One of the biggest areas of conflict in relationships revolves around money.
Tough conversations can inevitably arise, as money is an unavoidable topic. When discussing financial topics like budgets, school tuition, house buying or car loans, spouses need to be able to make logical decisions while managing heightened emotions.
I often recommend that couples identify with and understand their own views about money FIRST before trying to find compromise.
Do you know your own money “mindset?” For instance, are you a spender or a saver? Money motivates us differently and starts from within. Spend some time reflecting on the following questions in order to get a better understanding of how you view money.
- What did your parents teach you about money growing up?
- Was there a shortage of money/funds available to you as a child?
- How did your parents discuss finances with each other? Were you involved in the conversation?
- What does the term “budget” mean to you?
- What areas of your life do you like to indulge? Clothes? Investments? Technology? Travel?
- What areas are complete wastes of money for you?
- What is the first feeling that comes to mind when your spouse brings up the topic of money?
Honesty Is The Best Policy
Money can be a vulnerable- and often time’s even shameful- topic to discuss. How we handle money (our debts, savings and spending habits) can be too embarrassing to even admit to ourselves.
It’s important to be open and honest, however- even if it’s hard. When you hold back or minimize financial circumstances from your spouse, they lose trust in your ability to make good decisions for the sake of the marriage. You become a dishonest and unreliable partner. How disappointing for the person who you’ve committed to doing life with together.
When discussing finances, be transparent. Share your debts, temptations, weaknesses and desires with your partner. Holding one another accountable is important and creates trust in the marriage.
Less Emotion Is Best
Because money is directly tied to our sense of safety and security, how we discuss finances with our loved ones can be a source of heightened emotion. Being able to identify and discuss the triggers that may arise during money conversations is helpful because you’re pinpointing the feelings of unease in the moment and are able to understand where they originate and how they manifest. Discussing the triggers calmly with your spouse allows them to see your true perspective instead of just the anger that may bubble to the surface. Understanding one another’s perspectives about money allows for better problem solving and the opportunity to find common ground.
Take Equal Ownership In Decision-Making
It doesn’t feel fair or balanced when one person is the sole responsible partner when it comes to money. Input from both sides is essential to feeling like equals. Go over the budget together weekly and coming to an agreement on savings, vacation planning, big personal spending caps and emergency funds is critical to feeling like equal partners.
Have Your Own Money Source Too
Financial independence is not just for non-married individuals; it’s just as critical in relationships. We need to feel a sense of autonomy from our significant others. Even if one person is the sole provider, open a separate account and agree to a stipend amount that you don’t have to run by one another. This isn’t secretive- it gives you both a sense of freedom. How else would you be able to feel guilt-free about an occasional splurge (within reason) or gift to spoil your sweetie with?
Create Shared Money Goals
Is it important for you both to send your kids to college debt-free? How do you want to save for your nest egg? These long-term money goals are important to see eye to eye on and start planning for. In addition, short-term money goals are also important to agree to and strive for. How can you save for that new couch you’ve been wanting for the family room? What family trips can you budget for the following year? How many date nights do you need to keep the romance alive and be spontaneous?
Understand Money Does Not Buy Happiness
Lacking money does not breed discontent, relationship problems do. People without a lot of money can often times be happier and more fulfilled than those who have a wealth of money. There are many rich folks who are tragically sad, unfulfilled and lonely. Understand that money does not buy love, health or happiness. Be a team when it comes to managing money, and you will see your relationship flourish.
Money and finances is a sensitive topic, but it doesn’t have to create discord in your marriage. Being honest about your personal money beliefs, concerns and desires is an important step in building trust in your marriage. Betrayal happens on many levels and withholding financial information from your partner can be a significant breech of trust in the relationship. If your marriage has struggled over the topic of finances, seek professional help from a couples therapist to help you communicate better.