Money and Relationships
When I think of common volatile topics in couples counseling, a few topics quickly come to mind. One of them is MONEY! Financial issues in a relationship are common, and destructive to couples in a variety of ways. The arguments usually revolve around how to best budget their money, how much money is “enough,” and how to deal with debt. Discussions about money in relationships can be fear-provoking for many, and it tends to be a topic couples avoid discussing because of how emotional these discussions can get. However, when couples do not discuss finances, it can lead to mistrust, misunderstanding, and severe financial problems. In my work with couples, I challenge them to have a more receptive, understanding dialogue with each other about their financial concerns, and to switch from emotional reactivity to a more rational, problem-solving approach to their money woes. Here are some things to consider when discussing money with your significant other.
Realize that your partner is a different person from you, thus they will not see the world the same way. This sounds obvious, but we all too often forget that our partner is a separate person and will have their own unique beliefs about money. Sometimes, there are fears and worries about money that are rooted in childhood. When we deeply realize this, we can listen more effectively to our partner, even when we don’t agree. It is true that your partner may have some ineffectual ways that they manage money. Remember that you can let your partner know that you disagree with him or her while still being respectful of their concerns. When asserting your opinion, make sure that you have fully listened to their’s first.
Plan for your financial future together. If needed, consult a financial advisor, who can deliver some practical, thoughtful advice. Sometimes people realize too late the importance of financial planning and goal setting. Are you saving for retirement? College? A home? Paying off a credit card? Set mutual goals and work towards them. Setting financial goals and meeting them, from saving your first $1000 to buying your first home can be quite rewarding! Enjoy the accomplishment together.
Sometimes one partner is a “spender” while one is a “saver.” Consider what you can learn from one another! Sometimes a saver is gets uptight about money and perhaps be overly cautious or obsessive about money. One the other hand, a spender can be in denial of how many unnecessary purchases they make.
Finances can feel overwhelming, particularly when in significant debt or struggling to save. Start small. Grow in your awareness of where your money goes. Be specific about ways you can save or make money. If you are stuck knowing where to start, consult a financial advisor, a book on managing finances (a personal favorite of mine is Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover) or if you so desire, a wise friend or family member that you trust. There are also great budgeting tools and apps out there.
Do not compare your financial situation to others. First, just because a person appears to have more money, doesn’t mean they do. Outward appearances do not tell full stories. Second, it is helpful to remember STAY IN YOUR OWN LANE. Some will always have more than you, some will have less. It is freeing to not play the comparison game. Be so busy focusing on how to maintain your own finances in a way that is effective for you that you don’t have time to spend worrying about anyone else’s.
Don’t be afraid to say no. Many struggle with the fear of missing out! Saying no to something can be a great way to show yourself self-respect and set boundaries with others. Instead of focusing too much on what you are missing, think of what you are saying yes to. When you say no to a $100 night out, you can say yes to working towards eliminating debt. On top of that, you can learn to be creative when finding inexpensive entertainment. Instead of taking your family out to dinner on a cold winter night, choose an indoor family picnic. Instead of dinner and a movie out with your significant other, cook dinner at home and play a game together. Get creative! And when your budget allows you to do that dinner out, you can enjoy every second because you worked hard for it.
Also, when it comes to budgeting and finance, it helps to keep a positive attitude. When possible, make it fun! Focus on what you can do, and less on what you cannot. If having a budget is new to you, it will take time to adjust. Overtime you will find that having a budget may even allow you to explore a creative side of you. Sometimes this can be a time to challenge some beliefs of what we “need.” When my husband and I needed to finish off paying student loans, we chose to sell our “good car” and buy a 20 year old truck- and it was not pretty (at all.) However, this short-term sacrifice worked for us and paid off in the long run. Three years later, no more student loans. Remember that in our society wants and needs get mixed up!
What are the ways you and your significant other currently deal with money?
What are you willing to sacrifice in the short-term to work towards a long term goal?
What might be a way for you to challenge yourself financially this week?