Personal Finances for Couples
“Money is either the best or the worst area of communication in our marriages” – Larry Burkett
When it comes to relationships there are many things that can cause tension. Different backgrounds, experiences and values all combine to influence the way we approach life. They also combine to influence the way we approach money. Differences in attitudes can create conflict when two people combine their lives. Different attitudes towards money can cause a huge amount of tension when two people combine their finances.
Related article: Newlyweds need to talk about money
Often the conflict grows simply because we avoid talking about money or because the subject creates tension that leads to arguments and blame throwing. The truth though, is that building financial stability in finances for couples creates a solid foundation that reduces stress and allows you to weather many storms but if you and your significant other are on different pages when it comes to money, where do you start?
Open and Honest
Honesty is at the heart of any relationship and this is especially true when it comes to money. The trouble is that money is often a source of embarrassment and confusion and if our financial circumstances are less than ideal we may have a hard time sharing the truth about our situation. This is especially true if your partner is in a better financial situation when a fear of being judged or a feeling of inadequacy might make you hesitant to share the exact details of your own financial situation. However, the upside is that if you’re in a relationship with someone who’s good with money then you have the perfect person to help you get on track and stay there. Don’t be afraid to share the truth; the long term stress of trying to deal with a hidden challenge is far greater than the short term pain of getting everything out into the open.
Talk It Out
Allowing money to become the elephant in the room is a surefire way to create stress and tension in a relationship. Ignorance might be bliss but the stomach-sinking awareness that tends to accompany financial instability will cast a shadow over every aspect of your relationship. Make finances for couples an open discussion within your relationship, make sure both partners know how much money is flowing in and out each month, be clear on your financial goals and whether you’re on track to achieve them. It doesn’t matter whether you have a joint account or individual accounts, whether you both handle the money or if one person is responsible for it; what matters is awareness and open conversation. Find a money management solution that works for you and keep each other accountable through talking about finances and being excited about your goals and the progress you’re making towards achieving them.
Whether we’re in a positive or a negative financial situation, the reality is that there are factors at play in getting us there that run far deeper than just an inability to manage money. If you feel as though you’re “no good with money” then chances are that feeling is one that was introduced to you at an early age and was reinforced as you grew into adulthood.
The psychology of money is a powerful influence on how we perceive wealth, wealthy people and how we manage our finances but the more we learn about what is holding us back from achieving financial success the more chance we have to change our bad habits and create better ones. On the flip side of that, denial and blame make a powerful cocktail for keeping us chained in the comfortable discomfort of financial instability; it’s far easier to ignore and excuse the habits that got us into trouble than it is to acknowledge them, take ownership of them and commit to changing them.
Take the time with your partner to understand the factors that are stopping you from achieving financial success and to make a plan for change. Having someone to support you will dramatically increase your chances of success and will also reduce the chances that if you go off track you’ll get sucked into playing the blame game, which is a destructive rather than a constructive place to be. If you can do it well, managing your money as a team is a powerful way of achieving financial success and creating a solid relationship. As with so many other things in life, if you can cater to your strengths and develop strategies to counter your weaknesses you can achieve whatever you set your mind to.
As a couple working towards a common goal, you dramatically increase your chances of success if you can make money an everyday (non-stressful) topic of conversation, if you don’t let each other off the hook for bad financial habits and if you commit to holding each other accountable for achieving your financial goals. Is money a positive or negative force in your relationship?
What strategies have you developed and what lessons have you done in planning your finances for couples? I’d love to hear your experiences.