Psychological Money Sense

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Quid Pro Quo

In Latin, Quid Pro Quo means, “something for something.”  You scratch my back; I scratch yours.  Tit for tat.  It’s how the world runs.

Or is it?

In the business world, this often works.  Social psychology calls it “reciprocity.”  In relationships, well, this is where it gets fuzzy.  Relationships require sacrifice regularly; they require that you stick around, presuming it’s reasonable to do so.  In business, if someone doesn’t offer you a good deal, you can move on.  If you keep doing this with relationships, you will bankrupt your heart and anyone close to you quicker than ever thought possible.  Relationships involve the molding and holding of hearts.  Business involves the flow of money.

I have no beef against business and am personally very entrepreneurial.  However, I want to call to the table that many principles that work for business DON’T in relationships, which is partly why someone can be extraordinarily successful in the business world but trade in relationships as often as changing underwear.  The concept of reciprocity is fascinating, and I regularly utilize it in respectful ways when I consider how to build my practice, such as when I “add value” to interactions with businessmen and women by offering helpful counseling materials.  This, in turn, increases my odds of getting a favorable response.  Nothing wrong with it.  I attempt to not do it ONLY for this reason.  However, when I expect a certain response- demand it, even- I am not respecting a person’s freedom, uniqueness, or spontaneity.  And this is precisely the problem when quid pro quo is present in relationships.

Everyone from Hendrix to Gottman to Eggerichs (see references below) point out the necessity of proactive initiative in love- an active, intentional doing what’s best for another, choosing love over “balancing the budget.”  In fact, the eminent researcher John Gottman states the myth of quid pro quo in The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work (2002): “But it’s really the unhappy marriage where this quid pro quo operates, where each feels the need to keep a running tally of who has done what for whom” (p. 15).

Isn’t this the definition of selfishness?  And it tears relationships apart.  I don’t know of anyone who says, “Yes, being completely selfish is good; I want to live by the principles of selfishness and teach my kids to do the same.”  No one really debates this.  How quickly this happens, though!  My role as counselor isn’t to point a finger; it’s to help uncover what’s holding clients back.  Consider how you might be “losing while winning,” holding grudges, keeping a record of wrongs.  These things are the opposite of contentment- and love.

Don’t wait for a person to do good to you.  That’s the whole importance of the Golden Rule and the Greatest Commandment.  If you wait around for the other person to “play by the rules” in loving you, prepare to be unsatisfied.  There will come a time (in EVERY relationship) when loving another becomes hard- when the brain-chemical high of newness wears off, when the attractiveness of another becomes the norm, when that little quirk that you thought was wonderful turns out to annoy the heck out of you.  If it’s left up to reciprocity, we’re screwed.

Disclaimer: I want to be very clear.  I am NOT suggesting anyone becomes a “doormat,” pushover, or passive.  I am not saying that you do not focus at all on yourself.  (Consider how eating food may be the most self-focused thing we do, but it is clear that if we don’t care for ourselves in that way, there might be a problem!  Self-care is important.)  Hopefully the heart of what I am passing on is clear: If a relationship fundamentally relies on quid pro quo, it will prove an unhappy ending.  Find out how to love others despite what they bring to the table, and reap the overflowing results.  If one person brings a feast to the table, not having the other person bring a feast doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yours.

References (the first two describe reciprocity):
Influence by Robert Cialdini
Business Networking that Works: It’s Called Quid Pro Quo by Forbes
Love and Respect by Emerson Eggerichs
Getting the Love You Want by Harville Hendrix
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work by John Gottman

Money Psychology


The holiday season is coming to a close.  2014 is upon us.  If you are like most Americans, you have spent a fair amount of money in the past month.  Whether consciously or not, you have made a substantial number of financial decisions.

How much did you drive?  What did you spend on food?  What led to the purchasing decisions you made?  What brought about changes or continuity in how you spent money?  How are you planning to spend or save in the next week?  What are your goals for next year?

These are all money questions.  Whether we like it or not, it is integral to daily life.  Even right now, as I type, I am using electricity, wearing down the life of my computer, using time, and re-educating myself on decision-making.  This all affects money.  And money affects it all.

Money is neutral.  Good or evil can come from it.  It is a great tool to reveal what is important to us, and it will quickly reveal the true investments of our hearts- what matters to us.  So when I work with couples and individuals dealing with relationship problems, it’s no wonder that this is a regular dispute zone.

In The 5 Money Personalities, authors Scott and Bethany Palmer present 5 personal styles to handling money.  We each have styles, just like we have personalities- equal, yet different.   There are strengths and weaknesses in each style.  How a person comes to the table- their beliefs and attitudes- considerably impacts their actions and emotions.

First of all, the Spender gets a genuine rush from spending- big or small.  This type of person lives and breathes in the moment- seeking to make life enjoyable now and create memories.  Spenders love to buy for others and get much happiness from helping others and giving gifts.  However, impulsive decisions, a tendency not to communicate about money, regret, and sticking to a budget are some unhelpful results that can ensue.

For the Risk Taker, risk brings a thrill, a challenge, a joy.  They will think about the big picture.  Entrepreneurial possibilities are their life-blood.  The hunt invigorates- and this person moves quick.  Instead of looking at the data and following a standard path of conventional wisdom, their gut is often consulted.  Conversely, vulnerability to loss, ignoring reality, impatience, and a lack of empathy are some of the risks that can follow.

The Security Seeker is a researcher.  Just like the motto of the Scouts, they live by Be Prepared.  Future focus allows them to be willing to give up on immediate gratification for long-term gain.  Faithfulness with resources is an almost inevitable outcome.  The down side is the tendency to be negative along with having anxiety, possibly becoming a killjoy, getting stuck in analysis, and lacking in creativity.

The Flyer may seem out of place in a discussion on money- they hardly think about it.  This person is not consumed or obsessed with money.  They are content, centered on relationships, and usually not motivated by dollars and change.  The flyer may not pay enough attention to money, make decisions based on emotion, lack money skills, or lack in responsibility and initiative.

Finally, the last money personality the Palmer’s introduce is the Saver.  They love to, well, save.  Getting something for less is exhilarating to them.  Organization and stability are this person’s namesake, avoiding debt and calculating buying decisions.  On the contrary, financial goals can lead this personality to lose sight of the present, form anxieties around plans, goals, and saving (which can be not-so-fun), and they may also be just plain cheap.

Exciting, huh?!  This knowledge can certainly help understand the motivations and drive behind money decisions.  Many people, though, are like John and Kate, who approach money in very different ways.  When everyday decisions arise, they quickly get into conflict because they assume the other person is ignoring their needs and not being helpful.  The more a person is “vilified” for their style, the more they will shut down.  You (and those around you) will benefit if you learn to appreciate the person and personality without treating them like a villain.

Here is the thing: changing behavior- not just observing it- is the challenging task.  You will be successful in your relationships if you can really listen, show understanding and respect, and give generously.  Let money be your servant, not your master.  And when you handle money this way, will you ever look back and regret it?

Yours truly,

Justin K. Hughes