Money talk between couples is not as common as you might think. Everyone knows it’s important. But there is something about discussing finances with your significant other that can make you ignore the topic altogether.
However, this is an important conversation you must have – even if you aren’t married. What if you are a money saver who is falling in love with an impulsive spender? Unless you have a meeting of the minds, you might find yourself in big trouble.
Having an impulsive spender as a spouse can destroy the financial accomplishments you worked so hard to achieve, like finally paying off any credit card balances. Their tendency to overspend can quickly pull you back into the debt spiral and eat up the assets you saved for.
You might believe that your love for one another can get you through tough times, but that is often not the case when it comes to finances. After all, it can be difficult to focus on your relationship when you are struggling to make ends meet and feeling resentful.
In addition, many relationships are put to the test in times of economic struggle. The stress that comes with financial instability can put a strain on any relationship—or even tear couples apart for good.
This is why transparency regarding your situation is key. If there is a problem, tackling it as a team instead of arguing with one another can strengthen your relationship. Working together requires proper communication—which includes that dreaded money conversation.
Importance of financial discussions in a relationship
A survey from U.S. News & World found that about 30% of couples have experienced financial infidelity. This can include one person lying about their income, making secret purchases, draining a savings account, hiding debt, or lending money behind their partner’s back.
The victim ultimately feels betrayed, causing them to lose trust. And without that, the relationship is more likely to face bigger issues down the road. Therefore, regularly discussing money-related issues can keep you from discovering any unpleasant surprises that could come between you.
But starting that conversation can be nerve-racking. For example, the survey also listed the primary motives of the guilty party. Thirty-eight percent committed financial infidelity to avoid an argument, 23.1% were embarrassed by their poor money management skills, 16.1% wanted more financial control, 15.8% wanted to help someone else, and 7% wanted to avoid sharing bad news.
As you see, there is never a good reason to avoid discussing your finances. In fact, it can only make the situation worse. Ideally, you want to lay it all on the table when your relationship becomes serious or before you say, “I do.”
Being confident about discussing money typically signals that you are ready to take your relationship to the next level. It means you are open and honest enough to tell your significant other about an important aspect of your life that is hidden from most people.
But what specifically should you talk about? There are three important aspects you might want to share with your partner:
This is probably the easiest topic to discuss. After all, who doesn’t love talking about their dreams and goals? And they often seem more obtainable when you say them out loud and make them tangible.
It’s important to share your aspirations for more than a financial overview. If you and your partner don’t share the same vision, now is the time to find a happy medium or go your separate ways.
If you don’t live under the same roof yet, you can put this discussion on hold. But being open with your partner about your household expenses will help them understand your priorities and living habits.
Your partner should do the same. This will give both of you a good idea about your lifestyle and the type of spender you are. For instance, if your partner spends $250 a week on takeout, you know they don’t cook and aren’t frugal with meals.
This topic is definitively the most difficult and uncomfortable to bring up. Unfortunately, debt is oftentimes associated with failure and shame. The more deeply rooted you are in it, the more embarrassed you may feel to divulge your secret.
You might also fear that your loved one will see you in a negative light. But ignoring it won’t make it go away. And if your partner accidentally comes across this information, the debt could become the least of your worries.
Don’t expect the worst. This can actually be a rewarding experience – especially when your partner turns out to be supportive. When done correctly, tackling debt as a couple can strengthen the relationship.
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Tips for couples broaching the topic of money
We have strongly emphasized the importance of talking to your significant other about money as soon as possible. Here are tips on how you can broach the topic during different stages in your relationship.
There is no need to be detailed about your finances when you are still in the dating stage. You may not want to divulge too much information at once as it can be overwhelming. But there is one thing that you need to be honest about – your lifestyle. How you live your life will determine your financial behavior and future goals.
Do you like to relax at home and watch a movie or do you prefer to sing karaoke at the local hangout? Whoever you are dating should understand and accept your preferences—even if theirs differ. You also want to be with someone who says what they mean and keeps their word.
When things are getting serious
This could mean a lot of things. It could mean exclusively dating for months or years or moving in together. If you feel like your relationship is past the initial dating stage, you should take the financial topics up a notch.
If there is a chance you will be spending your lives together, you want to know about each other’s financial obligations. This is also a great time to share your overall monetary goals to determine if you fit into each other’s future.
Let them know about your financial difficulties because they may be able to assist. You should also encourage them to be open with you about any debts they may owe like credit card debt or student loans. Make sure you are completely honest so your partner does not suffer the consequences of any financial baggage you might be carrying.
When you are married
Once you are married, it should feel natural to discuss your finances—especially if you have combined accounts. You want to truly be transparent now because failure to do so could lead to divorce.
Some couples manage their own money while others assign one to handle all the finances. If you prefer the latter, ensure both of you remain transparent and are good with the arrangement.
You should also outline the goals you aspire to reach together. And if either of you brought debt into the marriage, create a game plan on how to pay it off. Then set a monthly, quarterly, or annual discussion to stay on track. This is also a good time to incorporate any new goals into your plan.
Financial issues are one of the most common reasons for divorce. But you can avoid future conflict by being upfront with your partner as soon as you think you might be together for the long haul.