More communication and trust around money means greater intimacy; here are six tips to show you how
Couples who practice good communication around money report greater satisfaction and intimacy in their relationships, according to surveys we’ve conducted with our readers. Conversely, a study at Kansas State University found that it takes couples longer to recover from fights over money than from any other kind of argument.
Is it any surprise that disagreements over money are a leading cause of marital and relationship troubles? How we spend and save money gets to the heart of our values. Yet too many couples treat discussions about finances as a minefield to be avoided. They neglect to take the time to hash out issues around money and finances that can potentially ruin their relationships.
For Valentine’s Day, here are six practical and easy ways to establish good communication with your partner. Following these tips will help you avoid money arguments and build more joy, trust, and mutual satisfaction in your relationship:
1. Recognize that money is an emotional issue – For many men who are wired to be providers, money brings up issues of self-worth, so they take financial conflict to heart. For many women, money represents security, so problems or disputes can bring anxiety and even fear about survival.
Tip: Choose a time when you're both relaxed and not rushed to start talking about money issues.
2. Talk, talk, and talk some more about your finances together – As with most issues in a relationship, good communication is vital.
Tip: Set goals together, and track your progress as you work through the following steps.
3. Agree on how to divide your money – If you’ve been together for years and have stumbled along without a clear understanding and agreement in this area, it’s never too late to start.
Tip: Start now. Common topics to cover include individual discretionary spending, household expenses, retirement savings, and extended family responsibilities.
4. Avoid taking on too much debt – Couples who live within their means tend to be the happiest, while those with too much debt tend to fight more often and be more stressed about their finances.
Tip: Instead of constantly talking about the burden of your debt, talk to each other about your financial goals — where you’d really like to be, and how you’ll get there. Rather than letting debt issues drive you apart, facing your debt as a team can actually strengthen your relationship.
5. Never engage in financial infidelity – Financial cheating can be devastating in a relationship. One study found that a full one-third of couples with combined finances had not been completely honest about financial issues.
Tip: If you haven’t been fully honest regarding finances, now is the time to clean it up! Begin the conversation with something like this: “I know that neither of us is perfect when it comes to money. Our relationship is important to me, so I want to make sure we have a foundation of honesty about our finances.” No matter what comes up, stay calm, avoid judgment, and focus on positive solutions going forward.
6. Understand and acknowledge your different spending habits – People may tend to look for a spouse who looks, sounds, and acts as they do — except when it comes to money. It turns out that penny-pinchers tend to marry reckless spenders, and as a result, they report unhappier marriages than couples who have similar spending habits.
Tip: Seek to understand rather than correct each other. If something in your partner's attitude bothers you, tell him or her how you feel and why. See if you can find compromise, but don’t try to “fix” your partner.
Talking about money with your partner may be uncomfortable at first. But the rewards of clear, honest financial communication are great. To keep your relationships healthy, it’s critical to discuss these differences and come up with compromises that work for both of you.
Want to learn how your relationship stacks up when it comes to financial intimacy?
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Financial security expert Pamela Yellen is author of the New York Times best-selling book, THE BANK ON YOURSELF REVOLUTION: Fire Your Banker, Bypass Wall Street, and Take Control of Your Own Financial Future. Pamela investigated more than 450 financial strategies seeking an alternative to the risk [...]