This week on The Gottman Relationship Blog, we’ve been tackling the subject of money. As promised in Wednesday’s post, today we will share creative approaches to fight the destructive effects of financial stress on your relationships and help you to strengthen bonds with those you love!

Money is a hot topic. We care about money because we long for security, stability, and safety. But we also know that money alone doesn’t guarantee any of these things – you may have heard the saying, “Some people are so poor that all they have is money!” 

It’s definitely possible to be fiscally well-off and also miserable, unstable, and insecure. So, what’s the answer?

Security, stability, and safety are found in community. They are found in our relationships with families and friends. In hard times, these will be the people who help us out and lift our spirits. Money isn’t too great at providing support, back rubs, or understanding. And when the good times roll around, we can’t share our joy with a stack of dollar bills – we want those closest to us to celebrate our successes, too! 

In sum: We can’t commiserate with money, but we can commiserate with human beings. 

Nurturing deep, healthy, happy, and long-lasting connections that allow us to do this rarely has much to do with money. On the contrary, money is often divisive, alienating us from each other, acting as a source of conflict in marriages, families, and larger communities. 

For this reason, demonetizing our approach to relationship building may take us a long way. Thinking of budgets outside of the strictly financial realm (also considering our budgeting of time and energy) may help us reach an interesting, new perspective.

Below, see some creative ways to create and strengthen relationships with partners, family, friends, and even strangers:

  • Want to show your partner your love? Instead of buying them a pricey gadget or piece of jewelry, go on a camping trip over the weekend and make priceless memories. 
  • Trying to communicate care for your sweetie? Give them your time and energy one-on-one, and do this often. Not just on a date, but at mealtimes and at bedtimes too. Put away that phone and iPad!
  • Want to connect with Junior? Instead of buying your kid the latest Xbox game, have fun together by taking them to a local fair, festival, outdoor concert, or block party. Check your local listings for upcoming events this Summer. 
  • Want to teach your children about your value system? Organize a clothing drive or volunteer at a local soup kitchen and help out those in need.
  • Looking for a way to make new family friends? Organize or attend a potluck at home or in your community. Enjoy sharing diverse cultures, eating delicious dishes, and meeting like-minded people.

And what about philanthropy? As Zach said on Monday, “In choosing to give away our money, we’ve found that it has less power over us.” Take some time this weekend to discuss the following questions with your partner: Are there any causes the two of you share a deep commitment to? Any organizations you support, from your community center or place of worship to homeless shelters, crisis clinics, human or animal rights groups? Consider giving (within your means)!

Doing something to help others is a great way to get that priceless feeling: “We’re on the same team, and we’re making a difference together!” 

The suggestions listed above are intended as a starting point. Don’t hesitate to personalize and improvise this weekend! We invite you to share your own affordable, creative ideas on our Facebook page.


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Weekend Homework Assignment: 5 Ways to Make Money Work For You
Ellie Lisitsa

Ellie Lisitsa is a staff writer at The Gottman Institute and a regular contributor to The Gottman Relationship Blog. Ellie is pursuing her B.A. in Psychology with an emphasis on Cognitive Dissonance at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.