Financial disagreements are a major stressor for romantic relationships. Studies have indicated that a large majority of couples report that money causes tension in their relationship. Other research shows that approximately one-third of couples have even said that financial concerns are their biggest stressor.
Financial disagreements may be inevitable, but they don’t have to be the cause of a ruined relationship. It’s important that both you and your partner learn how to prevent money problems from destroying your connection.
- Don’t underestimate the power of money-oriented communication
Money may be a factor in ending a relationship, but it’s a topic that many people love to avoid. The subject of money, especially in the beginning of a relationship, can be tricky. This isn’t something you need to dive into on your first date, but it’s important to have a real conversation about finances sooner rather than later. Instead of sweeping financial differences under the rug, acknowledge the fact that they exist. Remember that honesty is the best policy – discuss any potential problems that are on the horizon instead of keeping them a secret. The more you discuss your finances, the less stressful the conversation becomes.
- Discover what lies beneath the money
If you and your partner frequently argue about finances, take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Are finances really the problem? Or is it just a cover-up for what lies underneath? For instance, many people with financial disagreements have come to realize they are experiencing a power or commitment struggle. Maybe you’re saving up to buy a new home together, but you’re doing the bulk of the saving while your partner is frivolously spending. Dig deep and discover whether the actual problem stems from money or the fact that you’re worried you may be more emotionally invested in the relationship than they are. Money and finances have different meanings to different people. Explore with your partner what money means to you. Does it mean security? Does it indicate success? Is there shame around your thoughts and beliefs around money? Have an open and honest discussion with your partner about your philosophies about money. Conquer the actual source of money concerns before you tackle finances together.
- Learn to compromise
Most people in a relationship say that they have different spending and saving habits from their partners. Whether it’s due to the way you were raised, your priorities, or your personality, chances are, you handle finances differently than your partner. When it comes to money and relationships, more often than not, you’re both going to need to work together toward compromise in order to find common ground.
- Don’t extend judgment
If you want to open the financial lines of communication with your partner, it’s important to maintain a judgment-free zone. If your partner is having financial difficulties, face the matter honestly but try not to bombard them with, “I can’t believe you would spend THIS much money on THAT,” or “How could you let yourself get into so much debt?” Chances are, they feel enough guilt and shame already, and judgment only adds to those emotions. Instead of berating your partner, set clear goals together and work on a cooperative plan to improve and resolve the financial situation. Be a safe person for your partner to be open and honest about their financial matters.
- Set aside fun money
You and your partner may have a joint bank account, but it’s important to remember that you’re still separate people. You have different needs, interests, goals, enjoyments, etc. Review your accounts and investments, decide on a certain amount of money that you both can spend on yourself each month. This money can be spent on clothes, spa days, cooking classes, golf lessons, camping gear, or whatever you desire. Budgeting this money for mutual or individual enjoyment can act as a release valve on money stress. Just a little discretionary money for each of you, just for enjoyment, can help to keep all the saving and budgeting you do more palatable and less prone to resentment.
Most of all, don’t let financial disagreements get in the way of a happy relationship with your partner. Maintain a strong relationship by acknowledging your financial problems before they grow out of control. Work together and your union will be all the better for it.
Lauren Ross, MA, is a marriage and family therapist associate and professional counseling intern at the Relationship Counseling Center of Austin. She works with couples before and after marriage to help keep communication open and productive. To schedule an appointment with Lauren, contact her at 512-270-4883, ext. 107, or request an appointment with her on the RCC Austin Scheduling Page.