Did you know that 57% of divorced couples say money was the main cause of their divorce?
Sorry, we don’t mean to scare you. Of course, it’s not money in itself that is causing divorces. It’s power struggles over money, secret spending behind a partner’s back and monetary worries about what you can afford. But it all boils down to conversation. Are you talking money with your partner? If you’re not, you need to be.
Money isn’t something we generally feel comfortable talking about. We don’t go out to brunch with our friends and all pull out our credit score reports or start talking tax filing with our local Starbucks barista. But it is an important conversation to have with your partner, even if the idea of talking money makes you cringe.
So here are 10 tips for discussing banking with your boo before you realize that your definition of a splurge is 2 for 1 chocolate bars at the grocery store and your partner’s definition is a new car.
1. Talk about money early
The best time to talk about money is as soon as possible. It’s surprising how many couples have no problem getting intimate in other areas of their lives but when it comes to money, they want to hold out until the last second. Talk about money with your partner before a problem comes up. That way, you can have a calm and neutral discussion, instead of waiting for a big credit card bill to show up and having a screaming match with one another.
2. Talk about money often
Schedule specific times with your partner when you will talk about money – money dates, if you will. That way, you both know exactly when you’re going to sit down and chat dollars and cents, instead of waiting for someone to bring it up. You can both come to the table prepared and in a good headspace to talk. If you wait until one of you has to bring it up, someone is always going to feel like the bad guy and someone is always going to feel defensive about their spending.
3. Be open
Like most things in successful partnerships, don’t keep secrets! Be honest with your partner about any debt you have, on-going expenses they may not know about and your income. If you come to the table with all of your finances laid out for your partner to see, you’ll be able to start your money talk from a place of honesty. And you’ll be able to continue that trend with any future money decisions – being open and keeping your partner in the loop about any big transactions before they happen.
4. Remember: You have different histories with money
Everyone’s money history is different. You may have grown up in a frugal household where you were never allowed to buy something that wasn’t on sale. Your partner may have grown up without very much money and no idea what discretionary income looks like. You may have had an allowance as a kid. Your partner may have learned to budget from their mom who was an accountant. Everyone has a different history with money. Start to learn about your partner’s history by trading stories about your first money memories, how money was handled in your families and what financial lessons you want to remember vs the ones you want to forget.
5. Remember: There is no one right way to manage money
Repeat after us: there is no one right way to manage your money! There is no perfect universal solution that is going to work for every couple out there. Just because your sister-in-law and her partner have one joint account that they use for everything doesn’t mean this is the right way forward for you and your partner. Be open to alternatives and discovering what style of money management is going to work for you.
6. Make money fun
Many of us have negative feelings when it comes to money. The word “budget” might make you shudder. So do what you can to change that and make your money dates fun. For example, after your weekly money check-in, you and your partner could treat yourselves to cones from your favourite ice cream shop. Or, you could curl up with a movie on Netflix once you’ve gone over your budget for the month. You can keep track of all of your money talk in a pretty coloured notebook or even burn nice smelling candles during your chats. The more you can associate happy things with your conversations about money, the better!
7. Be supportive
As much as we want to make money fun, money can be hard. Some people have very difficult relationships with money, your partner included. Make sure you enter your money dates from a place of compassion. Remember, you’re sitting down with someone you love, not just someone who has debt or someone who is super frugal. Hold hands, hug and give smiles to let your partner know you support them, no matter what money talk they bring to the table.
8. Take breaks
Conversations about money can definitely get heated. If you and your partner have very different money histories, you may find yourself butting heads more often than not as you figure out how to manage your money. Like any other conflict in your relationship, know when to take a timeout. If you find yourself flushed in the face and ready to cut your partner’s credit card in half, put the scissors down and take a break. Cool off and revisit the conversation when you can calmly talk about the root of the problem and how you’ll move forward together.
9. Know when to bring in an expert
Sometimes, money problems are too big for a couple to handle on their own. There is no shame in deciding to call in an expert. In fact, it can only strengthen your finances and your relationship to rely on someone with the knowledge to get you through. For tough financial matters, you may need to meet with a financial advisor. You may also want to attend a seminar on finances or go through a money workbook together. And if you’re looking to get on the same page about money and other important aspects of your life together, consider relationship coaching.
10. End on a good note
At the end of every money date, ensure you and your partner leave things on a good note. You don’t want to build resentment by ending these money talks with one person storming off or breaking down in tears. Even if you don’t agree on everything or if you haven’t solved all of your financial problems, you’ve made progress. The goal with these money talks is progress, not perfection. Celebrate the strides you made and agree to revisit any lingering issues at your next meeting. Then, head out for that ice cream or get your Netflix movie queued up.
written by Riana Ang-Canning
What are your tips for talking money with your partner?