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Studies suggest that couples in serious relationships fight about money more than anything else. In regards to married couples, money problems are cited as the second leading cause of divorce, topped only by infidelity.
Whether you’ve just begun seeing someone new or are already in a more committed relationship, it is important to reach common ground with your love interest regarding your financial habits and plans for the future.
Keep your relationship healthy and strong! Use the following tips and techniques to help you navigate financial conflicts in your current or future relationships!
Identify Major Issues Surrounding Money Management
Before trying to imagine a financial future with your partner, it may be wisest to evaluate whether or not you and your love interest even have the potential to have a stable financial future together. Some individuals may have deep-rooted issues with “financial fidelity.” Some people may struggle with financial addictions, such as out-of-control shopping habits or gambling problems. To cover up these issues, individuals may begin lying and hiding their finances. If you’re with someone who struggles with such issues, it is crucially important to resolve these issues before mixing your finances with theirs. Though most of these problems can be conquered with effort, it is important to see if your partner is committed to making changes for themselves. If someone is unwilling to admit to their financial issues, your relationship may encounter problems in the future. If financial problems are a major issue in your relationship, consider setting up appointments with a therapist and a financial planner to discover techniques and solutions for better managing your money and the complicated emotions behind these unhealthy financial habits.
Discuss Finances Openly & Honestly
Keeping financial secrets from your partner is one of the surest ways to trigger fights about your finances. Maybe one partner has multiple credit cards, and has been making large purchases on them. Perhaps you have a major debt that you’ve been repaying, but are afraid to talk to your partner about it. Maybe you get defensive and angry when your partner recommends re-evaluating your monthly budget. Perhaps one of you has bad credit and is guilty of never paying bills on time. Though all of these issues can be resolved, being secretive and shutting down communication will only lead to greater conflict over time.
Talking about money is rarely easy. Most of us have certain financial habits that we could improve. Keeping secrets and getting angry while talking about money, however, is never the solution. Work on learning how to talk to your partner about your finances. By doing so, you can take the first steps towards resolving your financial conflicts.
View Your Finances from a Team Perspective
If you and your partner are getting more serious about your relationship, it may be time to stop viewing your finances as “his” and “hers.” At the end of the day, the decisions you make will affect you both. You’re both on the same team! You might earn more than your partner, or you might be more focused on building up your savings than they are. Stop viewing your way as the better way, and stop expecting to have more leverage in your relationship simply because you’ve accumulated more wealth! Instead, start talking to your partner from a teammate perspective. Perhaps the more carefree spouse doesn’t like looking at the monthly budget. Make sure that the partner who’s less focused on the numbers understands the financial realities, too. Work to view things from a shared perspective. Couples with the best relationships tend to discuss their finances on a daily or weekly basis. Commit to doing so, too! Discuss each of your financial wants and needs, and devise a plan that allows you both to achieve your goals.
Keep Things Practical and Realistic
Most of us have a limited monthly budget. For many couples, differences in priorities and lifestyle choices can lead to financial conflicts. One spouse may enjoy going out every weekend for dinner and drinks with friends; the other partner may want to spend their money on home entertainment, investing in expensive technology, such as computers or gaming consoles. One partner may dream of having an Instagram-perfect home; the other may fantasize about the financial relief of having six digits in their savings account. A difference in financial priorities shouldn’t spell the end of your relationship; the main issue is discovering ways to fulfill each individual’s desires while sticking to a practical budget.
For a partner that loves going out every weekend, perhaps certain compromises need to be made. Maybe a monthly entertainment budget needs to be set. Perhaps going out for dinner is fine, but money can be saved on drinks, or vice-versa. Others might prefer going out less often while worrying less about spending when they do.
In regards to long-term goals, reaching common ground is crucial, too. Buying the “perfect home” might not be in the budget right now. Be realistic, and set savings goals so that this dream can be achieved in the future.
Though saving money is generally a wise practice, an extremely frugal partner may need to re-evaluate their relationship with money, too. Are you so concentrated on saving money that you find yourself resenting your partner for purchasing a new outfit or spending money on a much-needed vacation? Sit down and discuss a budget that allows you to set aside a dedicated amount of money for your long-term future. Be sure that you allocate a certain portion of your income towards enjoyable spending, too. Unless finances are particularly tight, you and your partner should feel no guilt in spending a set amount of income on the things that you enjoy. By budgeting in advance, however, you can avoid having these purchases impact your long-term savings goals.
Identify & Work Towards Shared Dreams
Our relationship with money often has less to do with spending and saving, and more to do with the hidden dreams behind our habits. What are the things that you ultimately wish to do with your money? Do you dream of traveling the world, buying a beach house, or refurbishing a beautiful old car? Don’t be ashamed of your dreams. You’re entitled to them! By repressing your goals and dreams, you’ll be more likely to suffer from feelings of financial resentment, and will likely encounter some sort of financial gridlock in the future.
Perhaps one partner wants to restore an old car. Purchasing a high-end vehicle, along with the tools and parts to restore it, will cost thousands of dollars. Perhaps this individual’s partner feels as though spending money on a car is an unnecessary luxury. They would prefer to save money for their retirement or for future enjoyment. Instead of simply fighting over saving or spending money, this couple should try discussing their dreams with one another. What does restoring a car mean to Partner A? Perhaps doing so would fulfill a childhood dream. What does saving money mean to Partner B? Maybe a lifetime of financial uncertainty has led Partner B to dream of a day when they will no longer have to worry about the future.
It can be easy to grow upset while discussing finances. If either of you become overwhelmed or frustrated, take a step back and return to the subject at a later time. When you’re able to discuss things calmly, strive to reach a financial compromise. What goals are non-negotiable, and what things are you willing to view from a perspective of flexibility and compromise? Perhaps Partner B needs to set a minimum savings goal before they will feel comfortable spending any of the couple’s shared finances on car restoration. Maybe Partner A is willing to wait and save some money before purchasing a vehicle. Perhaps they are willing to take on a weekend job to save extra money for their passion, or maybe they’d enjoy restoring a less expensive vehicle than the one they had originally imagined.
It is important for couples to come to terms with their differing approaches to their finances. One person may tend to be more of a dreamer, and the other more of a financial realist. Their dreams, however, do not need to be mutually exclusive. By sharing your dreams, a balance between responsible spending and saving can be achieved. In discussing your financial goals, you can find ways to achieve both of your dreams.
For most of us, occasional financial conflicts are inevitable in our relationships. Few of us are blessed with unlimited funds; most of us will have to make difficult financial decisions at certain points in our lives. Some of us may find that our spending and saving habits are similar to those of our partners. Others may struggle to find common ground between “saver” and “spender” mentalities. Though differences of opinions are guaranteed to occur, most financial conflicts can be resolved through solid communication and compromise. By working with your partner, and finding solutions that satisfy you both, you can keep your relationship going strong for years to come.
Photo: Image by Marek Studzinski from Pixabay