As Dr Abby Medcalf likes to put it, talking money leads to talking ‘dirty’ with our partners!
But it’s so much more than just the money talk, right? ABSOLUTELY! How we spend our money is an external expression of the internal state of our marriages, hopes and dreams. So, when couples fight about money and time, we are really fighting about fairness and keeping score.
Dr Abby, a psychologist and author, provides sustainable help to thousands of couples and has also recently written a book, “Being Happily Married Even If Your Partner Won’t Do A Thing”. We explore a few relationship constructs and tools that will change the game, starting with setting your intention.
- Dr Abby’s super power of helping couples unpack their issues with practical tools.
- The number one problem in relationships is COMPETITION.
- Having a “better half” is a misnomer. You and your partner are a shared resource.
- The “50-50” mentality needs to be thrown out. Fairness is fear-based!
- Equality is not equity.
- The paradigm of keeping score and the belief system that things won’t change.
- The power of setting the intention of what you want from your partner and what you want to offer.
- Why don’t couples talk about money given how important it is in life?
- The illusion that if we don’t talk about it, it will sort itself out.
- Short-cutting the joy of a relationship by short-cutting the planning of your future together.
- Working through money matters and shared goals keeps you focussed on the future together.
- A shared vision of the future allows you to make valuable trade-offs.
- The monthly financial couples meeting outline.
- Shifting your mindset of needing to work to choosing to work.
- Partnering in money is partnering in life expression.
More about Dr Abby Medcalf
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Lisa Linfield: 00:09 Hello everybody and welcome to today’s episode of Working Women’s Wealth. I’m chatting to Dr. Abby Medcalf and she’s a psychologist, author and speaker who has helped thousands of people create lasting change in their relationships in very short amounts of time. She has recently written a book called, “Be Happily Married, Even if Your Partner Won’t Do a Thing”. It’s an Amazon best seller and she is also the host of her podcast called Relationships Made Easy. Abby, Thank you for joining us today.
Abby Medcalf: 00:57 Thank you for having me. I am totally excited to be here.
Lisa Linfield: 01:01 We are going to be chatting to Abby about relationships and money and how money impacts relationships, both through the relationship and through the divorce. I think Abby, that you have got an absolutely fantastic resource in your podcast, Relationships Made Easy, for all of us who are in any form of relationship. When I was researching your book, one of the reviews that I loved was someone who said, “This book, although it’s title is, Be Happily Married…” Their response was, “This isn’t for married people. This is for anybody in any form of relationship.” And that the advice that you give is extremely practical and I love that.
Abby Medcalf: 01:40 That’s my thing.
Lisa Linfield: 01:41 Really.
Abby Medcalf: 01:42 I get frustrated when I hear people talk about the theories and the ideas and that’s all wonderful, but if I can’t apply it, I don’t know what to do with that and I just get overwhelmed personally by everyone telling me all these things and then, I don’t know what to do. Every single podcast. Every single blog post. I have a YouTube channel with these what I call connection quickies. They’re like five minute tips. Everything is something that you can have a win with right away.
Today, that’s my goal. When I was setting intention before we started talking this morning, it was that every single person who listened would think, “Oh my gosh. I would have paid so much money for that information. I know what to do now.”
Lisa Linfield: 02:28 That’s fantastic and I’m with you. I love ideas and theories so long as they can be translated into practice. Some of these ideas, these lala land ideas, all say that the way to having a great relationship with our partner is that we must just communicate, mate and go on date nights. Is that the corner stone of a relationship?
Abby Medcalf: 02:50 That makes me want to run screaming naked in the woods, which I won’t do because nobody wants to see that, but it makes me insane. I hear it all the time. Couples come in, or individuals come in to see me and say, “The number one problem in my relationship is communication.” My response is always the same. Number one, you can’t not communicate. You’re communicating all the time. The issue is that you’re communicating the wrong things. That’s number one, but really, more importantly, that’s not your problem. The number one problem in relationships is competition.
Lisa Linfield: 03:24 Competition?
Abby Medcalf: 03:25 I know. It always makes everyone like stop for a minute and go what? What?
Lisa Linfield: 03:30 Yeah. Help me out here.
Abby Medcalf: 03:32 I’ll tell you why and everyone relates to this, is we are set up always in relationships. First of all, we hear it from the time we’re little, my better half, my other half. He completes me. That makes me want to throw up in my mouth a little bit, but these ideas that there’s this other thing that’s going to come in and the two of us together are going to equal a whole. That is a huge lie. It’s a total fantasy. You ask people what percentage do you have to put into a relationship to make it work and I hear it all the same. You each put in your 50%. You each carry your weight. You each do your thing and that is just the worst way to look at anything.
I always compare it to a job. If I went into a job and I gave 50%, would I expect raises, promotions, the company to do well? Of course now, right. Of course not. When you go into a relationship, to have that same idea is insane and you need to put in the 100%. Obviously, not 150% because that’s codependency and that’s a different podcast. That’s a different episode, but putting in fully, being there 100%. I have couples all the time. They look to their partner to take things off their plate and I’m screaming, “It’s the same plate!” Your partner can’t take anything off your plate because it’s the same plate and we say things like, “It’s your turn to put away the dishes,” or, “I took Sophie to baseball practice on Tuesday. So, it’s your turn to take Johnny to piano on Friday”, and, “We take turns.” You take turns in games. You don’t take turns in a relationship, but we start to think that. That there’s this 50/50 thing and that’s the demise.
Because really, the truth is that you are a shared resource. You and your partner are one shared resource. When you take from your partner, when you put things over to them instead of on you, you’re just taking away from yourself because and you know this, if your partner is already exhausted, the two of you are sort of exhausted. Having lives these days is very busy. I have children. I have dogs. All these things. We are tired. If I’m always looking to my partner to take over something, what happens is we both get really depleted. Then, people wonder, we’re arguing all the time. We’re not having sex anymore. We’re not happy. I’m not happy. Why can’t it be how it used to be? Whatever. It’s because of this. It seems like it because you’re not communicating, but you’re not communicating because the battery is empty. It’s at its end.
Lisa Linfield: 06:13 Help me process this because I think my response would be like most people’s response, which is, what are you saying? I must be okay to pack the dishwasher every single night while he sits on the couch?
Abby Medcalf: 06:25 Well, yeah. Kind of. Here’s the deal. In my experience and I’ve been doing this for 34 years. I have been working directly with people for 34 years, which is the other reason all of my stuff is so practical because really, I sort of cheat. I take it from all these people I work with. If I see what works and then I say, “Hey. Here it is in a book.” These are the tried and true things. If you’re in a mindset that your partner is going to take advantage of you, they will and here’s why. There’s a few reasons.
One is, there’s something called your reticular activating system and some people have heard of this and some people haven’t, but we have something in our brains called a reticular activating system, or RES for short. We say RES. What that is, is a filter between your conscience and your subconscious mind. This is why and I know everyone can relate to this, if you’ve ever were going to buy a car and you thought, “Oh, I’m going to get a silver Mercedes.” And then all of a sudden, you see that car everywhere. Everyone’s had this and go, “Oh my gosh. Everyone bought that car.” That is your RES at work. What happens is your conscious brain gives a message, “Oh, I’m going to buy this new car. This silver whatever, this silver Mercedes.” Then, your unconscious picks that up as an order or an instruction, look for silver Mercedes, so it will look everywhere for it.
What’s important and this happened by the way when I was pregnant. I remember every time I was pregnant, I thought there was a population explosion, like every woman in the world was pregnant. I have to tell you, I never see pregnant women anymore. I mean, every now and then, but not like when I was pregnant where I was constantly seeing them. Again, that’s that RES. If in my brain I say my partner’s always nagging me, my RES filters that down into my subconscious, which takes it as the order, look for my partner nagging me. It will look everywhere for that and it will find it. What’s really key to this, what’s really important for people to understand is that the RES does that filter, but it also will filter out anything that doesn’t match.
If my partner is loving, if he is nice, if he is kind, if he is whatever, appreciative, my RES will actually filter that out and so you won’t see it. You wouldn’t even notice when it happens and this is why I mean, how many people listening right now know this, you’ve said something to your partner or you’ve done something and they’re like, “That didn’t happen. What are you talking about? I don’t remember that. That’s not how it went down. That’s not what you said.” That’s why we do that. That’s why we have such different selective memories and we’re sitting there throwing up our hands going, “Oh my gosh. I don’t understand. I couldn’t have been more clear.”
The problem is that RES is turned on in a way that’s not to your advantage. You’re doing it all the time. As much as you feel frustrated, trust me, you’re doing it yourself and your partner’s feeling frustrated also and your kids and your boss and everybody else.
Lisa Linfield: 09:28 Going back to the fact that we are in this win lose competition, how are we supposed to change our mindset to not filter, to be okay about whether or not one is doing more of the children or one is doing more of the dishwasher?
Abby Medcalf: 09:47 There’s a few things here. One is a quality does not equal equity.we think about this a lot here in the United States with diversity. Equality doesn’t equal equity, right, but I want to think of it in your relationship. I call this sort of the hyena lion’s effect. You know how in a pride of lions and they’ve done time studies and the males like they’re active in doing things for the pride, like 15% of the time while the lionesses do about 85% of the work. They do all the hunting. They do all of the child rearing, right. The lionesses are like kicking ass. However, you can not look at a pride of lions and say that the males don’t matter. That their contribution isn’t as effective, isn’t as needed, isn’t as important, isn’t as valuable, is that the females do and this is what happens in relationships is that when you start to divide things, that’s why there’s such a big problem because time wise, women are DNA. The way that we are structured. The way that we are built to be multitaskers.
We know, I mean there’s so much research now. The peer research center has so much stuff on this that when women get married, we end up with an average of seven hours more of work a week than when we’re single and men live longer in marriages than when they’re single, but women live less long in marriages than when they’re single. We have all the research that shows that women are going to do more physical work, whatever that is that you want to call that. When you start to divide time, because that’s what these studies are looking at. They’re looking at time. However, there is a lot of value in other things that men do that we can tend to take for granted and I’m speaking to heterosexual relationships right this minute, but this can be true in a same sex relationship also without a doubt.
I give this example all the time because it’s so classic. This is a few years ago now, but the air was low in the tire of my car and my then husband said, “Hey. The air’s low in your tire. You know you got to get that fixed.” I was like, “Uh-huh, uh-huh” and I didn’t do it. I was like Teflon, it just sort of slid off. Then, about a few days later, he’s noticing the air is still low in my tire and he’s like, “Hey. You’re driving the kids around. This is dangerous. You can’t drive around with a tire that’s low in air. This is bad.” I said, “Uh-huh, uh-huh. I’ll get it fixed.” And I didn’t. Then, I came out of the house that following Saturday and he was pulling in the driveway in my car and I was like, “Why do you have my car?” He goes, “Well, I filled your tire. I filled the air.”
You would have thought he split the atom. I was so excited. I said, “Oh my gosh! Thank you! Thank you!” I was practically in tears and I said, “Thank you for going to do that.” And he goes, “Well, you know. I was really getting annoyed with you because you weren’t doing this. It’s so simple to do.” Then, I started remembering that cars for you aren’t a thing. Where I grew up in New York City, cars aren’t an important thing and cars aren’t something you necessarily own and I don’t have a big attachment to cars and I don’t really know about cars. I didn’t know that you just went to a gas station and filled it with air. I had no idea that was a thing. I thought I was going to have to take time off of work, make an appointment at a mechanic, bring it in for a half day. I thought it was a whole thing in my head, which is why it just went right out of my head because I was already so full. My life was already so full.
He said, “You know, you’re so confident.” I was just like, “What is wrong? Why isn’t this happening?” And he’s the one who figured it out. He sort of said, “Oh. She doesn’t really know about cars. She probably doesn’t know how easy this is and with all the complaining I’m doing telling her to fix it, I could just fix it. If it’s so easy, why aren’t I doing it and helping her?” There’s a great example of something that I probably did 20 more hrs of work grocery shopping, cooking, working full time, whatever that is yet that act meant more to me. If I was dividing things by hour, that only took him five minutes, but if I’m really looking at our relationship as a whole and feeling safe, feeling respected, feeling like someone has my back, there’s really not anything that’s worth more than that.
If you get rid of the time in your day, the hour by hour, and start to instead think of the mind in your day, your bandwidth, your emotional capacity and what that is and start to really look at that and what your partner does around those things, that’s where the magic is because I can hire someone to do a lot of the things that I give to my partner. If you can hire someone for it, then do I actually say, or trade or barter or whatever because what you want your partner for other things and those are the most important things. You want them for listening and being there and all those other things and the love and the respect and the admiration and appreciation and people don’t have the bandwidth for those things when they’re exhausted from driving your daughter to softball practice every single day for hours and hours. These are the things that drain.
Don’t look to your partner for those things and what I say to do is to add resources. You don’t have to do it all either. You don’t have to be doing the dishes every night while they’re sitting on the couch. You can number one again, hire someone to help or do things and if you don’t have the money for that, you can barter. Hey mother of my best friends kid, I barely know you, but can we car pool? Will you drive the kids to school on Mondays and I’ll do it Tuesdays? Get a neighbor kid for practically nothing to walk the dog and clean up the dog poop in the backyard. There’s things you can do that really aren’t so costly. It’s not always hiring a full-time nanny or maid. There’s other things you can do that will take things off the plate and what starts to happen is your energy level, your bandwidth, all those wonderful things start to take over and you start to have more of it and your battery gets more full. And guess what? You stop caring so much about what your partner’s always doing and looking to them and comparing. All that comparison is really not good.
Men and women are different. What one can do and what the other can do are very different things. There you go. That was my long and short answer.
Lisa Linfield: 16:14 I love that and I always wonder what happened to the good old fashioned car pool, Lyft as we call it because I find this obsession that we have to personally and individually take our children to everything. What on Earth happened to the carpool? One of my best illustrations of this was when my daughter was young she was going through a difficult time and we had a fantastic car pool and what happened was that it was too domestics and the great thing about this carpool was that it was a place where they all felt safe because nobody could kick them out the group. As in, their mother had organized the car pool. There were four of them in the car and nobody could say, “Hey. We don’t like you today.”
Abby Medcalf: 16:59 Right.
Lisa Linfield: 16:59 It was a sacred group where they belonged. Secondly what happened was other moms got to know my daughter and there was an incident at the gymnastics where one of the little girls was bullying my daughter and the other mom, bless her, absolutely got in there and spoke to the coach, spoke to the little girls, spoke to the little girl’s mother, really had my daughter’s back.
Abby Medcalf: 17:22 Wow.
Lisa Linfield: 17:23 And I mean to be fair, I probably wouldn’t because I’m a peace maker, you know. I’d be like, “Don’t worry about it love. It’s all okay.” Whereas, it was such a carpool created safety and a feeling of belonging and tribe for my daughter. Yet, we all shun the carpool because someone told us that the perfect mother not only runs her own business, has a great sex life with her husband and does all that, but she also takes her daughter to every single match, practice, everything under the soon. And I sit there and I go, “But that’s absurd.”
Abby Medcalf: 17:54 Yup. It really is absurd in that losing that sense of community is so big. Again, that’s a whole other podcast. It’s true and other adults are so helpful, like you just showed, to your children and to have those relationships and to learn how to talk to other adults and all those things and to be more self reliant. To not always feel like, my mom’s in the car, but like oh, I’m in the car. I have to remember to take my cleats with me when I jump out.
This one person isn’t going to be managing all of this, that I have to have more regulation for myself. It’s wonderful things when we accept help. It really is. Even though I’m not always so good at it.
Lisa Linfield: 18:33 No. I don’t think any of us are very good at it, but I actually think that we need to tame back that culture because I think otherwise, we’re all going to end up, and as you say, expect so much of our poor husbands and them of us. That’s actually just not viable.
Abby Medcalf: 18:48 And it does go both ways. I had a husband in here yesterday, a man I work with. He’s trying to work on his marriage. There’s a lot of stuff and they’re both doing individual therapy right now, so I’m just working with him and he works full time. He makes a large amount of money for his family. They live very well and he gets upset because she doesn’t do things like take his dry cleaning in or things like that or plan their vacations or any of those kind of things. I said to him, “You got to let that go.” They have three kids. They have three boys. He said, “Yeah. I just don’t know what she does all day.” That’s what I always hear from the men.
While they’re working and the woman’s at home, they’ll say, “I don’t know what she does all day.” And I have to tell you when I talk to the women, they say the same thing. They’re like, “I don’t know where my day went.” That’s what my point is about not comparing because they could do the same thing like, “You have all day. I wish I had all day to make my own schedule. I got to go to work. I got to do these other things. Bah, bah, bah.” But the women are at home, first of all, with a 24/7 job that never ends. Where does the day end? Where does it begin? Who knows? Number one.
Number two, with a vast endless list of things that could be done. I just realized I went to the dentist yesterday and I was making an appointment and I go, “When’s the last time my children were here?” It had been over a year. It had been over a year. Now, because they have orthodontics appointments and other things, but I forgot about the dentist. The dentist fell off the radar, both their dad and I, gone. It was off the radar and it’s one of those things. It’s just so hard to keep all the pieces together. To look to our partners and to decide what they should be doing, what’s fair, what’s equitable. You get in that 50/50 thing again and we’re all miserable because I will tell you this, your partner, even if they’re sitting on the couch, thinks that they’re putting in 50% the vast majority of the time. They feel like they’re doing their share I should say. They feel that way. They do. They might even feel like they’re doing more than their share and they deserve to sit on the couch now because what are you doing all day? You had time to go to the gym or workout or you had time to relax and I think they think women are home all day watching Opera, but anyway…
There’s this way that when we start to get into that and then we start keeping score. I’ll say, “Well, I did this, this, this, and this.” And he says, “I did this, this, this, and this.” It’s like what conversations are we having? We have to stop. That paradigm, that worldview does not work. It will never feel “equal”. It won’t because it’s not. If you look at it from hour to hour. It’ll never be. There’s no way to do it. If you want to just be frustrated and annoyed and anxious and all those wonderful things, then keep doing that, but if you’d really like to feel relief and freedom and openness and willingness and love and care and compassion and gentleness and kindness and all that good stuff, then you have to start with a different mindset.
Lisa Linfield: 21:48 How practically do you change your mindset?
Abby Medcalf: 21:50 There’s a few things. One is, I always say to folks, the first thing to remember is that your conscious brain processes this information at a rate of 50 bits per second while your unconscious brain processes information at a rate of 11 million bits per second. I just want you think about that for a minute because I’m going to relate this to the one thing you can do that will totally change the game. What happens a lot is I’ll give someone a tool to use. I’ll say, “Do this. Go home and do this.” They’ll do it for like a week, but what happens is in their head the whole time they’re doing it, but they’re really thinking this isn’t going to work or let’s see, yeah, yeah. Let’s see. Or we’ve tried to make changes before and they never stick.
There’s a belief system. Or, we can’t change the relationship because he won’t change. Right? He refuses to change, so there’s nothing. Even though, let’s say the wife in this case, is home doing that right tool that I told her to do because what’s happening energetically, the subconscious brain, on this other level, this isn’t going to work. Nothing’s going to change. Blah, blah, blah. Her husband is picking up on that. That’s subconscious, right? 11 million bits. That’s what he’s picking up on, not the 50 bits, not the conscious, oh I love you. Saying I appreciate you, whatever the little tool is I gave. What happens is he’s waiting. Oh yeah, she’s being nice today. Let’s see how long this lasts. Right? He’s not reacting to her in the way that she’s expecting from how fabulous and appreciative she’s being.
Then, they come back into the office and go, “Abby, it didn’t work. He didn’t change. Nothing happened.” That’s the problem. So, the one thing you can do and this is a game changer and it’s the second chapter of my book. The third chapter of my book or one of the chapters in my book, it’s a whole chapter because it’s so important, then you can do is I call it the 18 second shift. Basically, what it is because it takes me about 18 seconds to do it, it’s setting intention for how you want to be with your person and you do it as often as possible. The example I always give is when I drive home from work every day, I park my car down the street from my house because when you get home, everyone’s like, “Hey! You’re home!” And running out the door.
I just parked down the street and again, I’ve timed this. This takes me an average of about 18 seconds, so don’t tell me you don’t have 18 seconds and I don’t even put the car in park. I literally have my foot on the break because that’s how quick this is. I just take a moment and I close my eyes. I don’t even do a special breath, [inaudible 00:24:21], nothing like that. I just close my eyes and I picture a big metal door. I have this huge metal door in my brain. Sometimes it’s wood, closing on my day. I picture it closing on every client I’ve seen, every person I’ve interacted with, whether or not the day was good, bad, indifferent, doesn’t matter. I can sometimes see the people trying to get around the door as I’m closing it gently on them. Then, I set an intention for how I want to be when I walk in the house.
I will say for me, it’s usually to be more patient because I’m not the most patient gal in the world. What used to happen was I would walk in the house and everybody would be there and I’d be like, “Okay. Hey, what’s going on? Is homework done? Who started dinner? What’s happening?” And I’m in my task mode of getting crap done because I get crap done. No one gets crap done like me, except for half the listeners that are listening right now. I would go in there and guess what would happen? I would get a lot of push back, as everyone does when they feel like someone’s trying to control them. I’m like, “Oh, do you have your homework done? Did somebody cut the vegetables? Who walked the dog? Did anybody… ” I am like, in task mode with all this energy that people are picking up on.
Instead, when I come in the door with feeling like I want to be patient, I want to be of service to my family, very different thing to think of being of service to my family when I walk in the door. The energy’s completely different when I walk in. Again, that subconscious energy. I’m still energetic. I’m still me, but where I am and what happens in a wonderful way is that my brain because I’m doing this as a conscious thought, so my subconscious aligns, starts looking for ways to be patient or be of service. Sometimes I set intention to be fun, to be sexy. To be whatever I want to be when I go in there, depending on who’s home. However, that is and I will tell you that starts to get picked up, without a doubt, by the family and I will also say that sometimes I forgotten to set intention and I will tell you my son more than a few times has said to me, “Hey. Did you forget to stop the car on your way home?” Because they know I do this. I know. Part of me wants to like and go, “Yes, I did.” But you know what? He’s right. He is right every time when I have forgotten to set intention. He can tell.
I’ll tell you before I started this podcast today, before we got in the zoom, I set an intention like I said earlier, of being really helpful, making sure that people feel like, “Wow. I would have paid money for that. That was unbelievable. That was so helpful.” I do it before every client I see. I do it before I workout. I set intention all the friggen time because it’s literally a couple minutes total out of my entire day and it shifts my entire day. If you want to do one thing to change that, it’s setting that intention and just staying in the intention in the moment. Don’t trip on the future, what’s going happen. Is he going to take advantage of me? That’s fear talking and you shouldn’t be making decisions out of fear. You don’t want to be move forward out of fear. Always move forward from love and love is being in the moment, being in that patience, the gratitude, the thoughtfulness, the kindness, the gentleness. It’s being there. It’s not being in what happens if? What about that? And what’s going to… No, that’s fear.
Lisa Linfield: 27:39 It’s such a powerful thing you just said is that it is absolutely in our ability to spend 18 seconds setting intention.
Abby Medcalf: 27:48 Yup. Yup.
Lisa Linfield: 27:50 [crosstalk 00:27:50]
Abby Medcalf: 27:49 18 seconds. Come on! I mean, you know! Sometimes it’s less. Sometimes it’s a little more. Like I said, I literally timed it for a whole month and my average was 18.
Lisa Linfield: 28:00 Yeah. I mean, we can all do 18 secs absolutely. And I know that because there’s sometimes when I come in and I stay in my car. I don’t get out of my car just because it’s that ability to reshift because you know that when you get there, you need to be in the right space for your family. Otherwise, you will shift back into transactional mode. And transactions don’t make a relationship.
Abby Medcalf: 28:23 Nope. And again, and those show up. Here’s your wonderful podcast. Those transactions show up so often with money. When you think of money, you think of transactions, but one of the things that I talk about a lot is a lot of times when folks get together, if someone has debt from before the union, before the marriage or long term commitment, people think, “Oh. That’s your debt. You have to deal with your debt because those are decisions that you made before we were together and I shouldn’t have to take responsibility for those.” And I hear that language and I cringe because I think, here you are ready to commit to this person, maybe in front of God or whatever, maybe you actually get married legally and all those things. Here you are maybe sharing a life with someone, buying a home, having children, you’re going to do all that and you care about their student loan? Really? Those kinds of divisions show up because it really needs to be our debt. If you’re going to commit your life to this person, you’re committing yourself to their money choices also. You are. You’re committing to those. You can’t separate that out.
Putting it all together and thinking, “Okay. How are we going to tackle this issue? How are we going to figure out what to do with this debt, be it a credit card, be it a student loan, whatever it might have been. How are we as a team? Because if you can’t do that, it’s not necessarily boating well for what’s going to happen later in your relationship together.
It sounds obviously when I say it like this, but folks go into this all the time because again, we have this 50/50 mentality. What’s fair? What’s fair? You got to be kidding me. It’s what’s loving. What’s compassionate? What’s kind? What’s generous? What’s thoughtful? That’s what I want you thinking before you go into a relationship, not what’s fair. Think about that. Fair is fear based. You can not base a love relationship on fear. It’s not going to happen.
Lisa Linfield: 30:16 Is the idea then that people should just combines all their money and share this whole thing?
Abby Medcalf: 30:22 Well, you know, and I’ll tell you, I always had separate accounts from my example husband and my current. We don’t have a shared account. I haven’t done that and couples have said that, “Well, that just means you’re going to get divorced.” No it doesn’t because we also have different ways that we deal with money like I’m not someone who balances a checkbook kind of thing, and I like to pay all my bills online, and I like to do things a certain way. I’ve had partners in the past, ex husbands, et cetera, who didn’t like to do that, who liked to know to the penny and whatever.
To me, you want what I always suggest is a couples financial meeting once a month. Actually, if you remind me, we can link to that in the show notes also. I have an outline for that, a financial meeting outline, but I assign this to all my couples because sitting together every month… Although, we had separate bank accounts, we knew what were in those accounts. We knew where all the money was, and we would decide together where the money goes and how it’s spent.
Lisa Linfield: 31:19 Why don’t people discuss money? Why don’t they do it before they get money? Sometimes, they might do it afterward, but why isn’t it as natural as talking about anything else, given how important a role it plays in relationships, but actually in life?
Abby Medcalf: 31:38 I agree and I really do believe this is cultural. It is really about the culture of your family, what was talked about and not talked about growing up. My dad’s from Poland and you think of the Holocaust and all the things that happened and coming to America and all those other things. When you showed that you had money, bad things happened. I’m speaking from my culture, all the Jews. This is something that happened. All the money got taken away.
If you showed that you had things, people wanted to come get it and could see reasons. There was this whole idea… I was thinking when I grew up, there was people who used to spit on you, this is real. Like if someone said, “Oh, what a beautiful little girl.” Someone else would spit on me because the idea is we shouldn’t tempt the fate of the Gods. If you say nice things, then they’re going to look and take it away. That goes way back. Multi generations.
That’s true for money. That’s true for a lot of things. There’s definitely here in America, people don’t talk about their salaries. It is like forbidden. You do not discuss these things and it’s this very interesting thing that happens where you grow up in a neighborhood maybe where everyone looks like they have a certain amount of money. You might be lying saying you make more. You might be sort of putting out that you make more money than you do or if you’re in a neighborhood where you’re sort of on the upper end and people on the lower end, you might scale back so that people think you have less than you do.
There’s all these ways we do that and culturally, in the bigger picture, but also in the smaller picture. If you’re in a family that grew up with no money and one of you kind of “makes it”, that person can often be ostracized or looked at differently. There’s like a loyalty. There’s so many pieces that come into that and definitely, here in America, in my lifetime, women couldn’t have their own credit card. Don’t even get me started on women and money.
Being able to ask for a divorce was also in my lifetime where the man didn’t have to say it here in America. I mean, think about that. I’m not that old. I’m in my 50s. I’m not that old. This is a time. This is really very new and men never discussed these things with the women ever. That wasn’t their business. It was considered not their business. You can stay home and take care of the kids, that’s your business. My business is the money and figuring all that out. Not to mentioned women weren’t educated in the same way. You being a financial advisor, think of that. Even in that world, how few women are there compared to men?
Lisa Linfield: 34:11 Oh no, they’re none.
Abby Medcalf: 34:12 It’s ridiculous right?
Lisa Linfield: 34:13 I mean, there are very few compared to men.
Abby Medcalf: 34:16 Very few! It’s negligible. That still holds. The thought of having a couple that’s going to come together and talk about money and people tend to have all these fears about it. I can’t tell you how many couples I’ve had in my office and I’ll say to them, “Okay. Do you have a budget?” And they’ll say, “Well, no.” I’m like, “Have you ever tried to have a budget?” And they’ll say, “Yeah, we did. We looked and the numbers didn’t work. So, we just stopped doing it.”
I swear to God this gets said more than… And some people out there listening right now are laughing because they do this. There’s this idea that if we don’t talk about it, it’ll all just work out. There’s like this fantasy. Like it will just be okay.
Lisa Linfield: 34:53 [crosstalk 00:34:53].
Abby Medcalf: 34:53 And when they do look at the numbers-
Lisa Linfield: 34:55 That’s about anything. It’s not just money, it’s about anything.
Abby Medcalf: 34:57 Right!
Lisa Linfield: 34:58 Don’t talk about it, somehow it will all sort itself out.
Abby Medcalf: 35:01 Yup.
Lisa Linfield: 35:01 I’ve got to find that magic fairy called somehow because I need her in my life.
Abby Medcalf: 35:06 I need her to fix this. I love it. So, you know. You know what’s awesome is that, I’m going to give you just this really quick example. I had a couple and they made a great deal of money. He made a good deal of money. He worked full-time. She was a stay at home mom. They had three kids, all in private school, two teenagers and a middle schooler. They were really living the life and they were fighting all the time.
Fast forward a few sessions in with my work with them and I had them do this financial meeting because she’d been to their financial planner, but they hadn’t ever really sat together and done a budget, budget because you know, when you make that money, you don’t necessarily need a day to day budget. You don’t think you do, but you do.
Anyway, they started to do this budget and they come back. They had fought the whole time. They were like, “It was horrible. That was the worst thing ever. You’re terrible Abby. You’re the worst therapist ever.” And I said, “Okay.” So, I said, “Go do it again.” I don’t even know why they kept trusting me, but I kept saying to them, “This will work.” Because I know it does because of my experience and I must have been sure enough.
Anyway, around the third meeting, they come in after and they’re sitting next to each other on the couch for the first time. They used to sit on opposite couches and I was like, “What is happening here?” I could feel the energy shift and the start talking. What happened during the meeting was he finally somehow during their arguments about the money said, “I hate my job and I’m so trapped.” She actually, because of other work we were doing together, was able to really talk to him about it in a really compassionate, loving way and go, “What do you mean? I don’t want you miserable. I know you don’t love your job. I’ve hear you kind of complain.” But she didn’t know the depths to which he was so unhappy and he said, “We have this life. I have no choice, but to keep working at this company.”
What he really wanted to do was start his own company and he had this whole dream that he saw no way that he could possibly do in his lifetime with what they had going on with these kids. Well, they’ve come in and they ended up together. They had actually had, I don’t even know how many more talks and meetings. By the fifth session when we sat together, they had created a plan for him to change jobs in three years and to be able to start his own thing in three years. They realized they would need this kind of runway and to change their lifestyle and to do some things and to move money and figure out with the kids.
When you do a financial meeting and you start to talk about shared goals, it becomes very, very different what you’re willing to do. What happens often is well, he wanted a wine cellar in the house, so I want new flooring and he thinks you don’t need new flooring and she doesn’t think you need a wine cellar. Everyone gets in this stuff because they’re just sort of all going for whatever these resources are as opposed to we’re one resource. There it is again. We have one pot of money really, whether that’s in separate bank accounts or not, but there’s one pot of money. What do we want to do?
I had another couple who realized that travel was the most important thing to them and they changed everything to start making that happen. They got down to one car. I mean, they really changed things because they thought, “Why are we spending all this money on expensive cars? Id really rather go travel. I don’t really care what I drive, but I could have $50,000 more a year.” I mean, really.
There’s all these things that I’ve had couples realize when they do a financial meeting and stick to it, where they start to really plan together for a future that they both agree to. When I’m grocery shopping and I’m going to stay in my budget, it makes more sense to me. I don’t think, “Why am I staying in the budget? He’s just going to waste it on beer night with the guys anyway.” Instead, there’s a budget, budget that everybody’s agreeing to and I see that anywhere I save money or whatever I do with this that it’s actually going towards something we both agreed on.
I always say talking money can lead to talking dirty because you can really start to get closer to your partner if you start talking about these things.
Lisa Linfield: 39:06 One of the philosophies that I’ve always held is that money and what we buy and do with it is an external expression of an internal state.
Abby Medcalf: 39:17 Yes.
Lisa Linfield: 39:18 All it does is externalized either your hopes and dreams, your control issues, the state of your marriage. I’m going to spite you because you’re working all the time and I’m not, so I’m going to go and buy this. You know?
Abby Medcalf: 39:30 Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Lisa Linfield: 39:31 And one of the things that is really transformational is having that shared vision of the future. I feel a lot of people out there are short cutting the joy of a relationship to plan together. I know that it might seem nuts, but when you have a shared vision of your future, it actually allows you to make unbelievable trade offs.
Abby Medcalf: 39:58 Yup.
Lisa Linfield: 39:58 A shared vision was what led to me jumping off the corporate band wagon, us harving our income and starting my business. A continuation of that thing was how long does John need to work in corporate in order to again, as you said, that runway and all of that, and it’s an amazing thing when your mindset shifts from I have to work to pay the bills to I choose to work because each extra year buys X, Y and Z. I can choose to give up it now or I can work one extra year and that will buy us a month over seas every single year in our retirement.
If I work one more year, then not only will we get the month overseas in our retirement, but we can also take the whole family away for a vacation. Secondly, that shift in mindset from having to work to choosing to work often people will stay longer in their jobs because they’re not working for money, they’re working for holidays and shared family time and then, it doesn’t seem so bad.
Abby Medcalf: 41:06 Right. I love it. I love it. That’s really partnership. If I’m calling this person my partner, is your spouse your partner? Partner means you do it together. You think of things together. Think of that. Partnership truly flies in the face of this competition thing.
Lisa Linfield: 41:28 I totally agree. I have to say that I have always said that I feel John is my partner.
Abby Medcalf: 41:36 There you go.
Lisa Linfield: 41:37 Far more than he is anything else. He is my partner on every journey we take, whether that journey is parenting, whether that journey is money, whether that journey is career. He’s my partner and one of my challenges that I think when people don’t have the courage to talk about their money is that if you don’t partner in your money, you don’t partner in the thing that expresses your life.
Abby Medcalf: 42:01 Right.
Lisa Linfield: 42:01 That becomes a very difficult thing and I also in my business, I see many more men than women because many more men are the ones that are investing the money. In the younger ages, it’s starting to change, but those that are retiring at the moment are significantly much more men. There is a massive burden that they hold on this perception of carrying their weight of the finances by themselves.
Abby Medcalf: 42:28 Yes.
Lisa Linfield: 42:29 And how-
Abby Medcalf: 42:30 They’re exhausted!
Lisa Linfield: 42:31 They’re absolutely exhausted.
Abby Medcalf: 42:32 That’s why they’re on the couch while you’re doing dishes.
Lisa Linfield: 42:35 Absolutely, but also, it becomes even bigger when it gets into retirement because they no longer have that stream of income, but yet they still have to bear the responsibility for providing for the family. I often see situations where there’s not enough money for retirement, but that conversation’s never been had. When you have the conversation, the wife says, “Well, why didn’t you speak up sooner?” And I was like, “But you guys have never partnered on this. Why would he speak up?”
Abby Medcalf: 42:35 What? Why?
Lisa Linfield: 43:05 Because it was always an implicit, I call them grooves, groove in the relationship that you look after him and he looks after the money. If he hasn’t gotten the money sorted, then he’s not going to tell you about it because that’s what he’s supposed to be looking after. Then, he’s telling you he’s failing, as opposed to partnering in the home and in the money so that together build this life that you want.
Abby Medcalf: 43:29 That you both agree to. Whatever that is because there does have to be a shared agreement on the goal, but you will find like, this couple I mentioned who I just loved working with. He said, “I haven’t said anything before because she drives the nice car and she volunteers and she’s running the kids to the private schools.” He goes, “She was so enamored with this lifestyle, it never occurred to me that she would say it’s okay to leave it.” And leave it to them, give me a break right, they’re not going into the poor house, but you know what I mean.
To her, it’s not how she grew up. She liked it. It was fun. It was great. Who wouldn’t? Be able to shop where ever you want all the time and whatever. She said, “But not at the expense of my marriage. Not at the expense of your mental health.” That’s something that happens with men is they start to only think of themselves as valuable for the money they bring home.
Again, that becomes very transactional and problematic. That’s that equity versus equality. That there’s a lot of value that men bring to a relationship outside of the money. There’s so many more things and just like as women, there’s so many more things we bring. You can be a very powerful, wonderful, valuable woman and not have children. These things are not what show our value in the world and more importantly, our value in our relationship.
Really getting with your partner to what is it they really need and want from you, that’s really where it’s all at, but you know it’s very easy to get caught up in these other things. Whenever clients or people are arguing about money or time, I always remind them that those are made up constructs. They’re not real. If I go across the border here, money’s completely different. Money changes everywhere. Time changes everywhere.
I’m speaking to you across the world right now. It’s early in the morning right now for me. Time isn’t, and Einstein proved it, it’s not the construct that we think it is. When clients are arguing about those things, I always know it’s really about something else. There’s really something under it and that’s what you should be looking at, not the time or money.
Lisa Linfield: 45:40 What happens when it all goes wrong? When a couple decides to divorce and usually by the time that happens they have got to states where in most cases, they really don’t like each other very much. Again, if money is an externalization of whatever’s going on between them, it’s going to be used as a bat to beat the other one up with or alternatively, as an ability to hold your ransom to get what I want. What is your perspective in terms of the ability to minimize or get through a divorce and not have the whole thing exasperated by the debate on money?
Abby Medcalf: 46:28 As you might imagine, I’ve done this a lot over the years because I work with couples.
Lisa Linfield: 46:32 Absolutely.
Abby Medcalf: 46:34 This has come up over and over and over and over and I will tell you, it’s the same thing I’ve already said, which applies here too, you’ve got to think about, I’ll talk about children in a minute because that’s a whole other piece to this, but really at the end of the day, it’s important to let go of the fairness. It’s not necessarily going to be fair and your mental health is not worth this.
When couples fight about money or things, it’s usually because they’re still tied together. Think about it. The longer I keep you in negotiations, the more I think I’m hurting you by keeping the dog even though I don’t like the dog. I’m really wrapped up in that. I can’t control what your partner is doing, but I can talk to you right now and say, “You can control what you’re doing.”
For you, every day to be setting an intention and maybe 50, 60 times a day because it’s so stressful, of I am setting an intention for appreciation. I’m setting an intention for self love, for self compassion and maybe even compassion of your partner. In some ways, it’s the biggest compliment in the world if your partner is trying to gouge you. It really is. You’ve hurt them so much. They are so wedded to you in so many ways that you have that kind of power over them. That kind of power. If you think about if the IRS swooped in and was going to audit you and I don’t know what you have over there in South Africa, I’m assuming you had a form or IRS.
Lisa Linfield: 48:04 The tax people.
Abby Medcalf: 48:06 The tax folks come in and say, “You didn’t do your taxes correctly. We need to take all this money.” And it’s a lot of money. It’s not good. You’re kind of freaking out. It doesn’t feel good, but at the end of the day, you’re not as upset as you are as if your ex-husband is doing that because they’re not people that you care about. You might think, “The government sucks,” or whatever, or “Tax people are horrible.” You might think certain things. You get a lawyer. You do your best and at the end of the day, you got to pay what you got to pay.
It’s kind of that way here, but you wouldn’t go on and on and on and on and on and on, for asseverating and thinking it over and over about the tax person because we don’t care about them. There’s not as much emotional connection and emotional issues. When you’re doing that with your ex and you’re just like, “I need to do this. I need to do that. She said this.” And all that stuff. All you’re doing is keeping yourself in that relationship longer and they can play the game that it’s money, but you don’t have to.
So, yeah, you might be a very different lifestyle than what you were used to and a very different lifestyle than you think is fair and there you are. Worrying and struggling and suffering is not going to change that.
Lisa Linfield: 49:22 But what happens in a case where your ex, and I see it often, in order to hurt you, then denies the things for your children? As a mom, you want to make sure that your children can continue in a school that they have been in. That they can continue to do the things that they used to do. All of this and in the bitterness of a divorce, he ends up saying, “No. I’m not going to give you a thing.” In order to hurt you, but in actual fact, you might not care what happens to you, but you do care what happens to your children.
Abby Medcalf: 50:01 Well, I’ll tell you what affects kids. Switching schools, this is things that you think are important for your children. I’m not saying that they’re not and that wouldn’t be better if they were at a better school, but if you’re in court for years and there’s just tension and anger and resentment and bitterness ongoing, that’s going to affect your children way more than switching schools. That’s the thing that you got to get behind.
There’s really a lot of good research about how separation and divorce affects kids. There’s tons of it and it really comes down to three main areas. There’s three ways that you can protect your kids basically. The three areas are parental conflict and that’s really the intensity, the duration of the parent conflict before, during and after the separation or divorce. It’s the number one issue that negatively affects children and teens. Number one issue.
You’ve got to do all you can to minimize the hostility, the conflict, the negativity, everything. Being hurt sucks. We know this, but hurting your children is worse. I get that they might be hurting your children, but you’re hurting them also if you keep in that relationship in that way. It’s a belief system. You’ve decided in your head that your kids deserve whatever they used to have and all that stuff. Here’s the deal. You don’t know. Maybe going to a new school, they’ll have different opportunities that’ll be better for them. Maybe they’ll learn more about grit and resilience and coming back. We don’t know. You’re deciding what it is and again, you can’t control this other person.
Go to the courts. Protect yourself the best you can, but at the end of the day, you’ve got to make some decision and I’m telling you that that’s what the research shows. All that negativity, all that conflict, all that resentment, all that anger, all of that [inaudible 00:51:55] is what’s hurting your children more than anything, more than switching schools.
The second thing that really affects children is the quality of each parent’s relationship with each child or children prior to this separation. Let’s say I’m speaking to a woman and the ex husband is not giving me any money and the kids have to go to another school and all this stuff. Very sadly what’s going to happen is that that’s all going to spill over when he meets with them. He’s going to talk crap about you. He’s going to make it your fault. Whatever. He’s going to have to tell his story that doesn’t seem like he’s hurting his kids. He’s going to tell some lies or what is true to him, but what are ultimately lies.
Sadly, that’s going to really impact. Kids pick up, remember the subconscious, what I talked about, kids have that in spades. In the moment, they might not get it, but trust me, as they age, they will totally get it. Depending on how old they are when this all happens, they’ll see what it really is in the end and it’s sad though because I don’t really want them to see it in a way because that’s really going to affect them negatively.
As much as you can maintain any kind of close, warm, supportive relationship with your kid, that’s the key because when there’s a safe atmosphere like that, that’s where the kids feel permission to talk. That’s where they feel permission to get support that they need to be amenable to counseling and they’re not going to fear getting abandoned because they get real scared. If one parent is doing that, what’s the other parent going to do? If you’re that primary parent and you’re the one kind of holding down the fort, you need to remember that if you seem tremulous, anxiety ridden, overwhelmed, anxious, angry, furious, rageful, hopeless, helpless. If you seem that way, your kids are going to suffer. Suffer, suffer, suffer because that’s their one safe place now.
This thing just blew up. This safe thing that was the home. Now, they have these two homes and if your ex is acting in this horrible way and not taking the kids as a priority, then that’s going to be apparent to everybody and they’re going to really pick up on that. They need you more than ever to be that consistent, safe, clear, confident. They need that and money is not the only thing that should give you confidence. You’re a good parent. You know you are. So much so that you’re fighting for your kids. Don’t let the fight over ride your connection.
The third piece is what I just mentioned, is putting the kids first. Prioritizing the kids needs over your own. That’s always the thing for both. Again, it’s so easy to get consumed in these negative situations. There’s so many questions. There’s so many choices. There’s so much going on. Its just really easy to get off track.
I want you to think of keeping your children’s mental well being as your true north. That’s your compass. That’ll always show you the right path to take. Them being secure. Them feeling confident. That’s really where their well being is, not in a certain school or a certain house or a certain anything. There you go. That was my long and short answer to that.
Lisa Linfield: 55:09 No, that was wonderful. Thank you. Just so much powerful insight. Really. I can’t believe that there could possibly be a listener out there that doesn’t go, “Oh my goodness. She has delivered the most unbelievable value to all of us.”
Abby Medcalf: 55:09 Yay.
Lisa Linfield: 55:22 Those of us that are both. I am happily married, but I find your insights on divorce unbelievable. So, I’m just so grateful Abby, that you have spent your precious time with us, to share your wisdom and insight because goodness, I could talk to you forever, but I’m just so grateful for it. How Abby, would people get a hold of you, get a hold of your book? How would they learn more? How can they partner with you on their journey to having the happiness in their relationships that we all should be having?
Abby Medcalf: 55:55 Yay. You should totally partner with me. I love it. You can come to my website, which is abbymedcalf.com, which I’m sure will be linked in the show notes. It’s just a-b-b-y-d, as in Donald, c-a-l-f.com. Abbymedcalf.com.
There’s so many ways to sort of, you can be part of the podcast, which is all on the website. There’s a free communication tool kit for couples, so that you can have some communication strategies because you know, at the end of the day, it’s competition, but once you get past that you’re right. You do need to communicate.
You do need to figure out some good strategies. I have a great, my top five strategies in a little toolkit for folks. Then, on the website, you’ll see there’s the blog. There’s the podcast. There so much free information. You can get to my YouTube channel from there. I really believe that if everyone had access to this information, there’d be world peace. I really do. I think if we all had happy relationships, there’d be no need for bullying. No need for hate. No need for these horrible divorces.
Make sure you can buy my book on Amazon. You can certainly spend money too. It’s Be Happily Married even if your partner won’t do a thing. Just look up Abby Medcalf. On Amazon, you’ll see my book. I’d love for you to buy it and check it out, but you can also get lots of things for free just entering through the website. You’ll find them all, so you can always access good information, no matter what’s going on in your world.
Lisa Linfield: 57:18 Thank you so much Abby. I really appreciate it and we’ll definitely also put the link to the financial meeting, the [crosstalk 00:57:25] financial meeting. John and I just, I guess do it naturally, but I will definitely be doing it myself with him and feeding back to you how it goes.
Abby Medcalf: 57:31 Good. I can’t wait. That’s great. Thank you so much and thank you all for listening.
Lisa Linfield: 57:36 Thank you for coming Abby, really appreciate it. Bye now.
That was Abby Medcalf and my goodness, gracious me. I definitely could have carried on talking for a long time. It was such an insightful and encouraging perspective in terms of just a fresh way of looking at both relationships and also the challenges of surviving through a divorce and the money issues that come from it, but really, I would strongly encourage all of you to take her up on her offer. Download the communication tools. Download the monthly financial meeting framework and also listen to her podcast because she’s got some great content on her podcast and get her book.
I hope you all have a great week and I hope that even if one of the things in this interview resonates with you, that it can make your relationship, both with your partner or with the people around you, slightly better. Make a change in terms of the love and joy in your life. Then, it would have definitely achieved its purpose. Take care and have a great week.