Marriage and Money: How to Communicate Effectively About Finances
If there’s one thing that’s absolutely essential to having a happy marriage or relationship, it’s communication. What we seem to forget, is that the rules are just the same for communicating about your daily experiences, your needs, or your feelings as they are with talking about money (unsurprisingly because money impacts all of those things). Of course, we aren’t so good at talking about money, and this can be the cause of a lot of strife. For some perspective, money conflicts are the number one cause of stress in relationships (from a study done by SunTrust) and are responsible for 22% of divorces (according to the Institute for Divorces Financial Analysis). Let’s let that sink in for a minute. Our relationships with the people we love most, often fall apart from something as simple as money.
Since money can be a touchy subject, it’s essential to practice good communication skills. This can be tough, but here are a few guidelines to help you be successful.
It’s critical you both speak and you both listen. It’s not uncommon that one person is “better” with money (or at least more invested in being successful with money) and they tend to take the reigns. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but you both need to be involved in the conversation. You both must share your priorities and worries so you know where your partner is coming from. The goal here is to practice empathizing with them and start to understand the logic behind why they spend (or save) money the way that they do.
As you’re practicing speaking and listening, go ahead and fully disclose your financial situation. If your married, or thinking about getting married, you’re in the mindset that you’re in this together. Honesty is the best policy, even if it’s a challenge. As you go through this process, your partner will need to know whether or not you have debt (and how much), whether or not a credit card works well for you, and whether or not they’re living paycheck to paycheck. If you’ve already combined bank accounts, you may know some of this. It’s still important to ask and talk about these things. Ask about which, if any accounts are separate any why. There’s probably some great logic to why certain accounts look certain ways, just make sure your both onboard and there are no hidden bank accounts!
Once you fully disclose your financial situation, from that point on, it’s both of your jobs to be honest and forthcoming about any changes. While getting everything out in the open is a great start, from this point forward it’s critical you no longer keep secrets. Hidden accounts or lying about spending will hurt the trust you have within your partnership. You’re in this as a team. Act like it!
Your partner will likely have a different money mindset than you. Ask them about it! Some of us are spenders and some are savers. You can achieve your goals with some planning regardless of who you are. But, the process can look a little different! Ask them what their mindset is regarding money and do your best to appreciate it. We all bring different strengths to the table and our diversity helps us in the long run. Think about how you can embrace them the way that they are and work together as a team.
As with most aspects of marriage, it’s important to remember to be kind. Keep the golden rule in mind. So often we get so frustrated or anxious we forget to just simply love our partner. Regardless of their behavior, you fell in love with them for who they are and you committed to love them at their best and their worst. Making changes to your finances is a long process. It requires accountability, communication, and goal setting, all of which can be challenging! Remember to be empathetic to the process. And, keep in mind, while it’s amazing to see changes in your financial situation over time, keep the focus on changing your approach to finances, not changing the other person. Generally speaking, changing people is pretty tough, usually unsuccessful, and likely not very enjoyable for you and them. Keep the focus on changing your financial strategy, set it up as a team, and keep practicing loving your partner along the way!
Here’s my final piece of advice. Set up money dates. Grab a beverage of choice, snuggle up on the couch, and pull up that budget. I think this has the biggest impact if you do it twice a month, right in the middle and right at the end. For your midmonth date, think of this as an opportunity to see how your spending is going, and check-in with how your partner is feeling. Talk about any big unexpected things that have come up and make sure bills have been paid. For the end of the month meeting, check-in and see how you did over the month and make any changes you’d like for the upcoming month. Ideally, you’ll be checking in with your budget more frequently, and talking about money as purchases arise. But, setting aside some time to remember you’re on the same page, you’re totally in love, and you’re working for the same goals will help build the association with planning your finances and feeling love. How awesome would it be to look at your budget and see it centered around the awesome life you have built with your partner? Over time, it’ll no longer be this scary thing, but rather a reminder of the love and goals you have for your family!
Don’t have a budget yet? No worries! We’ll walk you through how to step one up, step by step. Register for our free 45-minute webinar on budgeting here.
Want to build more financial literacy? Join us for Financial Foundations, our online course that covers all the basics from budgeting to saving for retirement (oh, and we have a whole unit on money and relationships!). Learn more about it here.