My relationship with love and money has always been fraught with fear, dread and anxiety. For whatever reason, I’ve never felt all that comfortable speaking up in the bedroom or in the boardroom. Too often, I have failed to voice my needs outloud, and instead swallowed my pride, which often led me to settle for unfair pay in the working world, and mistreatment in my romantic relationships and sex life. Recently, I wondered if these things could be related, and decided to find out by speaking to some professionals about the correlation between the two.
According to Nicole Reiner, a psychotherapist based in New York, it’s common for women to feel undeserving of receiving money or sexual pleasure as we have internalized long-standing societal messages that we should be people pleasers and not ask for what we want. Nicole says, “Sex in heteronormative relationships has historically focused on men, with only a recent focus on women’s pleasure as an important part of the sexual experience. And women have historically been underpaid and undervalued in the workplace, which is why women have so much more trouble asking for a raise.” It’s no wonder women can find it distressing to ask for what they want both sexually and financially.
Monica Parikh, a relationship coach and the founder of School of Love NYC, believes our relationship with love and money are inextricably tied together. Parikh says that when she first started her coaching practice, many of her clients were plagued with fear-based thinking, causing them to settle for mediocre love and pay. According to her, it is this scarcity mindset that causes people to settle for things that are “good enough.”
Monica admits, “I see way too many beautiful, intelligent, kind, and dynamic women settling for partnerships with people who are uncommitted, distant, abusive or selfish.” Additionally, she says that many of these women are plagued with negative thoughts and self-talk that makes them think they are unworthy of what they want or deserve in relationships.
But this harmful type of thinking doesn’t end there. Monica has noticed it can transcend one’s view on their relationships, and infiltrate their career, too: “Scarcity and fear-based thinking keeps people in careers that are intolerable, unstimulating and/or downright abusive.” Monica has found that unhealthy relationship can upend one’s professional life while people with money problems tend to settle. “They may settle for broken relationships if they have money problems or can’t support themselves,” she says. It’s for this reason that Monica has begun building career and financial curriculum into her practice, as she wants women to “kill it at love, work and money”.
Similarly, Nicole believes that poor self-advocacy in money can be felt in the bedroom. “An unhealthy relationship with money can certainly lead to difficult relationship with sex. Difficulty asking for a raise, for example, can lead to financial stress, and this stress may restrict a woman’s ability to stay present and feel sexual pleasure,” she says. “Sex is a physical and a psychological act, and if stuck in thoughts, it can be difficult to feel the physical pleasure or experience physical and emotional intimacy.”
To establish a better relationship with both money and sex, both Monica and Nicole recommend seeking out the help or support of others. “A coach or therapist can move you at a rate that you cannot achieve on your own. It’s impossible to see the picture when you’re in the frame, so you hire others to show you the way,” Monica advises. She also says that lifelong learning is key. “The public library is a tremendous resource! Read, listen to podcasts, attend conferences and make it a priority to expand your brain as much as possible.”
Nicole recommends talking to other women who can provide normalization, advice, and encouragement. “Assertiveness training can be helpful — examining some old and untrue messages about how women are supposed to be, while practicing asking for what you need,” she says. Lastly, she believes that mindfulness can help women reconnect with their mind and body, get more in touch with their needs, and feel the pleasure of receiving, both sexually and financially.
Over time, seeing a psychotherapist has helped me get over fear and learn to be more mindful and assertive in all kinds of situations. I no longer allow fear-based thinking or anxiety to rule my life, and instead hold myself accountable for speaking my needs and knowing my worth when it comes to work, money and relationships.
Sara R. Radin is a writer and journalist based in Brooklyn, New York. Her writing has been published by outlets such as The New York Times, Buzzfeed, and Vice.