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Understanding Your Relationship with Money: 02/15/2019

Are there strings attached to your giving?

I received a call from a man who had great concern for his daughter’s financial wellbeing. He described her marriage and the couple’s relationship with money. He added, “I give them $1,000 a month to make ends meet and I don’t want to keep doing this if they’re wasting it.” Listening to his version of the story, his voice was commanding and his tone was sophisticated. He was controlling, manipulative, and didn’t withhold any information.

His main concern and reason for the call was to “fix” his daughter and son-in-law’s money problems. He said he’d pay for it. My first response was asking if his daughter knew he was calling me. I knew the answer before I asked. He said, “No, but she needs this and I’m not going to continue giving them money unless they work with you.” I asked him if he felt there were strings attached to his giving. He paused for a moment but then continued full throttle and changed the subject. I informed him this wasn’t going to work unless his daughter called me herself. It’s no surprise to my readers to tell you that he displayed the Tyrant archetype.

To my surprise, she called two weeks later. She was apologetic for her father’s behavior. She admitted to having a chaotic life; both she and her husband work fulltime as they raise two toddlers. “I’m not as conscientious with money as my husband. We can use the help.”

She described their situation as a two-income family who is paid well but runs out of money by month’s end. They keep their money separate and split the bills 50/50. The problem is she makes far less than her husband and it’s hard on her; the demands of a 50/50 arrangement force her to use her credit card to keep up. This puts a strain on their relationship. In a weak moment, she voiced this to her father. Like the tornado that he is, he wanted to level the playing field. She now regrets telling him anything.

Let’s look at the money history. Her husband grew up with parents who were stingy and grumpy around money with their children. He knew if he wanted anything he’d have to pay for it himself. Even when he really needed support there was no one he could count on. He learned to be independent… and stingy, too.

In contrast, she grew up in a wealthy family where generosity was second nature. College was paid for along with other major purchases. Even though there was plenty of financial support, it often came with strings attached.

In their marriage, the husband doesn’t know how to receive because he had no experience of it growing up. He often has a chip on his shoulder when they receive money for Christmas and birthdays from her parents. He wants to split their family’s expenses 50/50 even if that strategy costs them money, i.e., going into debt using her credit card. He displays Victim and Tyrant money types.

On the other hand, she’s no stranger to receiving and doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. She’s non-confrontational and isn’t accustomed to having mature conversations with her father – about money or other situations – nor is she used to creating healthy boundaries to accommodate her father’s form of love alongside her marriage. She displays the Innocent archetype.

Now, some solutions. Working with them, we took a good hard look at the numbers. How much income does this family need per month, based on expenses? Do they really need the father’s gift of $1,000 a month? We created a cash flow statement and it revealed that with special care for the toddlers, they did need the extra money. But if they improved their grocery budget they could cover the childcare expense themselves. It would be difficult but doable.

Then I asked the tough question. “How much does this financial gift from her father actually cost them emotionally (or cost their marriage)? We worked in depth on her husband’s relationship with his father around money. He realized he had to forgive his father by releasing the anger he held towards him for years. This underlying anger was the source of the “chip on his shoulder” he felt toward his wife and her father around money. Forgiveness changed his view on their 50/50 split and now they combine their money with more ease.

Then, we worked on creating some boundaries with her father by learning to communicate more effectively with him. She was able to separate and state her feelings and her needs, then make a request. “I feel as if you still see me as a little girl. I feel sad about that. I need you to see me as a responsible adult. I’m requesting that when you want to help us financially, you soften your approach and listen to what we have to say about what’s best for our family.”

When parents give with strings attached, it’s often under the guise of love and affection but feels more like control and manipulation. The problem lies when the receiver must “act” or “be” a certain way for the giver to follow through. There are ways to accept financial gifts and have clear agreements at the same time, to avoid those suffocating tendrils disguised as love. Having clear agreements involves effective communication, respect, and healthy boundaries.

Learn more about your relationship with money: visit and take the complimentary “Money Type Quiz.” Only you see the results. Or contact me at

© 2016 Donna Colfer

To learn more about your relationship with money, visit and take the complimentary “Money Type Quiz.” Only you will see the results. Or contact me at

Donna Colfer has worked in financial management since 1987. As a Financial Counselor and a Certified Money Coach, she blends her financial expertise with spiritual counseling in her private practice in Sonoma. A Valley resident since 1981, Donna and her husband, Randy, reside in Kenwood.

© 2020 Donna Colfer


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