Navigating money dynamics in a relationship
Money. It creates a power dynamic in relationships. And it's not necessarily a balance of power. In fact, it is sometimes a flat out misdirected use of power. And it stinks.
Recently, I was reacquainted with a gentleman ranking high in the financial realm who purchased one of my bridge paintings. A repeat customer, he had commissioned me several years ago to create a large scale oil of one of my bridges. I was happy to see him again at one of my art receptions, as he seemed to be considering adding more of my pieces to his collection. I watched him as he stood admiring one of my recent works for a long span of time.
He was willing to buy it.
But there was a snag.
He had to ask his wife first.
I looked at my message from him revealing this rather annoying detail. My eyes read, "I have to ask my wife," but my mind saw, "Mommy, mommy, can I have this painting?"
What? I mean, WTF? Here is a highly paid executive with a budget that exceeds all forms of controlled practicality hesitating with a bit of a quiver on whether or not to purchase a painting that cost-wise for his financial means is on par with purchasing a small melon at a grocery store.
But – and, I mean no disrespect by this, as I do understand each couple has to create and honor their own playbooks, and I do realize the value of honoring budgets – but when is it crossing the line with personal choice boundaries inside a relationship to just not be able to freely purchase something on a whim and without any guilt or shame that the other spouse or partner will disapprove? This is especially true, in my opinion, if one spouse earns a significant income and/or both people earn solid incomes. Where is the line here?
It is a classic dance of power and control with money serving as the catalyst. Money is a tool that has been created for trade – it is a tool and an illusion – it creates further separation, a false sense of power, and widens the power gap between those who have more of this "tool" and those who have less.
This gentleman is a grown man with the dough to spend. But he can't. He is in his own unique arrangement and power dance dynamic with his wife – be it agreed or merely an unintentional consequence of years of relationship dos and do nots with his significant other.
Bring back the freedom to choose
People get to choose. Couples should get to choose. I know another man who enjoys Western art, and his wife likes artists like Michael Parkes and Steve Hanks. I love the work of these artists too. Their works are exceptional. Michael Parkes is an American born artist living in Spain who is best known for his fantasy art and renderings of magic realism. Steve Hanks is one of the best watercolorists of our day. The details, color, and realism of Steve Hanks' work is unheard of in this difficult and highly skilled medium. Imagine a softly worn patterned quilt, the play of light on the thin veil of surf on sand, or the delicate expression of a child. Steve Hanks captures these patterns of life better than anyone. Why couldn't this couple be free to choose either or both painting styles and purchase them on a whim to grace their home? Why must each purchase of a spontaneous nature be weighed, discussed, argued over, and most likely rejected in order to find peace in a losing discussion with power and control as the underpinning foundation. How much resentment is born from this dance? How much creativity is stifled?
Mutuality with couples allows freedom
I know another couple that I met years ago. This pair is so dear to me. I have tremendous respect for them. They are supportive, live with open hearts, and are so kind and compassionate toward each other and everyone around them. He had commissioned me to create of portrait of his wife for Christmas. A year later, she commissioned me to create a portrait of him for his birthday. How romantic is that? They weren't squabbling over the cost. They weren’t weighing up the pros and cons of spending spontaneously. They felt the desire and the passion to act on a whim – on art purely for the sake of creating joy for each other --without letting money or lack of money dictate the way. What a win for both of them. What a passionate and loving way to create even more connection with each other. In this case, money was a non-issue. It was about the freedom to choose and act on that choice without power dynamics, and the result was more love, mutuality, and respect – things that underpin the foundation of some of the most successful of relationships.
And the survey says…
After some research reviewing a few online resources on this issue, I learned a few interesting bits about artful subjects and/or genres that couples either find it easier to agree on purchasing or find more difficult. Some of the surveys concluded that landscapes are a more neutral ground for couples to find agreement with when it comes to a major art purchase. Abstracts also are more easily agreed upon. Impressionistic paintings, nudes, and wildlife can create some decision friction. Have you experienced any art friction decisions with anyone you know? Please share in the comments below. I would love to learn more opinions on this matter.
I've noticed a pattern in interior design home magazines showcasing office, various styles, and trends inside homes. It seems in every type of home, including modern, contemporary, old fashioned, or mid-century modern styles that landscapes appear to win the day when it comes to easily agreed upon art for display. Landscapes seem to compliment and add contrasting impact on walls and furniture.
While landscapes are indeed beautiful and wonderful, what would happen if we just went for it and spiced up our walls with that lusty, crazy piece of art that one might want to purchase but doesn't because it could be met with some "friction" at home.
Christopher B Mooney
REALLY: My Blog.