Typically, the personal and lifestyle advantages of great affluence are conspicuously evident. What often flies beneath the radar is how uber-wealth may negatively impact relationship prosperity.
The unintended consequences of great wealth often distract individuals, couples and families from the deeper and more authentic gratification derived from emotional, verbal, and physical intimacy. This runs the gamut from the profound sharing of one’s deeper feelings that enable relationships to thrive, as well as enjoying romantic and sexual intimacy.
What informs my claim? Insights gleaned from working with a great many very high net worth families. Here’s what I often find.
Wealth affords enormous homes. The larger the home, the greater the distance between the family members. Everyone certainly has their own bedroom, if not their own wing. Unlike yesteryear, when the family convened in the family room to watch television together– in my youth it was called the TV room–it’s more likely now that everyone is in their own room attached to their own devices. When houses range up to and beyond 10,000 square feet, you might no longer call out to each other, but resort to intercoms.
This great distancing, made even worse by our addiction to the cell phone, can desecrate familiarity, the essence of intimate familial bonding. Physical distancing often results in emotional distancing.
The unscripted adventures of two children sharing a bedroom often leads to a bond of incalculable value. With wealth, and even with middle income families this opportunity vanishes with each child having their own room. Privacy often precludes bonding. This prompts the question as to which room must the parent visit first for the proverbial tucking in or bedtime story?
As well, it can be an all-consuming, full-time job trying to assure the very best education for your children. With wealth, expectations for your children’s achievement may increase proportionally, and sadly, most parents struggle to maintain balance. Your aspirations and goals, although sensible at first, may remove you from being truly present in the moment. As John Lennon sang, paraphrasing writer Alan Sanders, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
Let’s turn our attention to the couple. As with most marriages, what begins initially as a romantic connection tends to devolve into a utilitarian, pragmatic relationship. We turn our attention to life’s demands, as we must. But wealth can exacerbate this loss of passion. Attention is likely no longer on just one home and decorating it, but the enormous endeavor of purchasing, decorating, landscaping, and staffing multiple homes. Another reward for financial abundance is travel, as it should be. But be wary of how much time is spent in the planning of these getaways. The strategizing and planning around financial matters can often take center stage, also ignoring the heart of the relationship.
Excessively busy and demanding lives tend to go hand in hand with affluence, often distracting from the core relationship. As a psychotherapist and marriage counselor I’ve often seen how the gift of wealth may unsuspectingly lead to such great distraction that neither person is tending to the energy of the relationship. Just as you must stoke the logs in the fireplace to keep the fire going, when emotional and sexual intimacy become an afterthought, the flame of the relationship withers.
Emotional intimacy is the bedrock of thriving relationships. Wealth doesn’t bring happiness, resilient relationships do. The goal is to see wealth as the icing on the cake, but not the cake itself. I counsel my clients to navigate a balance from which their relationship remains their priority, lest they get swept away in the torrent of wealth-distracting matters. Attaining great wealth is a gift, but it can become a Trojan horse when we lose sight of what brought the couple together and how to secure the immense rewards of wonderful coupling and familial bonds.
Let me know what you think! Be sure to leave a comment!
Subscribe to The Possibility Podcast with Mel Schwartz
Don’t miss a single Possibility Podcast with Mel Schwartz! Subscribe for free in iTunes / Apple Podcasts, YouTube, Spotify, RadioPublic, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Or, simply copy / paste the RSS link directly into the podcast app of your choice!
Please Rate and Review
If you enjoy The Possibility Podcast with Mel Schwartz, please take a moment to rate and review the show in iTunes / Apple Podcasts or Podchaser. It only takes a few minutes, and adding your review is as easy as clicking this link.
Your rating and review helps raise the visibility of The Possibility Podcast with Mel Schwartz, especially on iTunes / Apple Podcasts, which is one of the biggest podcasting platforms today. More visibility for the show means more listeners… and that growth means the show reaches — and helps — more people like you.
Talk With Mel!
Help others when Mel helps you: Contact Mel and find out how you can be a caller on the show and ask Mel a question. He’ll put the Possibility Principle to work for you, and your conversation will be recorded for use in a future episode of the podcast so other listeners can benefit.
Transcript of The Possibility Podcast with Mel Schwartz #121
Hello everybody and welcome to the Possibility Podcast. I’m your host Mel Schwartz. I practice psychotherapy, marriage counseling, and I am the author of the book The Possibility Principle, the companion to this podcast. I hope to be your thought provocateur and I’ll be introducing you to new ways of thinking and a new game plan for life.
In my practice, I have the opportunity to work with any number of uber wealthy individuals and families and it’s occurred to me that wealth for all of its benefits can have a negative impact on relationships, familiar relationships, intimate relationships between couples. It’s something beneath the surface that’s not typically seen. Now, many of the principles and challenges I’m going to talk about apply to many upwardly mobile families, not only the uber wealthy. So listen in.
Uber wealthy families obviously enjoy all the benefits, lifestyle, material, travel, all the benefits that derive from their financial prosperity. They either inherited their wealth or they worked hard to achieve it. And typically the personal lifestyle advantages of great affluence are conspicuously evident. But what often lies beneath the radar is how wealth can negatively impact relationship prosperity. In other words, financial prosperity does not equal relationship prosperity. And at times there’s an inverse correlation.
These unintended consequences of great wealth often distract individuals, couples, and families from the deeper and more authentic gratification that’s derived by intimacy. Now by intimacy, I’m referring to emotional, verbal, physical intimacy. This runs the continuum from the profound sharing of your deeper feelings in healthy and beneficial ways, emotional intelligence, which we can all use some greater increase in and this enables relationships to thrive and to enjoy romantic and sexual intimacy is just as important or nearly as important.
So how do I come to this belief? Well I’ve gleaned these insights from working with significant numbers of very high net worth families. Here’s what I often find, wealth can afford large homes, enormously large homes.
The larger the home, the greater the distance between the family members. These houses can be 10,000 square feet and more. Everyone certainly has their own bedroom if not their own wing. Now this applies to people who are not particularly wealthy as well, just simply well off. You know, when I was a kid, the family convened in the family room if there were one to watch TV together. Frankly, in my childhood, we called it the TV room. It was a small den off the kitchen. Now it’s more likely that everyone is in their own room attached to their own devices. With these mega sized houses, you may no longer actually call out to one another but resort to the intercom system.
This great distancing, made worse by our addiction to cell phones, it can desecrate familiarity, the essence of family bonding. Physical distancing often results in emotional distancing. It doesn’t have to, but there is a correlation.
You know, when I was a kid, I shared a bedroom with my brother, even though there was a spare bedroom which we called the guest bedroom. The unscripted adventures of two children sharing a bedroom often leads to an incalculable bond and adventure. Well, very often, wealth denies this opportunity as it ensures that everyone has their privacy. But which room does the parent visit first for that proverbial bedtime tucking in or story? And that compartmentalizing, that divide and conquer has its consequences.
Now let’s look at education. You don’t need to be uber wealthy to want the best education for your children and navigating the path to get them into the very best colleges. This is an all consuming full time job unto itself. And it doesn’t necessarily have a correlate to how much wealth you have. However, with great wealth, your expectations for your children’s achievement may increase proportionally and sadly, you lose balance. Frankly, the overwhelming epidemic of anxiety amongst school aged children is due to the pressure that they feel about this level of achievement. But I’m not going to go off onto that tangent now. If you’re interested in that subject, I did an episode called Unintended Child Abuse. Listen into that.
So getting back to education, the aspirations and goals of the uber wealthy, although sensible at first, may remove them from being truly present in the moment. You know, as John Lennon sang, life is what’s happening while you’re busy making other plans. Wow. Just think about that. Everything becomes future oriented and we’re not present.
Now let’s turn our attention to the couple. As with most marriages, what begins initially as a romantic engagement tends to devolve into a utilitarian, pragmatic approach to the relationship. There are many, many reasons why romance withers. I’ve spoken about that in other episodes. The need to maintain a level of uncertainty, how predictability becomes the death knell of relationship. But with uber wealthy people, this may even be more the case. We all turn our attention to life’s demands as we have to, but wealth again can exacerbate this loss of passion and connection. You see, attention may no longer be just on one home and decorating it, but the enormous task of purchasing, decorating, landscaping and staffing multiple homes. Another reward for financial abundance is travel, as it ought to be. But be wary of how much time is spent in the planning of these getaways. Maybe the getaway is organized through a travel agent, your own personal travel agent, but it still requires time and attention, another distraction. This strategizing and planning around financial matters can take center stage and that is a job unto itself.
What happened to the heart of the relationship? It dissipates. Excessively busy and demanding lives tend to go hand in hand with great affluence. This distances the couple from the core relationship. As a psychotherapist and a marriage counselor, I’ve come to see how the gift of wealth may unsuspectingly set up kind of an attention deficit. You know, you need to stoke the energy of a relationship just like you have to tend to the fire in the fireplace to keep it going. But when emotional and sexual intimacy becomes an afterthought, the relationship begins to dry up and wither.
Emotional intimacy is the bedrock of relationships. Wealth doesn’t bring happiness. Resilient relationships bring happiness. We need to see wealth as the icing on the cake, but not the cake itself. I counsel my clients to navigate a balance, a balance from which their relationships with one another remain their priority so they don’t get swept away in the torrent of all these wealth-distracting matters. Attaining great wealth is a gift. Attaining moderate wealth is a gift. But this gift can become a Trojan horse when we lose sight of what brought the couple together initially and expanded into the family. And how to secure these immense rewards of wonderful coupling and family bonds, this is the key. Wealth needs to be seen as a wonderful addition to the prosperity of emotionally healthy and thriving relationships.
In conclusion and in summation, many of the things I talked about are pertinent without great wealth. But there are even more of the case with wealth. Don’t allow wealth to drive your focus and your attention. Simply use it as a supplement, a wonderful supplement, which enhances an already wonderful life.
Well, until next time, be well, embrace your uncertainty, and I’ll speak with you again in a week. Bye for now.
I hope you enjoyed this episode of the Possibility Podcast. I welcome your feedback on this and any episode. Please send me an email at Mel at MelSchwartz.com or leave a comment in the show notes for this episode at MelSchwartz.com. If you like what you’re hearing, please take a moment to rate and review the show at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts. Your reviews really help boost the visibility for the show. And it’s a great way for you to show your support. Finally, please make sure to subscribe to the Possibility Podcast wherever you listen to podcasts. And that way you’ll never miss an episode. Thanks again. And please remember to always welcome uncertainty into your life and embrace new possibilities.