Love is great. As they say, it makes the world go round. But there’s one thing – more than any other – that can get in the way of the greatest love affair – and that’s issues about money.
Research shows that 7 out of 10 couples report that money can cause significant tension in their relationships.
When you’re just getting to know a person and you’re in the most romantic stage of a relationship, this can be a topic people tend to want to avoid. It’s not particularly ‘fun’ nor ‘romantic’ in the classic sense.
But ignoring it can lead to major problems down the road. How you and your partner approach money is one of the most important parts of any healthy relationship. How you were raised, what your expectations are, how you want to spend and save, these are all vital topics that need to be addressed early on – even if it doesn’t seem like it comes naturally.
Think about this: you may tell your closest friends plenty of intimate details about your life but do they know your salary? How much you have in savings? A lot of people keep these details private.
Money is one of the most emotionally charged aspects of our lives: many people derive a lot of self-esteem from their station in life and that often means the economics of it, not necessarily just their career. If they make less than they think they should, they could feel a sense of shame. If they make a lot more than their peers, they may feel awkward or guilty or expected to do more than their friends do.
If you haven’t already, how do you broach the topic of money with your significant other?
If you’re starting to argue about money, make sure the issue is really about money and not something else.
Sometimes disagreements that stem from money are really about control, having a sense of security or self esteem and not the actual topic of money itself.
Your partner may have some issues about money that tie into their overall sense of themselves and their worth. You may not realize that perhaps you were raised quite differently. Perhaps your parents were strict savers and bought everything on sale. But let’s say your partner’s parents spent money willy nilly with little regard for their future.
You may need to make some compromises together. Your upbringings could be very similar or they could be vastly different and that can have a strong impact on how you approach money as a couple.
Schedule a chill money talk
Who wants to talk about budgets and savings and who has what (especially early on)? No one.
But if you’re going to succeed together, you need to do this in a calm, relaxed manner without judgment and especially without stress.
Ask important questions: Do they have student loan debt? Owe the IRS? Credit card debt? If you’re to merge your financial lives, how will you do it in every practical sense?
And you’ll definitely want to discuss the unexpected variables that can come into play in anyone’s life – such as what would you do if you suffered a job loss from a high paying job that you count on? Will you choose to have joint accounts or separate ones? Who will be in charge of the budget and paying bills?
This is also a great time to talk about your expectations – how you were raised, what you’re comfortable with, and how you envision your financial future. Be honest. Be specific. You need to get on the same page. And that can take some time, a lot of patience and, in some cases, perhaps even some therapy.
Keep in mind that not everyone wants to talk about money, especially early on in a relationship. But press on. Eventually you will have to have this conversation as it is so important to our daily lives. And if your partner outright refuses to discuss the topic, that may be a red flag: what are they hiding? Be sure this is a person with whom you can share your whole life – and that includes your financial life – in a happy and peaceful manner that is based on mutual respect, consideration, compromise and patience.
Keep an open mind
Men and women view money rather differently. Many men still feel a responsibility to be sole providers (even if their partner also works) and if they find they cannot fulfill that role just yet, they may be reticent to make a committed relationship.
Many women, for example, tend to view money as a source of security and comfort (rather than a source of self esteem) so they know they are not destitute when an unexpected situation may arise.
It’s expected that you’ll disagree on some issues about money, but if they aren’t aligned enough, you may need to make some compromises on both sides. And, above all, be patient with each other.
Make a deal
Once your relationship is in full on real deal status, make sure you agree on your overall spending and savings habits. If one person is shopping all the time while the other is diligently saving, resentments can quickly build. Be sure to avoid that. It may seem ‘boring’ at first but it’s so important to tackle these fundamentals together and delegate who does what.
For example, it is important to work with each other to come up with general spending rules or limits. For instance, you can agree on a max amount that either of you can spend without discussing or consulting with the other. Anything above that, you’ll need to get ‘approval’ from the other.
The more open you both are about money and the more focused you are on achieving a similar financial future, the stronger you’ll become together.
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