Episode 54

Published on:

28th Apr 2023

Money, Money, Money, MON-EY! Tackling Our Financial Baggage with Lindsay Bryan-Podvin

Money is consistently identified as one of the biggest stressors that people experience. So why is its impact on individual mental health not much of a focus, and why are most therapists not trained in any way to talk about the specifics of this issue?

And why is it so ever-lovin' awkward to talk about?

We sat down with financial therapist (yes, that's a thing, and it's fantastic!) Lindsay Bryan-Podvin to tackle our baggage about money. From communicating about it in relationships, to talking about shame and what different "money styles" mean (and how early they get solidified!), this episode is full of tools to improve your relationship with your bank account (or that stash of gold stored under your bed.)

For more of Lindsay's work, check out Mind Money Balance.

Follow Baggage Check on Instagram @baggagecheckpodcast and get sneak peeks of upcoming episodes, give your take on guests and show topics, gawk at the very good boy Buster the Dog, and send us your questions!

Here's more on Dr. Andrea Bonior and her book Detox Your Thoughts.

Here's more on this podcast, which somehow you already found (thank you!)

Credits: Beautiful cover art by Danielle Merity, exquisitely lounge-y original music by Jordan Cooper


Lindsay Bryan-Podvin: I just could not understand how in a field where we are trained to talk about sex abuse, trauma, neglect in systems, we're not trained to talk about something that every single one of us and our clients is going to interact with. It just felt maddening.

Dr. Andrea Bonior: Today we're talking about money and its effect on relationships, anxiety, mental health, families, and more. We've got financial therapist Lindsay Bryan-Podvin, who's built a career on getting real about the mental health implications of finances. If you want to learn how to improve your relationship with money and not from the perspective of just being told to save, you'll want to listen to today's Baggage Check. Welcome. Thank you for being here today. I'm Dr. Andrea Bonior and this is Baggage Check: Mental Health Talk and Advice with new episodes every Tuesday and Friday. Baggage Check is not a show about luggage or travel. Incidentally, it is also not a show about the incredibly varied filmography of Henry Winkler. All right, let's get to it. Today we're talking about money. I can already hear some of the therapists who listen cringing in their seats. And don't worry, I would probably be with you as well. My guest, Lindsay Bryan-Podvin, who has a background as a therapist and a financial expert and has combined the two into a much needed role, will tell you first and foremost that as therapists, we don't talk about this stuff. And it's a pretty big failure being that research is consistently saying that money worries and financial challenges and concerns about money in general are always among the biggest stressors for individuals and for families and for couples. And so why do therapists shy away from this so much? Well, it's awkward. We'll start with that. It feels almost too personal, which is kind of ironic for a field that has no problem talking about some of the deepest secrets that people carry. So I sat down with Lindsay and had a fantastic conversation about how to manage our money baggage. There's so much of it. We talked about everything from how your upbringing begins in terms of your views of money, money's effect on relationships, the role of gender stereotypes, how to improve communication about money, what a financial betrayal might mean, what our views about money represent, about our values, and how to start facing our actual money habits and work with them, um, rather than against them. Lindsay was such an insightful guest to talk to, and you can find more of her work online at mind's money Balance. That's her handle in all kinds of social media, and I believe that's her website as well. I'm glad you're here to take a listen. Let's get started. So I am really glad to have you, Lindsay, here today at Baggage Check. Thank you so much for joining us.

Lindsay Bryan-Podvin: I'm really happy to be here. I love talking about money and mental health, and anytime we can do it on a platform where we're talking about mental health. I think it's fantastic because so many people struggle with financial anxiety and stress and shame, but it's usually those conversations end up being relegated to the personal finance space. And I think it's so important to make sure that we're talking about them over in the mental health space, too. So I'm really happy to be here.

Dr. Andrea Bonior: Absolutely. And I think I'll just come out with this right out. As a psychologist, I'm not always comfortable going into this realm with clients because I think it still holds the old taboos in certain ways. And it's so fascinating that the things that I will hear from clients are some of their deepest, most uncomfortable, most distressing stuff. And yet sometimes the idea of when I help clients sort of think about taking control of their finances because it's such a thing on their mind, it's like, OOH, am I overstepping my bounds here? Maybe this is too intrusive, because I think it is really difficult. So I'm so glad. And you really bring such a unique array of experience to the table combining these two things. It's not that common to have somebody who's got expertise to such an extent in both the mental health space and the financial space. Can you tell me a little bit about how that even became a thing for you, how you got started in this area?

pened my practice in April of:

Dr. Andrea Bonior: Wow, what a time to open.

Lindsay Bryan-Podvin: Um, I was full by the end of the summer and had a waitlist by the fall. Right. It just took no time at all, because people were hungry for this information. They wanted to be treated in the mental health space. And there were so few of us, and there still are so few of us. So if any therapists are listening and they're like, OOH, I want to get specialized in that, please do. The handful of us who are specialized in it could use, uh, some nice referrals.

Dr. Andrea Bonior: Yeah. Oh, my goodness. Do you work with couples and individuals, too? Because I know, as we'll talk about this is such a big topic for relationships. Do you tend to see just individuals?

Lindsay Bryan-Podvin: Yeah, I see just individuals now. I saw couples for about a year, year and a half, and what I found was that I was often repeating myself, um, between couples. So what I ended up doing was actually creating a course that is more psychoeducational for couples, specifically. And so now I only see individuals in my practice.

Dr. Andrea Bonior: Got it. Oh, but that's great. But you have a course that's a resource for people that are in a relationship trying to figure this stuff out, trying to talk about this. There was so much in what you said that just resonates, I think, with so many people. I want to go back a little bit to this idea of the shame about money. And it was so interesting to me how you saw the parallels to your own lived experience with an eating disorder and with binge eating, or the notion of what's bad or shameful or I've already screwed up a little bit, so now I might as well just throw everything out the window. And I think this is what really gets swept under the rug for so many people in terms of money, because there is sort of a righteousness I think about it amongst the way it's talked about in our culture. I know in American culture, money and self worth, money and judgment about what it means in terms of your intelligence, in terms of your passion, in terms of your motivation. There are so many stereotypes. There's so many implicit biases, I think, about what wealth means, what having a high paying job means, all of these types of things. I mean, where do we even begin? Was it sort of like an AHA moment for you where something clicked where you really saw how much need there was in your clients to be able to talk about money in a more open and vulnerable way and actually tackle this stuff? Or was it something gradually you noticed over time when you thought about your own experience? I mean, I'm imagining you with that first paycheck. I think so many of us, especially in the nonprofit fields, in the mental health field, in the education field, we're like, wow, we've worked so hard to get here, and we've gotten advanced degrees, or we've done all these things, and it's like, oh, my goodness, I wish I was still waiting tables at Benny Hana. I know I had that experience. I actually waited tables at Benny Hana while I was still in grad school my first year. It was right down the street from my apartment. And I remember hiding in the kitchen there one time because a client came in with their family for a graduation dinner, and I was like, okay, I probably can't do this anymore. But, man, the tips are certainly beating my stipend that I'm getting as a research and teaching assistant in graduate school. But, yeah, tell me more about that shame connection, how you started to really think it through and what you tend to see in your clients about it. Is it something that comes up a lot for them in their sessions. Obviously, they're banging down your door to work with you, but when it actually comes time to talk about it, how do we even begin to think about helping people overcome that shame element?

Lindsay Bryan-Podvin: Uh, so to the first question, did it hit me all at once? Was I all of a sudden like, yes, this is the thing I need to do? No, it was slow and steady. But what I would say about noticing these patterns between our emotions and money was that it was incredibly consistent, like, between different clients from job to job. When I was talking to my colleagues and my peers and my friends, I mean, money stuff comes up all the time, or came up then, and it continues to come, uh, up now. So it was one of those things where it kept hitting me in the face is the best way that I can say it. I'm like, Man, I have taken trauma trainings. I've taken family reunification trainings. I have taken integrated behavioral health trainings. I have learned about so much, and yet I haven't learned beep about money. And I could not understand how in a field where we are trained to talk about sex abuse, trauma neglect in systems, we're not trained to talk about something that every single one of us and our clients is going to interact with. It just felt maddening to me. Um, and so it was kind of this slow accumulation over time of realizing that myself, my friends, my peers, my clients were struggling in their relationship with money. And I want to be clear that struggling in their relationship with money did not always mean they were struggling in the way that I had been financially.

Dr. Andrea Bonior: Right.

Lindsay Bryan-Podvin: Plenty of people struggle with money when they have it. Plenty of people struggle with money when they earn more than their parents did, or they're, uh, in a relationship and all of a sudden they're out earning their partner and they weren't doing that. Or they have a kid that's getting ready to have their Bot or bar mitzvah, and now they have to talk to them about what they're going to do with all that money that comes in, right? Plenty of people struggle with money even when they have it. So that's the answer to the first question, which is, how did it kind of come up? And it was slowly, over time, but it was just something I couldn't ignore.

Dr. Andrea Bonior: Yeah, for sure.

Lindsay Bryan-Podvin: And then remind me part two of the question.

Dr. Andrea Bonior: I probably zoomed way past that and just, I think, thinking about how to start to help people get over the shame, even in session, of thinking about it. I mean, I'm just thinking of the logistics of it. It's just probably even for people who've come to you and chosen to have come to you, maybe there's still some reticence. Like, do I really show her that I make just this amount? And how does that fit into what her expectations were? Or how she's going to judge me? Or do I really show her that I've got X amount of credit card debt and now she's going to really think that I have a compulsive spending problem? I mean, at the outset, uh, does it take a while for them to really sort of reveal stuff? And how much do they need to reveal right away? Is it the type of thing where they're putting their proverbial cards on the table kind of early and numbers are coming up in the conversation? Or does it vary by person? How does that work?

Lindsay Bryan-Podvin: Yeah, I mean, it definitely varies by person. But what I will say in general for my clients is I find them to be some of the bravest clients that I've worked with because there is no roadmap for how to talk about money. So for them to opt in and say, hey, Lindsay, I want to work with you and I want to talk about my money anxiety, my financial shame, my worries, what meaning I've associated with money, to me, is incredibly powerful. And I'm so honored and humbled to be able to work with them. Um, in terms of how it comes up and how much they show and tell, it really depends on the client. I will never say, you need to give me statements of all your bank accounts so we can make a difference here. Some of my clients come in with that. They're like, I've got all my paperwork here, I'm ready to go. Whereas others, we talk in generalities, and I think that piece is more of a client by client basis. But what I tend to do with all of my clients is we start out going, what would it look like when therapy ends? How would you know it's time to say goodbye to one another? What are the things that would have to change? And what I think is so interesting about my clients is they often tell me what they don't want, but they have a hard time articulating what they do want. Meaning they'll say, I don't want to be anxious about money. I don't want to wake up in the middle of the night worried about my paycheck. I don't want to get tripped up when I talk to my partner, but when I say to them, Great. Well, what do you want? It's almost like they can't even imagine a world in which they aren't anxious or embarrassed about money. And so I find that to be so fascinating. And I do a ton of validation in my work, probably more than I would in other arenas of therapy, because so many people are like the main question that I could kind of summarize for all of my clients is, like, am I doing this right? Is this allowed? Is this okay? And I'm not the permission giver at all. But they need a lot of validation to hear that so many other people struggle with similar questions and concerns and worries and fears and that they are not alone and with money. We are making a lot of guesses about what our peers and neighbors and friends do financially based on what we can see, right? We can see somebody buy a new car and make a lot of assumptions about how they bought that. We don't know whether they've financed it over seven years, whether they already have a ton of debt, and it doesn't bother them to add more. We don't know if they've inherited money and they're paying for it up front. We don't know if their job is giving them a monthly stipend for that vehicle, but we make an assumption based on the one thing that we can see, and then we judge ourselves and compare ourselves to that particular thing, whereas we do that in every situation, right? We see a couple out, and we're like, Gosh, they're so lovely. We don't know if they're going home and screaming and yelling at each other. But with money, it's so much more in your face and silent at the same time. And I think it's maddening to a lot of people.

Dr. Andrea Bonior: That's such a good point. It's simultaneously what we see on the surface in such intensity. Oh, look at where this person went on vacation. Look at this new car that they bought. Oh, their house is way bigger than mine. We see all that. It's right there on the surface, how somebody dresses, what kind of car they drive, and yet there's this huge gap between what might be on the surface and what's really going on inside. And I think it's so interesting that it's like that because it's ever present, and yet it's also such a secret somehow simultaneously. Simultaneously. Oh, uh, my goodness. And I think, yeah, it's one of those things where it has an emotional aspect almost baked in because how we were raised I mean, if you think of the messages of that, there are so many different ways that parents talk about money or not talk about money. And all of the emotional types of things that are imbued in there, are there particular patterns that you tend to see or specific struggles of note that people have that you think maybe for the parents listening, we could maybe keep that in mind? Because I know that's a whole nother genre, right? How as a parent, to talk to your kids about money and do you tie chores to allowance or not? Do you just have to do chores and then you also get an allowance, or you have to do separate chores for the allowance? Or how much do you save, or do you give this much to charity? I mean, there's so much. But what types of things do you see come into the office that are kind of more clearly connected to maybe some childhood stuff for folks? Yeah.

o by that time I was probably:

Dr. Andrea Bonior: Oh, I love that, and I love how your mom did that. It was just there. It became a running storyline. It wasn't like, well, now that you're 13, we're going to sit down and talk about distance of money. I think so many conversations, as you pointed out, with child rearing are like that. It reminds me of even teaching your kid to drive, which I've been through with one, and the second one is almost here too. And it's like, people think, oh, you're going to sit down and teach your kid to drive? And it's like, no, your kid has been watching you drive for 15 years now, right? And if you haven't been doing the habits that you want them to do, guess what? They've already picked up on it. And I love that idea of, uh, really starting the narration in a mindful way, because if you're not talking about money, they're making assumptions. They're picking up all those years, their own little guesses about what's going on, or their own little vibes about OOH, that seems weird and strange, and instead take ownership of it. I love that. Talk about it openly and make it a whole conversation across years so that by the time you're actually in a situation where they have some autonomy with money, it's been baked in that they have certain values and such. Uh, so I really like that. And I think part of what's going on with money right now, of course, part of what I'm hearing in my clients who are obviously not seeking specifically financial therapy, but that keeps coming up is all of the recent turmoil. I mean, I cannot tell you how many of my clients across Disparate Industries disparate fields just in the past month alone have had some version of the potential of layoffs hanging over their head. Whether it's oh, you should. Really take this voluntary separation agreement. Or there might be layoffs, but maybe not my department. Or OOH. I think I actually might be fired, but they're going to call it a layoff or whatever it is. So much across tech, obviously, we've heard about across media, across different types of organizations, nonprofits, corporations, the whole nine yards. And I've really felt this increasing drumbeat of anxiety, even amongst clients, where that was never something we even talked about. It's like, now it's here, and now I have to think about that. And so for clients or just people out there listening right now who are really finding money, to be one of their top anxieties right now. And I think some of the research bears this out. People are mentioning it as one of their top stressors. Where is a place to begin in terms of managing this anxiety? And sort of step one? Ultimately, if it's really bad, it sounds like seeing you or another financial therapist would be an excellent idea, but where is step one for people listening who are saying, yes, money is my number one stressor right now, there's uncertainty or I'm worried about banks. I'm worried about the crises and the financial potential collapse that might come. Where do you begin?

epression, and then after the:

Dr. Andrea Bonior: Mhm mhm. And actually getting to the point of facing it, I think that step one, that pre step one, can be really hard for folks. I know that I have worked with people where literally, it's like, well, I have an automatic payment set up to my credit card, but I haven't logged in to actually see what my balance is in months because I'm scared. Or, you know what? I know that bill came and it's been sitting on a table, and I haven't opened it because it brings such anxiety. And so I think one of the wonderful things it sounds like that you're able to offer as a financial therapist. Is that scaffolding emotionally to say, yep. It's not just about, okay, well, let's look at your budget. It's about how do you actually bring yourself to get over the cognitive and behavioral and emotional aspects of that? And unfortunately, I think a lot of financial advisors probably can't really help with that or don't really help with that, or don't know that they need to help with that. Because I'm imagining it's a scenario where a lot of people are like, all right, I got to get my finances in order, and somebody recommended this financial person, and they go, and in a worst case scenario, maybe their shame is made even worse because it's very boilerplate. Is that kind of what you see? I'm not asking you to bash financial advisors by any stretch, but I'm guessing they just don't have the training or even just sort of the awareness about how deep some of this stuff goes emotionally.

Lindsay Bryan-Podvin: I really appreciate that, because to your point, it's not about bashing financial advisors or planners, but they're trained through the lens of how the numbers work. And so for them, they can populate all of these great spreadsheets and shoot out these documents and say, look, if you just did X, Y, and Z, your financial landscape would be completely different. Or if you keep this up, you're going to be in a world of trouble in ten years. But what they sometimes forget to implement is that a perfect plan does not mean that somebody is going to take action. How many of us as therapists have been like, oh, my gosh, I can see this road so clearly for you. If you keep this up, we're going to be in trouble. But we don't say to our client, first you do this, then you do this, then you dump them, then you move out, then you quit the job. We don't say that we give our clients agency over the choices that they make. We may provide some information and some guidance around what those choices might look like and explore with them some of those outcomes. Um, but it's the same thing. Like, if I were to go to a doctor and I was struggling, let's go back to my example of insomnia. And I was like, hey, Doc, I can't sleep. I'm really struggling. And they just said, well, too bad. Take Ambien, and that's your only choice. If I was maybe medication anxious or I wanted to try something else first, or I was really convinced that it was tied up with job stress, I would be totally put off. Versus if I go to the physician who says, lindsay, here are about five different things we could try. Of these five things, which one feels best for you? Let's try that for a month. Come back in, we'll check in. We'll see how that goes. If it's working. Here are some steps we can take. If it doesn't work, we've got four other options. How does that sound? Right? And financial advisors, they see the numbers. Those numbers are black and white. And for them, it's like the numbers don't lie. Right. So to go, I can imagine for them, it's hard to say, your life could be so much easier if you just did this. So do it. Versus saying, here's what we could do. Here are a handful of things we could change. Of the things that you could change, which one feels best for you or which one feels the most daunting? And giving them some agency around making those financial changes. I think what happens with so many financial planners is they come up with these brilliant, beautiful, maybe even three ring bound binders and they hand them to the clients thinking that the information is going to transform them. But, uh, as mental health clinicians, we know that information does not lead to change. We all know again, you sleep that we shouldn't be on our phones before bed, and yet most of us are still scrolling on our phones before bed. Right. I'm thankful that the personal finance field is changing. It is morphing. But we know that most decisions, financially speaking, are not that black and white. Yes, the numbers don't lie, but neither do our emotions. And if that financial plan is daunting, overwhelming, and feels punitive, a person's just not going to take action on it.

Dr. Andrea Bonior: Yeah, that makes so much sense. And then they're going to even be more avoidant.

Lindsay Bryan-Podvin: Absolutely.

Dr. Andrea Bonior: It might actively backfire, uh, because now, not only are they not going to take action on the plan that was proposed, but the shame over the fact that they're not taking action means they're not even going to talk about money anymore after all. And they're just going to dig themselves into a deeper hole, for instance.

Lindsay Bryan-Podvin: Mhm.

Dr. Andrea Bonior: Yeah. And I imagine when you add another person to the mix because somebody's in a relationship, um, this is where we see so many issues too. And I'm thinking about the cliche even of how, oh, what breaks up a marriage? Well, money issues are one of the top things. Everybody hears that. Everybody knows that. And it sounds like when you did see couples in your practice, there were trends that you saw over and over and over again to the point where you said, I need to make a course because I'm repeating myself over and over and over again. So what are some of the common themes that you see? And I would love to get into eventually thinking about how to help empower couples to talk about this stuff and what can they do. But let's start with just the common types of dilemmas that you see ah, among couples in terms of how money is affecting their relationship.

Lindsay Bryan-Podvin: Sure. So as you hinted, there's a course because I found myself saying almost identical things from session to session, which for people who are in partnerships, I hope that that provides some validation to you that you are not alone. So yes, it is true that statistics show consistently arguments about money are one of the leading causes of divorce and separation. But what does not meet the headlines is that couples who talk about money, not couples who fight about money, but couples who talk about money, report being happier than those that don't. And the hypothesis there is that to talk about money is vulnerable. It can be a bit scary. So it requires a level of trust and safety and connectedness and intimacy that talking about where you want to go for dinner just does not elicit for most couples.

Dr. Andrea Bonior: Yeah.

Lindsay Bryan-Podvin: So there are a few things that I saw come up again and again. One was people having this idea that financial opposites are bad matches. I'm a saver, they're a spender, we just don't mesh. Versus figuring out what is the value underneath that person's choice or their behavior to save or spend. And usually once we could kind of sift underneath and figure out why they want to save or why they want to spend, we could hear some common themes and some common values that help the couple to get on the same page. So, for example, a m person who wants to save all of their money, they say, saving money makes me feel safe, makes me feel secure. It gives me a sense of control. The person on the other side of the relationship says, I like spending money because nothing is guaranteed in this world, so I might as well spend it. That makes me feel happy. It feels very predictable. I feel very secure that when I go to the store and I hand over my credit card, I get exactly what I want. And so they're bringing up the same things of safety, security and predictability, but they are choosing to honor those values in a very different way. So then the conversation does not then become you need to spend more, you need to save less, but it becomes, how can we find space for collaboration here? So each of you can have your needs met? What does safety and security and predictability mean for you in your relationship? What are ways that we can do that outside of money? Does it mean you need to have more deep conversations? Does it mean that you need to be intimate more often? What are the things that are making it hard for you to nurture that safety and predictability piece in your relationship? So that's one thing that came up all the time was thinking that financial opposites are opposites in every way, when in most cases there were shared values that the couple was getting their needs met in a different way. And then the other thing that often would come up with couples is just the communication as we know communicating about anything is pretty tricky in a couple. Uh, but when it comes to money, that's where if you already had any sort of communication pattern that was a little bit rocky. It just became even more inflamed when you layered on money into that conversation. Because money is so layered with all of these emotions. So when you have conversations that are kind of those doorknob or drive by moments, hey babe, I maxed out the credit card. Sorry about that, got to go to work. That just is not going to be super well received. So helping couples with their communication patterns and building in time into their relationship to communicate about money on a regular cadence, it sounds so daunting, so overwhelming, and potentially so boring. But what I find is that couples who carve out that time to talk about money, it strengthens other areas of their relationship as well, right? They're able to start saying language like, hey, I hear that you want to talk about the bonus that I got at work. I don't have the capacity to do it right now, but I definitely want to have the conversation. Can we table? Uh, it until Sunday night, right. Being able to name what you need to validate what your partner is asking for and to be able to have space for those conversations is really powerful. So those are two of the most common things that I saw.

Dr. Andrea Bonior: Mhm, that's so important, really thinking about how once again, what's on the surface, in terms of, hey, we're opposites, that's not going to work, isn't the whole story by any stretch. And that there's that deeper narrative that needs to be explored because it could be, as you pointed out, that two people who seemingly are opposites, their values are a lot more similar and it's just a matter of figuring that out. And I think so many times this is something that people feel like is a done deal, right? It's like, oh, well, this person's always going to be this way or we're always going to fight about this because we're so different. And in reality, there's so much room to explore it. There's so much room, as you said, when you bring in communication about it, there's so much room to listen and understand and maybe compromise or create a new strategy to go forward. Because I think that, again, it's that same sort of shame. And then people fall in love and maybe there was still taboo about money in the early days and all of a sudden you've got a couple who's practically serious and yet they haven't really talked about any of these things yet. Um, or one thing I hear often is the potential for financial betrayal. That is not even necessarily intentional, but it's kind of a slippery slope. Well, my wife didn't realize I still had this much in student loans and I kind of didn't tell her how much it snowballed or my partner has a secret shopping habit. And in theory, it's just their money because we each have some separate accounts. But I had no idea that she was blowing $2,000 every few months on this silly stuff. And I'm resentful because we could have put that $2,000 towards something else. And how do you see financial betrayal, quote, unquote, fitting into all of this? And how do you start to help people start to communicate about that?

Lindsay Bryan-Podvin: Such a good question. I want to go back to something you said that made me think about why money is so challenging in couples, is that in our culture, we believe in love marriages, that love will conquer all. And it's very rare, at least in my line of work, where a couple has never had an inkling that something's up with their partner financially. But they do this assumption that many of us do, which is once we get married or once we move in together, once we have a shared bank account, that will fix everything. And there's also this idea that somehow talking about money isn't romantic. It's taboo, it's gross, it's bad. But I think, again, talking about money can be one of the most romantic and most intimate things that we can do. Uh, so I just wanted to put that there. And then in terms of the betrayal, financial infidelity happens in most relationships. Depending on the study, we're talking 50% to 60% of the time a person either endorses having financially betrayed their partner or being, quote, unquote, betrayed by their partner. And I think there's a lot to unpack here. And one is that if we don't have discussions about what financial infidelity or betrayal is, everybody's going to define that differently, right? Just like if you're in a monogamous relationship, somebody might say, oh, you can't look at another person that's cheating, where somebody else is like, hey, as long as you didn't sleep with them, that's not cheating. But you have to have that conversation about what is okay and what's safe in your relationship and what isn't. And I think a lot of couples just skip over that stuff altogether, and then they're like, how dare you? You totally betrayed me, or you ruined my trust in you. But you've never had that foundation or level setting conversation to begin with. So first and foremost, I think it's important to figure out what do we define as financially cheating and how will we alert the other person if we're worried about it or either ourselves, quote, unquote, cheating, or about our partner, um, cheating. And I think a lot of this reason for the financial infidelity is not necessarily malicious. Of course, there are people out there who are intentionally trying to harm their partner and are intentionally trying to hide things from their partner. But I often think that so many of the times when financial infidelity happens, it happens for one of two reasons. One is that we just don't give our partner enough autonomy anyway. Meaning we put all this money together and we expect every single expense to be double checked by the other person. I think that's a really punitive way to live in a, uh, romantic relationship. My partner and I each get a little bit of fun money each month that we can spend however we want. I can't judge them. They can't judge me. If I want to save it up for six months and then go treat myself to a spa weekend, I can do that. Um, and if they want to spend it every day on, um, car parts, I can't say anything because that's their money to do what they want with. So I think we have to treat each other like adults and give some sort of agency and autonomy, financially speaking. So, one is that we expect everything just to be equal, which just doesn't happen. And we need to build in a little bit of autonomy and freedom financially. And then the other reason that I think a lot of this happens is that it kind of gets out of control and we don't know how to bring it up. So, uh, for example, I have this credit card. I have a $1,000 balance on it. I'm sure I can pay it down before that bill comes due. But, oh, shoot, there's this one thing that I really want. I'm going to grab that, too. But you know what? I'll return the other thing and it'll be okay, right? It kind of snowballs and gets out of control. And then, to your point, to use those words, that guilt and shame and embarrassment kicks in of like, how is it possible that I, as an adult, got myself into this situation without taking into effect the way in which consumerism is baked into our society? Makes it really hard to not use consumerism as a coping skill when we shop. It's one of the most predictable things that we can do. It provides us with hits of serotonin, dopamine, oxytocin. Um, it feels incredibly good in our brains. And I'm not just talking from a person with a shopping addiction standpoint. I'm talking just in general. Every time you swipe your card or buy something, we get things that are really hard to get in other ways. Um, so it can become really challenging because, ah, as we've talked about, a lot of personal finance experts say, well, you just don't have the willpower, or you're too dumb, or, you did this to yourself. Um, so I think a lot of people get into trouble where they had a $1,000 credit card bill, and then it snowballs out of control, and it becomes harder and harder to say to their partner, hey, I had $1,000 of debt when we got married. It's now 20 grand. I feel really embarrassed, and I don't know what to do about it. But they have that conversation, uh, when it hits that tipping point when they can no longer prevent their partner from knowing they've got bill collectors calling, they've got notices coming in the mail, they can't hide it anymore, versus saying, hey, I've got $1,000. Let's get through this together. Let's figure out what happened.

y not unrealistic at all that:

Lindsay Bryan-Podvin: It's a really good question. So, first, I think it's important just to set the stage that as progressive as we think we are as a society, we haven't made many changes in the way in which men and women are socialized around money. As recently as 2017, studies have shown that the way that we talk to children about money differs wildly based on the gender that they present. So, uh, girls are taught more about the importance of saving, about using coupons, about being thrifty, about being frugal. Those are the messages that are passed to them. And men are taught the importance, or boys, rather, are taught the importance of being. Entrepreneurial. So going out and asking to mow your neighbor's lawn to make a little bit of extra money or taking risks and how important that is. And as we can imagine, that shows up later in adulthood. Right? Women tend to be relegated to the financial domains of the household. Where are we going to buy groceries? What soccer camp are we sending the kids to? What shoes are cheaper? When do things go on sale? Those are the things that kind of fall under the woman's domain and things that fall under the men's domain that may be really harmful are things like investing for the future or where our money is held. And men, it's not like they get more education about it, but they're kind of given this false, um, confidence that they should just know what to do. So it can become this really harmful kind of thing that we put onto men to say, you should understand how money works, but we're never going to teach you how it works. You should just know because so I think it's really important to just put that out there first, that it's not just about these ideas, but it's also in the way that we are teaching children what they should or should not know about money. And then fast forward to now. There was a study that recently came out that in heterosexual relationships, where the woman is the breadwinner, the male partner is more likely to cheat and not cheat financially.

Dr. Andrea Bonior: But remember that data. Uh, yes.

Lindsay Bryan-Podvin: So again, we can say all of these things, but our behaviors are very different. So I think it can be just really important to acknowledge what your biases are, to acknowledge what feels good and what doesn't. I have heard of a colleague who identifies themselves as being very progressive and a heterosexual relationship with the culture that they're from. Their husband always puts the credit card down, even though it's a shared card that feels good and empowering for both of them to have him put the card down with his name on it, even though it's a shared account and even though it's a shared card. And it's like, you know what? We also just have to acknowledge that sometimes there are going to be things that feel better for us and don't feel better for others, and we have to honor what feels good for us. And there's whole other conversation that could be had about privilege and things like that. But I would say honor where you're at have those tricky conversations. If you have to do a little bit of financial role play, so to speak, to make yourselves feel good about it, that's totally fine. I'm not here to judge or say what you should or shouldn't do. These lessons are really hard to unlearn. And when we are told that women are supposed to be one way and men are supposed to be another way, it's really hard. Even if you logically and intellectually disagree with it for your entire self to get on board.

Dr. Andrea Bonior: Yeah, it comes full circle to that notion of communication. Communication, uh, with yourself, too, about let me be honest about how I'm feeling here and really be curious about it. And if I'm carrying around these messages that in some ways are hurting me, let me be vulnerable enough to recognize and label them and then communicate with my partner about them. Because I think sometimes people are really caught by surprise by this stuff, and they say, I don't want to be this way. And then there's shame on top of that, right? There's shame that they feel this way, or why shouldn't I be fine with my wife making more than me? What's wrong with me? And then it's like, okay, well, let's not add a layer of shame on top of it. Let's move through this by acknowledging it and starting to work through it. But adding shame on top of it really doesn't help in any way. Because I think, like you said, whether we're talking about how men are taught as boys or how women are taught as girls, they have run a gauntlet by the time they are adults or even teenagers. And they have gotten so many cultural ideas that probably weren't right and that probably were biased. And that goes full circle, too. Your mom in the grocery store doing the good work of just talking about this stuff and narrating it and educating it and making it not a vulnerable thing that, hey, we can talk about this stuff. It's not taboo. I'm not shushing you in the back of the minivan because you asked how much your uncle makes, and now I'm so embarrassed, and we're never going to talk about money again, right? I just love all this because it ties in so beautifully to the larger mental health picture, which I think you must do in your work every day, that it's about communication. It's about opening yourself up to insights and not being afraid. And I'm just so grateful we've been able to talk today. And I think there are probably so many listeners who had no idea what financial therapy was, but now they know a place to begin if they're struggling with this type of stuff. So, once again, where should listeners find you, Lindsay?

Lindsay Bryan-Podvin: Oh, thanks, Andrea. Uh, so my business is called Mind Money Balance. You can find me on YouTube, on Instagram, at ah, my website. Everything is under the same handle. I have a few fun and free things that they might be interested in. One is a free quiz to learn more about your financial archetype, to learn more about your unique strengths and challenges when it comes to money. And that's at Mindybalance.com Quiz. And if you want to ask me a question, I'm piloting a new Askmenthing type of program or segment. So if you go to Mindmoneybalance.com Askask, you can submit a question for me that I might answer over on YouTube, so that's what I'm playing around with, but please come say hi. I have a book called The Financial Anxiety Solution that you can pick up wherever books are sold. And if you don't have, um, a local bookstore that you like to shop from, or if you're feeling anxious financially, you could ask your library to buy a copy, too. So that's another resource I love to offer.

Dr. Andrea Bonior: Wonderful. Well, if a question comes in about the panic of paying for three kids college education, it most definitely did not come from me.

Lindsay Bryan-Podvin: Noted.

Dr. Andrea Bonior: It was Andrea. Uh, someone well, thank you so m much, Lindsay. It's been such a pleasure, such a pleasure to talk to you, and I know a lot of people have learned so much. Thanks again.

Lindsay Bryan-Podvin: Thank you. My pleasure.

Dr. Andrea Bonior: Thanks for joining me today. Once again, I'm Dr. Andrea Bonier, and this has been Baggage Check. With new episodes every Tuesday and Friday. Join us on Instagram at Baggage check podcast. Give us your take and opinions on topics and guests. And you know you've got that friend who listens to, like, 17 podcasts. We'd love it if you told them where to find us. Our original music is by Jordan Cooper, cover art by Daniel Merity, and my studio security, it's Buster the Dog. Until next time, take good care.

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About the Podcast

Baggage Check: Mental Health Talk and Advice
with Dr. Andrea Bonior
We've all got baggage. But what do we choose to do with it?
Every Tuesday and Friday, licensed clinical psychologist, best-selling author and popular psychology professor Dr. Andrea Bonior takes your mental health questions, and makes you part of the conversation. Join her and other voices as they translate research into real life, and talk about relationships, emotions, health, psychological disorders, stress, finding meaning, work, and occasionally-- just occasionally-- the most obscure dance crazes of 1997.
All are welcome, and nothing is off limits. With science, compassion, and humor, she's here to help.

About your host

Profile picture for Andrea Bonior

Andrea Bonior

Andrea Bonior, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist, speaker, and the best-selling author of “Detox Your Thoughts." She was the longtime mental health advice columnist for The Washington Post, and appears regularly in national media, including CNN and NPR, with several popular courses on the LinkedIn Learning platform. Dr. Bonior’s blog for Psychology Today has been read more than 25 million times. She serves on the faculty of Georgetown University, where she recently won the national Excellence in Teaching award, given by the American Psychological Association.