The importance of talking about financial stress

Published on Apr 22, 2023

The importance of talking about financial stress

If you’re like many people experiencing financial woes, you don’t want to share what you’re going through with friends and relatives. Whether you’re falling behind on loan payments or struggling to meet basic bills, you may be feeling emotions ranging from shame to fear. The psychological toll can be extreme. A 2022 Journal of Financial Therapy study found that financial stress can negatively impact mental health, leading to anxiety and depression. 

Confiding in loved ones can help. By suppressing your feelings, problems can magnify. Moreover, you may be forfeiting the support of people who truly care, understand, and who can offer valuable assistance. 

How financial stress can impact a variety of relationships 

When you’re anxious or depressed about money, the people in your personal sphere can wind up feeling the same way. Researchers from University of California, Riverside found that people can pick up negativity, stress, and uncertainty as they would secondhand smoke. It can hurt the relationships you value most.  

Friends and colleagues

Maybe you have stopped meeting friends for movies and dinners, or now opt out of extracurricular work events that you used to enjoy. Or you do attend these outings but are tense by the cost you know is coming. It’s not fun for you or for them. 

Family members

Constantly saying no to your children because you can’t afford what they want makes everyone unhappy. Your kids may be negatively affected by your financial concerns, even if you keep them to yourself, found a study published in the Journal of Nonverbal Behavior. Or you may not be returning other family members’ calls and messages as you did before, causing them to worry. 

Romantic partners

All too often the person you love most gets the worst of you when you’re feeling down. You may snap, argue, criticize, deflect or withdraw from intimacy. None of these actions are conducive to a romantic partnership. Money problems are also a leading cause of break-ups and divorce. 

Plan your conversations

Because you don’t want to harm the people who are close to you, it’s time to talk. Before you do, though, plan the conversation so it is effective and ultimately positive.

Commit to honesty 

Determine what you will say regarding your situation to each of the important people in your life. Your friends may only need a brief description of what is happening. For example, you might explain that you’ve been anxious because you haven’t been able to secure a job after being laid-off. Should they know that you’re dealing with debt collectors? That depends on who you trust. Oftentimes an overview is fine and can relieve some of the pressure. 

Young children don’t need to be drawn into the nitty-gritty details of adult problems. However you absolutely can explain that you are tackling something serious and are working hard on making changes. Older kids and other relatives can be privy to more information. This is your opportunity to explain why you’ve been upset, and that they have not been the cause of your stress. 

As for your life partner, they deserve to know exactly what has been happening. This conversation may be very tough. You may have to apologize for making a mistake or for putting them in financial jeopardy. As part of a couple, what you do affects them. Honesty really is the best policy. 

Listen before reacting 

After you’ve opened up, allow the people to process what you said, and to make comments. Some may be incredibly compassionate and can offer great advice. Others, such as a spouse, may be angry. That’s OK. They’ve heard you out, now you hear them out, calmly and graciously. 

Focus on the future and find solutions 

The great thing about money problems is that there is so much you can do to turn them around. So once you have revealed your financial concerns, what led to them, and how they’ve been making you feel, explain that you are now ready to find feasible solutions. 

Set goals together, then monitor achievement  

Now set goals that will put you on the right path. You may invite certain individuals to contribute suggestions. A friend could be a financial wiz, your teenagers might offer to pay for their own clothes with babysitting money, and your partner may help develop a better budget. Keep them in the loop about how you’re doing, particularly when there are setbacks. When you function as a combined force, it’s amazing what can be done! 

Remember, almost everyone experiences monetary challenges which often result in psychological strife. Don’t keep your worries in so they worsen. 



How to navigate relationships & finances: An expert Q+A

How to navigate relationships & finances: An expert Q+A

Finances can affect all areas of life, even your personal relationships. That’s why we reached out to Dr. Konstantin Lukin, Founder and Clinical Director of the Lukin Center for Psychotherapy, to get his advice on how couples can better navigate managing their relationships and their finances.

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