Do you have any debt? Do you contribute to your 401(k)? These are not common first date questions. For most, it doesn’t feel natural to talk about your finances. As you get to know someone, you talk about your interests, values, likes, and dislikes, but the money talk feels like another level. While you don’t need to talk about your finances on the first or second date, it is a conversation you want to have before you move in together or get married. It’s not always an easy conversation, but it can help set a strong foundation for the relationship. Read on for expert advice on how to talk to your partner about money.
Why You Should Talk About Money with Your Partner
At some point, your partner’s finances can become significant for you. Maybe you’re moving in together, sharing bills, rent, or mortgage payments. As your finances start to intertwine, it’s important to talk about your finances.
“Financial difficulties remain one of the top three reasons for divorce. Many marriages cannot end because they cannot even afford a divorce. Everyone has financial strategies and setbacks, and discussing those with your partner is paramount to a stable relationship,” says Dr. Tirrell De Gannes, Licensed Clinical Psychologist in New York.
Although many couples speak about their finances, there’s still a taboo around the topic in general. Nearly half of Americans say the most challenging topic to discuss with others is personal finances. One survey of 2,000 Americans found that they are more likely to talk about politics and relationships with friends than money. Talking about finances with friends is unpopular across all generations.
Dr. Tirrell De Gannes explains that “finances are like Bruno (we don't talk about Bruno). There, for some reason, is this stigma about discussing finances that prevents people from getting a better understanding of each other. Sometimes it is due to threats to masculinity, issues with sharing debt, embarrassment, etc.”
When it comes to finances in relationships, over one-third of couples disagree on the amount of their household’s total investable assets. One of you may be a saver, while the other is a spender. There are many situations throughout life that can create financial stress. Whether it’s losing a job or how you prioritize your spending, it can cause tension.
7 Tips for Talking About Finances Without Conflict
If you find yourself bickering with your significant other over money, you are not alone. Finances are a common source of disagreements. But you can learn to talk about finances in a healthier, more efficient manner. Having a good understanding and healthy conversation about your finances helps create more trust within the relationship. Although it may take a little practice, try these seven tips for money conversations with your partner.
1. Use Visual Evidence
How you approach your financial conversations with your partner is important. Before you start, gather visual evidence. So, you want to show your income, expenses, credit card statements, and anything else you need to talk about. By having the figures in front of you and ready to go, you can make decisions on facts and keep things practical. Although it’s easy to get overly emotional, try to keep the conversation on the figures so you can make a plan together.
2. Start the Conversation Early On
It’s easy to think of the conversation as one person against another, especially if there are some tender points you’re struggling to agree on.
“Speak early and often. Finances should be a regular conversation, not a one and done,” says Dr. Tirrell De Gannes.
Consider these conversations like regular ‘check-ups’ where you can reassure one another and prevent future arguments before they become a problem. Approach your finances practically and start talking about your views on money and personal finances early on in the relationship.
3. Let Your Partner Know in Advance
Don’t surprise your partner with a conversation about your finances without letting them know in advance. Talking about money is a good thing. It allows you to share and get to know your partner even more. But blindsiding them with this sort of conversation is a quick-fire way to start an argument. Give your partner time to get in the right mindset and gather anything they need to have a productive discussion.
4. Create Money Goals Together
Do you want to retire early, have children, or buy a house? All of these things require a great deal of financial planning. When it comes to finances and money, communication is key. To set financial goals with your significant other, start by being open about your goals and making a strategy. Check in and hold each other accountable to see how you progress.
Dr. Tirrell De Gannes says to “make agreements that reflect both parties' level of comfort. Splitting bills 50/50 sounds nice, but different incomes and mentality mean 'affordable' is a flexible term.” Even with your financial goals, try to remain flexible and don’t get upset if one of you experiences a setback. As long as you’re honest, you can continue to revisit your goals and move forward.
5. Have a Two-Way Conversation
Whether you’re talking about splitting the bill at a restaurant, incomes, or looking at your credit scores, it’s a two-way conversation. Try to stay open about your attitude to money. Not everyone may feel the same as you and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. While the conversation can feel uncomfortable, it can also foster a deeper connection. Always listen to your partner and give each other a chance to speak openly without judgment.
6. Be Open and Honest
After infidelity, money is what people lie most about in relationships. Complimenting your partner’s potentially questionable new outfit doesn’t tend to be a deal-breaker. But lies can cause relationship problems, and lying about debt is one of the top offenders. A recent poll shows that 32% of coupled US adults in serious relationships have spent more than their partner would be OK with, and 9% hold secret debt.
7. Set Some Ground Rules
Before diving straight into money talks with your partner, establish some ground rules. Money can be a frustrating and emotional topic. It’s hard when there are different views and attitudes to money. Yes, the conversation can feel entirely daunting, but with practice, it can feel like any other. Your ground rules may look a little different depending on your relationship, but here are some ideas:
- Take it in turn to speak
- No interrupting
- No shaming and blaming
- Focus on what you can control
Financial Intimacy for Couples
It’s natural to want to avoid arguing and tension within a relationship. Whether you’re just getting serious with someone or considering getting married, it’s good to learn how to communicate about your finances and spending habits.
If it feels like you often end up arguing and are struggling to get anywhere, speaking to a couples therapist may be beneficial. “Impartial third parties are almost always beneficial for discussing taboo topics. First steps vary by therapist, but I would recommend starting with financial goals,” says Dr. Tirrell De Gannes.
However, if one partner flat out refuses to speak about money, it can be very challenging. Dr. Tirrell De Gannes recommends to “address the problem at its core. What is it that makes that person uncomfortable, and why? Once that veil is lifted, issues can be addressed with greater ease.”
Talking about your finances more openly has the potential to transform the relationship. Some debt may be manageable, but how would you feel if you found out your partner was sitting on tens of thousands of debt? Communication is key. While it can feel uncomfortable to talk about money, it doesn’t need to cause conflict in the relationship or be too awkward. It may even bring you closer together.
If you’re struggling to talk to your partner about money and would benefit from speaking with an impartial third party, we can help you find couples therapy services near you. Contact one of our offices in New York, Florida, California, Minnesota, New Jersey, and Oregon, or schedule an online appointment.