The beginning of relationships is where all the thrill and excitement are. Getting to know each other, candlelit dinners, finding similarities, discovering differences, and learning to accept them all the same. But when the phase of exchanging starry-eyed gazes is over, it’s time to move on to the more serious stuff that comes with being ‘together-together’.
What’s your take on financial intimacy, and how often do you talk about money with your partner?
Why talk about money?
Just a heads up: It can be awkward.
‘How much do you earn?’ ‘How do you manage your finances?’ ‘What are your spending habits?’
Money is a touchy subject, and you don’t just talk about it with someone you’re not totally comfortable with.
In relationships, however, it’s essential to lay it on the table early on to avoid money problems down the road. Not to scare you, but among various reasons for relationship arguments, money is always placed high in the rankings. A 2014 APA Stress in America survey even found that 31% of adults with partners identified ‘money’ as a leading source of conflict in their relationships.
Money can become a stressor due to couples having different attitudes towards it. A few common examples of this are:
- One person earns significantly more than the other and they feel they’re always the one footing the bill.
- One person wants to save for long-term goals (e.g., retirement), while one wants to spend on more immediate pleasures (e.g. vacations).
- One person is thrifty, while the other exercises more liberty in spending – often fueling an issue of what is “worth” spending money on.
Not openly tackling finances might strain the relationship later on, when you both discover your money personalities don’t align.
Discussing money can help new couples get to know each other better and build intimacy. It’s not just about who pays for what, but also about financial goals, financial management, and even individual money histories. By understanding one’s financial perspectives, couples can find a balance to keep the relationship happy and healthy as they move forward.
How to bring up the subject?
The first step to discussing money with your partner is bringing up the subject. It’s important to test the waters before diving into it, so here are a few strategies to get the conversation going:
1. Ask them how they feel about money.
This can be an effective way to gauge their comfort level with the topic. Start small and make sure you ask in a way that’s respectful and does not sound intrusive. Ease into it slowly, and take time to adjust before moving on to more complicated aspects of the matter.
2. Bring up money in the context of a specific situation.
For example, if you’re planning a vacation, you can talk about how to budget for it. This can help you get a sense of your partner’s money management style.
3. Share your money history.
What were your parents’ attitudes towards money? How did they handle finances in their marriage? What was your experience with money in the past? Broaching the subject this way can give your partner some context of your views on money and help establish trust in the relationship.
4. Ask them directly if they want to talk about money.
Couples would typically discuss their expectations on various aspects – sex, marriage, parenting, etc. – why should money be any different? At the end of the day, it’s just another topic you’d need to tackle. Money is ubiquitous, and not talking about it won’t make it go away.
What to further talk about
1. Financial goals.
This includes both short-term and long-term goals. Whether you’re focusing on paying rent, planning vacations, or you’re looking at the bigger picture of saving for a house and paying for retirement, it’s good to be completely open with your significant other. This fosters transparency and enables you to be on the same page and understand each other’s money mindset.
2. Financial decisions in the relationship.
Setting ground rules can help avoid money fights in the relationship. How are you going to handle joint expenses? Who’s paying for what? Are you going to keep separate bank accounts? These are just some factors you’d have to think about and settle. Careful and consensual decision-making implies you’re a team, and you have equal powers when it comes to financial matters in the relationship.
3. Thoughts on loans and debts.
It’s normal for couples to take on debts and credits at some point, but these are potential causes of tension so it’s best to dig deeper into it as early as possible. Take the time to know how your partner feels about debts. There are good and bad debts, and if they inevitably must be involved in your relationship later, it’s better to discuss how you can work together to ensure you’re building wealth using debts instead of risking a possible financial disaster.
4. Spending habits.
Be honest and sincere when baring your spending habits with your partner. Think of it this way: You and your partner look forward to sharing parts of your lives. Wouldn’t you want to know what part of their income your significant other spends on his fondness for golf? Surely, they’re interested in knowing more about your weekly trips to that nearby Gucci store too.
5. Seeking professional help.
If you’re having a hard time communicating about money, there’s no fault in seeking out the help of a financial advisor. A financial planner or therapist would never judge and would do their best to work through any money-related issues you and your partner are having.
Money is a tricky topic for couples, but it doesn’t have to be. By being open and honest about your finances from the get-go, you can set yourselves up for a healthy and happy relationship – both financially and emotionally. Have you talked about money with your partner? What tips would you add to our list?