What is your relationship style? Are you indulgent? Controlling? Nonchalant? Obsessive? Guarded? Reckless? Chances are you have the same approach when it comes to money.
Psychological, behavioral and neuroscience research indicates that how stable and secure you feel in your interpersonal relationships tends to mirror how stable and secure you feel about your finances. So it’s worth examining your close ties, both past and present, to understand how they may influence your spending, saving and investing habits—for good or ill.
This doesn’t necessarily involve hours on a psychoanalyst’s couch, but it does require some honest self-reflection about your relationship history (starting with mom and dad) and the role money inevitably played. While money can’t buy you love, money is tangled up with love in your subconscious. Indeed, getting and losing money activates the same pleasure and pain centers in the brain, respectively, as falling in love and having your heart broken.
The security continuum
When trying to understand this complicated interplay, a good place to start is to look at your relationship with money through the lens of attachment theory, which holds we all have an interpersonal attachment style that is on a continuum from secure to insecure. Most of humanity tilts somewhat toward the insecure side and exhibits behaviors ranging from anxious (think of a Labrador retriever that can’t get enough of you) to avoidant (think of a cat that behaves as if it can do very well without you).
“If you are needy of love, the more anxious type, you use money as a means to be loved and be appreciated and have people around you,” says Mario Mikulincer, a professor of psychology who studies human attachment at the Interdisciplinary Center, a research college in Herzliya, Israel.