You’d be surprised by how many couples never talk about this
Earlier this week, I encouraged you to start exploring your personal relationship with money. (Missed that post? Head over here to find it!)
Today, you’re going to learn how to start talking about money with your partner.
Most of us are taught to not talk about money. Either directly or indirectly, we’re given the message that money is a “taboo” topic.
But then we get into a relationship, and realize that there are actually a lot of financial conversations that need to be had!
Are you going to combine your finances or keep them separate? What if one of you entered the relationship with way more money saved or a much higher income? Are you going to split expenses evenly or not? Are you going to tell each other about all of your purchases? What if a friend or family member asks for a loan? What if your partner spends much more lavishly than you do, or vice versa?
And of course, the current COVID-19 crisis is bringing up its own challenges. Are you both still making the same amount of money? Do you have a financial plan for the crisis? Is one of you making purchases to try to soothe your anxiety, and the other wanting to save every penny?
These are incredibly important issues, but most of us wind up getting stuck, not having any experience with or resources for talking about money with our partner.
And that’s why money becomes one of the top 3 issues that breaks couples up.
We want to help protect your relationship from these money challenges!
We started this month exploring your own relationship with money because this can create a great opportunity to open up a conversation with your partner.
If you start by talking about your individual relationships with money, that will feel much easier and less threatening than starting with talking about how you treat money as a couple.
You can say something like, “I never thought that much about my relationship with money, but I read this email that had some really interesting questions in it. Would you be open to having a conversation with me about it? I’m curious to know more about your relationship with money, and tell you what I’ve realized about mine!”
Pick a specific day and time to have a conversation. Since money can be so challenging for most people, you want to create a little bit of structure.
You can either share the same prompts with your partner beforehand, or choose to go through them together. Here they are again:
- What were you taught to believe about money?
- How did your parents handle money when you were growing up? What direct or indirect messages did you learn from them?
- Did you feel like you could talk about money growing up?
- What are some of your money milestones? Do you have any major money accomplishments or challenges?
- How does it feel to spend money?
- How does it feel to save money?
- What does money mean to you?
- What was your pre-crisis relationship with money? What’s your relationship with money like now?
- What kind of relationship do you want to have with money?
Don’t make any specific plans or decisions. Just focus on sharing your personal histories.
And don’t forget to thank your partner for being willing to share with you!
On a separate occasion, have a conversation about how the two of you handle money as a couple. You can take what you learned from the first conversation, and approach this conversation as a team, trying to figure out how your unique relationships with money can fit together.
Here are some questions to consider asking each other:
- Where are our relationships with money similar, and where are they different?
- What do we need from each other when it comes to money?
- What role do we want money to play in our relationship?
- How can we feel like more of a team in dealing with money?
That teamwork question is an especially important one. In one of our own money conversations years ago, Xander and I realized that without us ever explicitly discussing it, Xander had defaulted to being in charge of managing our finances.
At the time, I had gone back to grad school. I wasn’t bringing in any income, and was racking up student debt. Xander had agreed to support me financially, but I felt really guilty about the situation. I reacted to my guilt by withdrawing, and burying my head in the sand about our financial situation. I told myself I couldn’t have an opinion on how we dealt with finances since I was creating such a burden.
But this created a lot of pressure for Xander to make all of the financial decisions. He started feeling resentful of me for not being more involved.
There I was, thinking I was being polite and respectful, when I was actually creating a ton of pressure and stress!
Talking openly about money, even though it was challenging, allowed us to realize that these unspoken dynamics were actually causing a lot of strain, and helped us regroup as a team.