Thursday, July 19, 2007

Money can't buy you love

Today's reports that Sir Paul McArtney has offered Heather Mills £70 million as a divorce settlement will doubtless spark a flurry of editorial or feature comment on greed and avarice in general and the financial battlegrounds of divorce payoffs in particular.

As a psychologist, I see it differently. Post-divorce fights about money (like all relationship fights about money) are never only about the finances. They're about a whole host of much more emotional issues - power, control, self-esteem, jealousy, revenge, guilt. It is no coincidence that a Relate survey identified money as the top issue in marital conflict. And when marital conlict peaks in divorce, and the currency of love has disappeared, what can ever replace it? The answer is all too often hard cash.

We fight over the money side of a breakup because that is the only power we still have left over our beloved, or because we want to punish them for the end of the relationship. We shrink from fighting over the money side of a breakup because it is the only way we know how to make amends for having stopped loving them, or because we still treasure hopes of their loving us again.

So what I as a psychologist see behind Paul's offer and Heather's counteroffer is not avarice or greed. At bottom, I see the deep pain of two people who thought they were loved and realise that they are not.