By Sarah Tolmie
Reader Question: “In the last two years both my father and mother have died and soon I will be coming into an inheritance – modest yet sizable enough to leave us debt free. My wife and I are already arguing how to distribute this money. There is a part of me that feels angry that it is expected that it will be absorbed completely into the family debts and day to day life expenses. This is my family’s legacy to me.”
Firstly, my condolences at the death of both your parents. That is a profound life changing event, redefining the family landscape. A changing of the guard.
As far as couple conflicts go, this is not an uncommon one. Money and finances are always a loaded conversation because we are not just talking simple maths and spreadsheets. We are talking (or fighting) about our value and worth. The ways we measure that are not clear even to ourselves. We are reconciling and measuring in different currencies’ and often we don’t realise this.
Our families also determine the foundations of our sense of identity; they shape our inner sense of worth (or unworthiness) for love. How much did our families invest in us – in time, love, care, support and presence? For better or worse, we humans can always confuse (or substitute) value with money, and in relationships – both healthy and unhealthy – it forms part of the reckoning.
And trust me, as both a relationship therapist AND an end–of–life consultant and funeral director – there is always a reckoning, somehow, some way, someone, will be doing the accounting. Any pains, hurts, injustices – real or perceived – take a toll and cost. And not always will the ledger reconcile.
I cannot know your situation or history – nor am I suggesting there is anything wrong or more to see – it is just a prompt for self–reflection to be curious about what is underneath the feeling. What is the anger really trying to tell you? Is there a pain, a hurt, an injustice?
When I work with emotions, there are some specific questions to ask them. All our emotions have an important job, they are working for us, and ‘anger’ has a specific task – its task is to inform you that something has been violated, something needs protecting – something is not right – and this may be an invitation to investigate the deeper meaning.
When we work with our feelings – and intelligently collaborate with them on our decision making and bring them into our relationship’s discussions – they will open up a more holistic way to understand what is going on and even present a few more workable options and solutions and help us to find the ‘right action’ to take.
How about opening up to your wife about your feelings and what they mean. Give her a chance to understand the deeper and real issue at stake. It is entirely reasonable and legitimate to invite a concession that some money can be earmarked for something special for you. This might be an item which can be given meaning and significance and symbolises the family of your origin.
And, it is also important to remember that whilst you are a legitimate beneficiary of your family legacy, your allegiance and life and love lives onwards into the future with your family of creation. What will be your legacy to them?
Much love, Sarah x
Sarah Tolmie – Life & Love: Sarah is a marriage therapist, life & love and relationship coach, end–of–life consultant, an independent and bespoke funeral director and holistic celebrant. She provides holistic care, mentoring, guidance, healing and transformation for individuals, couples and families at their most important times of life & love – at end–of–life, in love & relationship, and in ritual and celebration. Sarah has a relationship online course for couples called “Creating a Miracle Marriage” and a free resource and video series for families facing dying, death and grief called “Landscapes of Life & Love and Loss”. To find out more, visit www.sarahtolmie.com.au