I constantly worry about money. I spend hours going through my bank account trying to figure out where my salary goes, stressing about making ends meet. I don’t spend my money on lavish things, and I’m not in debt, but it’s a source of constant worry for me. It feels like everyone else is saving and has the money to spend on expensive holidays and clothes. I don’t understand how they do it. My partner never has any worries about money – he says it will always work out – but I don’t earn as much as him, and I feel like that’s half the problem. I’ve tried to tell him I can’t afford so many evenings out, but my worries don’t seem to register on his radar. I feel out of control. How can I stop money from ruling my life? Lucy
I identify with how difficult it can be to manage these feelings – the financial aftershocks of my husband’s death reverberated for years (one example was I didn’t want to accept that my children qualified for free school meals). The intensity of our feelings about money is affected by context, not just facts.
I notice three elements of context in your letter. One is how ‘everyone else’ has money to spend freely. This is simply not true. One of the best summaries on the relationship between money and happiness is in Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project. She says an important element is how much money you have relative to those around you, and relative to your own experience.
But she also says it’s possible to buy elements of happiness. Sometimes a positive decision to give something up can give a sense of healthy control. I strongly recommend her book, especially chapter seven.
Second, you say your worries aren’t on your partner’s radar. Money aside, my definition of a ‘partner’ would be someone you can talk to and feel heard by. Give him another chance to be that person. Make it clear how much this is interfering with your ability to feel happy and relaxed.
Finally, if you find that you’re spending hours on this at a time, your worry muscles may have tipped from constructive exercise into overuse or exhaustion, and you could be suffering from a general anxiety disorder. If the out-of-control feelings persist, despite the fact that you’re not in debt, please talk to your GP.
Your partner is right in one way – things will work out, but it’s not about the money.
Mary Fenwick is a business coach, journalist, fundraiser, mother, divorcée and widow. Follow Mary on Twitter @MJFenwick. Got a question for Mary? Email firstname.lastname@example.org, with ‘MARY’ in the subject line
Read Happiness comes from giving, not buying or having by Dr Steve Taylor on LifeLabs