picture, write this down. Let me think about it.
Let me get back to you.
Or let me get back to you. Please, please, please, please, if you are the person that has the tendency to jump in and just say, okay, yep, yep, yep, that’s fine, and then later you find yourself feeling resentful, regretful pissed off, upset, angry, feeling victimized, manipulated. If you’re feeling any of those things, then please write down those phrases and put them somewhere where you can see them every day because it is okay to be able to say that, that’s the first thing.
The second thing is, guess what, saying that is a way of setting a healthy boundary without conflict. Saying, let me think about it or let me get back to you. By doing that, you are actually setting a healthy boundary, you are setting expectations, and you’re also putting yourself in the position of being in control, because the money is yours to say yea or nay. And then you take that time to think about what it is that you’re feeling with regards to that decision, with regards to that person. Do you feel responsible for that person? There’s a difference between compassion and feeling responsible. You can feel compassion for a person and not feel responsible for them. Once you start feeling responsible, that’s not compassion anymore. That is not compassion anymore.
So, when you say that, you give yourself time, you’re giving yourself some time to think about how you feel, become aware of your behaviors. And then make a decision as to what you want to do. And one thing also that you said, Jelisha, that, again, I think is so important to people pointing out. When you think you’re doing a kindness, ask yourself, am I enabling this behavior? Am I enabling this person that I think I’m helping out, but am I enabling this person to continue to be on a self-destructive I am helpless/hopeless journey?
And you’re not doing it on purpose, right? You’re trying to help. But sometimes we do things for people because it makes us feel better or because we don’t want to deal with the conflict, and not because it’s actually good for them.
Yeah. But you’re left with that inner conflict. So that’s a sign. And what you just said, Karen, in emphasizing the let me get back to you, the thing about that is that it’s beautiful, is it starting to work out that muscle of slowing down, and not making emotional decisions, or decisions from a place of obligation or from patterns. It’s important to allow yourself time to think and to be able to think through this intentionally. You can’t do that when you’re emotionally overwhelmed or when you’re stressed. You have to give yourself time to breathe and to actually think through what you want to do and what you can do.
How To Begin To Talk About Money in Relationships with Money Struggles
Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. Let’s give people some points on how to bring up the money talk in healthy ways. How do we begin? How do we begin with ourselves?
I think it begins if you’re open to it, I say that because I just had someone tell me, I don’t do journaling, stop telling me to journal. I was like, okay. I think I’m a little traumatized from that where I’m like, I shouldn’t have [inaudible 00:47:59] journal. Journaling, or, I mean, it could be any other form of expression. I think some way to get all of this out, allow yourself to write that angry letter to maybe your parents. I think some people really struggle with, I didn’t know what I, I wasn’t taught this. And there’s an anger at that, if I had known this, and sometimes there can be resentment towards that. And so, these conversations don’t have to necessarily happen or start with that other person, but I think getting it out in some way, especially, and I’m a big fan of drafts, just let it out. Curse. Say stuff that you wouldn’t probably actually say in that way. But get it out and validate what you’re feeling around that.
Okay, so let it out, and it doesn’t have to be with a person, it can just be you allow yourself to let it out through journaling, through just writing it down one time. And then once you figure out, you didn’t know, nobody told you, what is it that you need to do with yourself at that moment? How do you give yourself a break?
I think from that moment, that is creating a space for you to validate what you’re feeling and to love on yourself, and to be compassionate. That’s really, really important I think before you begin to approach, especially if this is a brand new conversation or someplace that you have never went with this person that you do that for yourself. And then before you open up that dialogue, get really clear about what message do you want them to walk away with? What do you want them to know? Maybe it’s just to understand how you’re feeling, maybe it’s not anything more than that. Maybe it’s a new boundary that you’re wanting to set. What do you want them to walk away understanding? What is that?
We can’t necessarily say what we want them to do. We can set a line and they can choose to meet it or not, but I think be crystal clear, what message do you want them to walk away with. And really practicing how you will articulate that so that it’s clear. If you need to write it down, I’m a fan of bullets, whatever you got to do, but be clear so it doesn’t go all over the place.
Role Play for Relationships and Money Struggles
Yeah. One of the things that we do in the therapy space a lot is role play. People initially feel a little silly about it, but you know what, once they start getting into it, they find that when they actually go do it, they feel a lot more comfortable. And the other thing too is bullet points. Just make some bullet points of the main things that you want to say because when we’re nervous about having a conversation or anxious, we tend to ramble, and then we go off tangents. And then we lose the person because we’re so focused on trying to get the message out.
In this case, sometimes less is more. And coming up with very specific bullet points. And the other thing too is that I think working collaboratively and bringing that into the space and saying, we’re in this together, this is a you and me thing, if that is what you’re dealing with. And I think that beginning in gratitude is something very important. Whenever you’re having a tough conversation, I find that it brings the walls down when you can begin the conversation with something that you appreciate about the person. Even if it is I appreciate that I can feel comfortable and safe even having this conversation with you. My goodness, what a big difference in saying, listen, we need to have a conversation.
Totally. Oh my gosh.
You’re going to bring up the same thing, but the way that you present it will definitely either close the other person down, shut them down, or it will pique their interest and soften them up a little bit to what you have to say. And then finishing also with show of gratitude of being able to have the conversation. I’m a big fan of that. What about the acknowledgement of feelings of things that are going on? Is that important? Is that a healthy way of bringing up the money talk, starting with that as well?
I think it is important but I think the bigger question is, what’s the meaning of that for you. That’s why I really try and stress with clients, and I do a lot of role play too, love it, love it, love it. Emphasizing the boundary thing again, that we’re not doing this to get a certain response from them. But for some people, just getting it out and saying it, speaking your truth without necessarily it being valuable because they responded in the way you wanted. Sometimes it can be really freeing to say that, say something that you’ve never said to your mom before that you’ve been feeling and brewing on for years, or to your partner or to a friend who constantly doesn’t show up for your whatever, say, hey, this has really hurt my feelings and something I’ve held in, and these are all the ways that it’s been impacting me. That can be liberating, even if they’re like, you’re crazy. And then that’s a sign that perhaps, right?
That in and of itself, people’s reaction and what to expect, that’s a whole other, I mean, we could do a whole class around that. I think the point here is to remember that after you’ve thought things out, really think about that outcome what you would like. First and foremost, think about what you want for yourself because you can’t change other people, you may not be able to change situations. But you can certainly set the expectations for yourself.
Jelisha, can you please tell us, for anybody who wants to get in touch with you, learn more about your course, take your course, Money, Mindset and Marriage, tell us where we can be in touch with you.
More Information About Jelisha Gatling, LMFT
Sure. So I have two websites for two different audiences. So if you are a non-therapist and you’re listening to this podcast, you definitely want to check out www.letsunpacktherapy.com. And if you’re a therapist, you want to check out my Instagram, @savingthesaver.
Fantastic. Thank you so much, Jelisha Gatling. This has been, I mean, oh my God, just personally so much fun. I actually kind of forgot that we were filming, or not filming, that we were recording this podcast because these are just the types of conversations that we have all the time. They’re just so fun and real and authentic. I want to thank you for bringing up this really important topic of money that is a constant. It is an everyday constant in our lives. I think especially bringing up those four types is really just a wonderful first step for people to start understanding how they function and their correlation with money as just a first step.
So, thank you again. And for everyone listening, thank you so much. As always, if you want to know more about our practice, cohesivetherapynyc.com or this podcast, be sure to head over, oh, I just said it too, cohesivetherapynyc.com/podcast. You can check out the show notes there, get information on Jelisha and you’ll also be able to find other resources, links, and how to get in touch. Thank you so much and I’ll see you next week when I once again ask, so, how’s therapy?
About So, How’s Therapy?
In each podcast episode, Karen and her guests work to push through the traditional therapy format to demystify, debunk, and destigmatize therapy.
Whether you’ve been in therapy for years, or are thinking about reaching out, Karen is here to guide you through it all.
She tackles everything from Anxiety, Trauma and PTSD, to Childhood Emotional Neglect, to dealing with chronic illness, and everything in between, through the lens of her private practice in New York City, Cohesive Therapy NYC.
About the author(s)
Karen is the founder and Clinical Director of Cohesive Therapy NYC. She earned a Masters in Social Work from New York University and has extensive training in Hypnosis, Anxiety, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Brainspotting, and DGBI. She is a member of the Institute of Certified Anxiety Treatment Professionals, The Rome Foundation, the National Association of Social Workers, The Crohn's and Colitis Foundation, and the American Social of Clinical Hypnosis.