In marriage, money tends to mean different things to different people. Unfortunately, for some, money represents more than economic security. It becomes a symbol for CPR — Control, Power and (self) Respect. In so many of the cases I work with, money is related to unresolved childhood issues — childhood needs and yearnings that were not met. In many cases, children who had a problematic childhood will enter into an adult relationship with a powerful need for control. This is often played out through money. Issues involving money will often mask deeper core issues for the fulfillment of childhood yearnings.
As adults, some people feel they must handle the finances in order to preserve their sense of importance and dominance in the family. In my own research with couples, I have found that if a man or woman’s position in the family can be maintained only by power, he or she wields control of the money. As one man said in my office, “As long as I hold the purse strings, I have the last word!” What is sad is that after the divorce, his family wanted nothing to do with him or his money. The fact that he felt he was controlling the money for their own good was of little significance.
How does this process begin? Many psychologists feel that the early stages of childhood, ages birth to six, are the most crucial years in developing positive self-esteem. During these stages, the child needs to feel secure and connected to his caregivers. The important parental task is to notice and acknowledge the child’s needs. The child wants to be visible and be recognized as an individual. This visibility is very much needed so that he/she can feel control of his/her life.
When my children were younger, they would often play dress up. They would put on our clothes and make believe they were mommy and daddy. Once, they got hold of some of my tools and played Bob and Prim, two maintenance workers in the building we lived in. Back then, when we had a TV, they would dress up as Batman or Power Rangers, and my wife and I would say “Wow! You are Power Rangers!” It was fun and they felt good to be in control as they got lost in their make believe world. They did this because they wanted to be somebody. They wanted to feel special and have recognition.
Many parents only take the opportunity occasionally, for example on Purim, to acknowledge how cute and special their kids are. It is not that they are neglectful parents. It is just that they are too tired, too stressed, too angry, too worried about what school to send their kids to, etc. Parents today are running on overdrive to make sure that they are always available! Instead of acknowledging the children for who they are, they criticize and judge them for who they are not! In time the child will start a process called negative self-esteem. The child does not feel good about himself or in control of his life. Without positive self-esteem, the child’s emotional growth is affected.
Nothing they do will ever be enough for them.
As they move into adulthood, they will do whatever is necessary in a relationship to obtain CPR — Control, Power and self-Respect, in hopes that it will make them feel better.
“Money” and “Self-esteem” are two of 21 topics that I discuss with the brides and grooms in my Pre-Marital Enhancement program, using the T.E.A.M. approach (Torah Education and Awareness for a better Marriage).
If there are any topics you would like me to discuss in my articles, or if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at CPCMoishe@aol.com or at 718-435-7388. You can also log on to CPCTEAM.org to download past articles and for more information about the T.E.A.M. approach.
Moishe Herskowitz MS., LCSW, developed the T.E.A.M. (Torah Education & Awareness For A Better Marriage) approach based on 20 successful years of counseling couples – helping them to communicate effectively and fully appreciate each other. As a licensed and highly certified social worker and renowned family therapist, he developed this breakthrough seminar to guide new couples through easy-to-accomplish steps towards a happy, healthy marriage. Moishe Herskowitz holds a certificate from the Brooklyn Institute for Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis in couples and marriage therapy. He is an active member of the New York Counseling Association for marriage and family counseling. Mr. Herskowitz can be reached at 718-435-7388.