Arguments about money can easily destroy a relationship. However, a relationship can also be destroyed when a couple does not talk about their differing attitudes toward money.
Attitudes about money often reflect deep psychological emotions that have developed as a response to feelings of security or the lack of it while growing up. There is no one right way to handle money. Therefore, couples need to talk about money and how they plan to spend and save it without putting each other on the defensive. The earlier they start talking about their values, the better.
To have an effective conversation about money, both partners need to become aware of their own fears and desires about money and their sought-after security. This is not easy, especially when it comes to determining to what degree their judgments are emotionally based or objectively savvy. They also need to recognize and have empathy for the other person’s point of view.
Couples have to develop a mutual plan, even if the plan ends up being to keep finances completely separate. To make an appropriate plan, couples need to take into account each person’s underlying fears and desires.
Guidelines for talking about money:
1. Communicate effectively, so that you can be honest without being hostile. Talk about your own feelings and values without negative judgment toward your partner.
2. Do not overreact, manipulate, or control your partner into spending or not spending money.
3. Do not exaggerate financial situations to get the other person’s attention. Rather than attacking your partner for their spending habits, state your fears and your desires in a neutral way.
4. Avoid acquiescing to behavior you disagree with in order to keep the peace. Otherwise you will develop underground hostility and resentment.
5. Retain your independence. Avoid becoming too financially dependent on another person, particularly if you’re not on the same page regarding finances. Then you won’t have to live in constant stress.
“I’m afraid that we won’t be able to pay the mortgage and other bills. I dread the possibility of losing our home, which could happen to us if I were to lose my job. I would feel a lot more secure having enough savings in the bank to last at least a year.”
“I know we need to budget, but it means a lot to me to go out once a week with you. It rekindles my feelings of romance and spontaneity. Why don’t we budget a certain amount each week so that we both feel comfortable with a little weekly entertainment and romance?”
“I’m concerned that I will not be able to retire. I would prefer to forego spending money for non-essentials, such as going out to dinner and buying new clothes over living with the fear of never being able to retire. I would like to create a budget that ensures that our savings are increasing each month by (amount or percentage) and to keep our spending in check.”
A couple has to speak candidly and listen to one another’s concerns and desires before they can make a specific plan that will satisfy both partners. Regardless of what you can agree upon, it doesn’t hurt to remain capable of being independent. Nothing in life is certain. Therefore, having some money set aside and being able to get a job and support yourself are key to promoting your psychological and financial security.
by Alison Poulsen, PhD