Talking Money in a Relationship
My personal experience and what I've learned
Misunderstandings or fights can occur when couples don't know how to talk about money. My boyfriend and I got into some of the biggest fights of our lives when we were trying to decide how much each of us should give for our monthly groceries, which is embarrassing, but everyone has to start somewhere.
This is my experience and I’ll share with you what I learned.
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Different money values
Money discussions are not just about money. They are about personal values, fears, and wishes about your spending habits. Are you a spender or a saver? What about your partner? What happens when your spending habits are not the same?
People are raised differently, so they think distinctly about money (saving, earning, spending, and investing). These early money beliefs sometimes make it hard to talk about it because there is no right or wrong answer. Personal values are what help you to make your money decisions.
When people argue about money, often it's about different values. For example, one person may value spending money to feel independent. Probably this person doesn't like to stick to a budget because they find it restrictive. On the other hand, the other partner might value the security of saving money. This person is more likely to be savings-focused, stick to a budget, and have a cash reserve. Being conservative serves as peace of mind.
Conflict over money
One downside of having different money values is that money can become a source of disagreement. For instance, one of the common disagreements occurs when couples do not manage money as a team. Couples should be financially ‘on the same page’, which means both are interested in the finances of the relationship. Ideally, both partners have an active role, and both financially contribute to a shared household spending plan so they can work together towards joint financial goals.
Understanding each other's values around money will give you insight into your partner's behavior and can help reduce conflict.
Financial stability = relationship stability
Money issues can be a major source of stress for any couple, and financial instability often contributes to a breakdown of the relationship. Here are three tips that can help you with financial and relationship stability.
1. Have a Communication Plan
Couples often fight over finances rather than having an open discussion about their financial habits, perspectives, insecurities, and goals. It seems like simple enough advice, but talk about money! And talk about money like it’s a business. What I’ve found is casually bringing up the topic at dinner is not a great way to have this conversation. Rather, schedule a time to have a discussion about money, and propose topics to discuss.
2. Change financial language from me to we
Especially once you share a household, there must be a joint effort toward the expenses, including mortgages or rent, utility bills, and so on. There should be a we want attitude, not an I want mindset. This involves not trying to convince your significant other to adopt your financial habits but finding a compromise where you both are comfortable to achieve common financial goals. This takes me to tip #3.
3. Compromise on making joint financial goals
For those who want a family, own a home, be self employed, and retire one day, financial stability is the foundation for a strong financial future. What are the areas in spending you prioritize? Is it enjoying gourmet meals at expensive restaurants or eating what you cook at home? What are your long-term goals? Do you want to buy a house? Do you want your children to go to public or private school? Even if you're years away from having children or decades away from retirement, communicating your priorities and compromising on shared goals is an essential step in financial planning.
Through the years, I've learned that an argument about money with a partner is not something you can actually win. It's too easy to use generalizations like "everybody, always, and never." I had conversations like that, and it's not something I am proud of. But also, these conversations helped me to improve how to talk about money in a relationship.
One last tip is when it comes to money issues, simply saying "tell me more" moves the conversation forward in a healthy way so that the couple can make better financial decisions together.