Talking About Money In Your Relationship
Make a (money) date with the one you love
Everyone brings some baggage to a relationship. But while we’re mostly comfortable with discussing our emotional baggage (past romances, troubled families etc), there’s one issue that is a massive divorce indicator yet rarely discussed between partners: money.
The issue could be something as glaringly obvious as one partner having a massive student debt, or owing a lot on credit cards. It could be alimony payments from a previous marriage. But it could also be something more subtle, such as the financial culture one partner grew up in differing from their mate’s.
A study from Utah State University concluded that if a couple argues about money more than once a week, they are 30% more likely to split up. And a 2017 research paper from LearnVest found that 20% of Americans never have serious conversations about finances with their partner, yet 68% say money is a major source of conflict in their relationship.
Why are we so loathe to discuss money with the one we love? And how can we fix that?
Money is taboo because it exposes our weaknesses. If you’re not getting on top of an old debt; if you’re addicted to buying shoes; if you don’t really know how much is going in and out each month; you can feel like you’re not adulting very well. And we want our romantic partner to admire us and think we’ve got this life business locked down, right?
There can be deeper psychological issues too, especially for women, about worth and responsibility. Perhaps we are used to being treated like children - paid for and told not to worry our pretty little heads about mortgages - because that was the paternalistic culture we grew up in? And when it comes to valuing ourselves, every woman knows that it’s harder than it should be to stand up and say (to your boss, to your partner, or to yourself) that you’re worth big bucks.
If all this sounds a bit depressing, fear not. There are some simple hacks that can set you on the road to open and frank money-chat with your significant other.
Try to make these a habit:
- Schedule a regular money-meeting
Find a time and place where you can be undisturbed for an hour – perhaps a neutral space like a local café – and sit down together to “do the books”. This is a time for you to raise concerns about the other person’s handling of debt or spending, instead of blowing up about it in the heat of the moment. You can also brainstorm future financial plans involving pensions, property or life insurance. These are things you’d never choose to bring up over dinner after a hard day at work – and nor should you, because you’d probably be speaking from a place of stress. But at a specific, designated time it’s easier to discuss these matters calmly.
- Create a budget
Yes, we’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, but setting a budget really does take the stress out of personal finance. And if you’re doing it as a couple, you’ll be sharing the load. So get real about what goes in and out of your accounts each month and treat it as a joint mission - you against the world of debt! – that you can tackle as a team. You’ll enjoy the rewards more too, if you reap them as a pair.
- Ask questions - and really listen to the answers
If you’re annoyed or perplexed by your partner’s spending habits, don’t attack them. Try to understand where they’re coming from. Ask them how money was talked about in their family growing up. Find out what their hopes are regarding property, retirement and their career. We all think we know our partner backwards but don’t forget, we’re all evolving, and things might have changed since you first got together and shared your hopes and dreams as breathless young romantics!
The over-arching principle here is: you’re in this together. You love each other, right? So you needn’t feel ashamed or apportion blame every time you go overdrawn. Keep the channels of communication open and your finances will be healthier for it. And that will bring those shared life goals - of opening a donkey sanctuary on Mykonos or starting your own fashion label or whatever crazy plan you guys have - closer than ever.