Discussing finances with your partner can bring about a lot of conflict in relationships. The issues can include past debt, current debt, income, trust funds, making large financial purchases, etc. We want to give our readers some insight on how to have these important conversations and how to move forward in the relationship after these conversations have happened. Our team of therapists came together to provide you with outstanding tips on ways to manage and discuss finances with your partner.
There are some common themes of issues that I see my office in doing work with couples. One of those themes is finances. And it doesn’t matter if the couple has a lot of money or if they are financially strapped. Money is a huge part of a relationship and sometimes people don’t realize what role it will play in your relationship and marriage. Here’s the top advice that I give to my clients.
1. Transparency is key
It is thought that talking about money on a first or second date is a faux pas. My recommendation is to talk about it sooner rather than later. It might be uncomfortable but if it is getting serious with someone, you need to talk about finances. This means you discuss debts, spending habits, savings, windfalls, financial goals, how you manage your budgeting, your views on money, what you learned from childhood about money and anything else you can think of.
2. Communication is a necessity
Regularly talking about the status of your finances is a healthy conversation to have with your spouse. Let them know your fears and dreams. Let them know when money is tight one week. Let them know your thoughts on the money to be spent on gifts or vacations or self-care. If you are living together or married, it is recommended to review your finances on a regular basis and discuss them.
3. Teamwork will help
Being in a relationship is about being a team and one place you can practice that is with finances. Pay your bills together. Sit down and do a State of the Financial Union every month or every year. Go and make large purchases with your partner. Do things together to improve your finances, like reading a financial book together or attending a lecture.
4. Mutual goals are important
Make sure you and your partner have the same vision for your money and the things you buy with your money. Do you want a large house? Talk to your significant other about your goals. See if they have similar goals as you do. Do you want to save up for retirement or do you want to work hard, play hard now? Figure out your partner’s philosophy on life and see if it aligns with yours. Do not assume your partner wants what you want just because they said they liked a certain house or would like to go on a vacation.
5. Compromise is paramount
So I’ve experienced that men hate that women spend all their time and money at Target. Women don’t like it that men want to make large purchases. It’s going to be about compromise. I have found that women make smaller purchases more often and men make less purchases but they tend to be larger. Using the suggestions above and identifying a way to compromise where both parties get a “win-win” is the goal.
Start today by asking your partner about how they view the finances in your relationship. Let them know you want more partnership or transparency or understanding. Talking about finances will probably feel uncomfortable at first but with practice, you and your S.O. will be solving financial problems in no time.
Amanda Patterson, LMHC, CAP decided to become a therapist while attending Nova Southeastern University. She saw the need to help people achieve the life they wanted to live, while creating a life of her own. She completed her master’s in Mental Health Counseling and started a career in the juvenile justice arena. Since then, she has started a private practice in Pembroke Pines, Florida, specializing in depression, anxiety relationship issues, and substance abuse. Amanda is a believer in holistic treatment and she practices veganism, meditation and yoga in her life. Find out more about her practice here. For a free 15-minute consultation, call or text Amanda at 954-258-8845 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
When a couple decides to get married there is usually a great deal of planning involved in the wedding arrangements. Both partners dream about the perfect day, their guests, the venue, the honeymoon destination and what their lives will look like after the event is over. With such happiness and elation, it is difficult to imagine that the happiness may fade after the “dust settles”. When the wedding is over, and life together begins, most couples believe that their lives will automatically fall into place. Neglecting to plan for the emotional and financial investment of marriage could lead to unforeseen challenges. When the expectations regarding finances are not clearly communicated, each partner may have different views regarding how money should be allocated which could potentially lead to conflict and strife in the relationship.
Let’s take a look at Cassie and Mike:
Cassie and Mike (names were factiously changed to protect the identity of the client) came into my office for consultation citing marital discord. Cassie expressed concerns because her husband suddenly stopped taking to her. She was especially concerned because Mike had spent the night out for the first time in three years of marriage. She could not understand what went wrong and she felt that their marriage was falling apart because of his lack of respect for their union. Mike agreed to come to the session and stated that he was frustrated about finances and his wife’s spending habits. This was the first time that the couple ever spoke about the state of their financial affairs.
Being open about money matters and your spending habits in a relationship requires three key principles that are necessary in every relationship:
Many couples may share a close relationship yet neglect to communicate about the status of their finances or spending habits. This case illustrates that couples can come into therapy thinking that their problem is lack of respect, or money, but the real underlying issue is communication. Society tends to believe that the number one problem that exists for couples is money, but in actuality it is communication. Fights about money generally manifests as a symptom of poor communication.
I help couples communicate about their finances by asking direct solution-focused questions. One main question that I ask is: On a scale of 1-10 how often do you discuss your finances together? (1-being never and 10 being-quite frequently)
This opens up a dialogue about money and creates a safe space for the couple to express their current fears, hopes, and dreams for the future. It also helps to create a shift in the couple’s view of their problems.
I explore each partner’s personal relationship with money which tends to create a collaborative approach to the problem. Each person has their own personal relationship with money and I help the couple explore where their beliefs about money may come from. By normalizing some of their ‘blind spots’ each partner is now free to create a new relationship with money through a few simple tasks provided in each session.
- Everyone has their own personal relationship with money– Each partner is encouraged to examine their spending habits (journaling, exercising restraint in spending “money fast”, check accounts daily) See where your money is being spent. Some couples are surprised after they complete this task. 30 days of self-examination provides a wealth of information regarding what you are spending on as well as whether you spend on what you ‘need’ versus what you ‘want’. What are your views, who shaped them?
- Couples are tasked to create a common vision
- Set goals– Do you want to be debt free? Own a Home? Create a financial roadmap!
- Plan for tomorrow! It is not if an emergency will occur it is about when. Being prepared for future emergencies will help you to successfully navigate those stressful moments that could really make or break your relationship.
These simple, yet concrete steps create a path to communication and can ultimately reduce conflict in the relationship for years to come. I teach couples how to have these solution-focused conversations on their own which creates a sense of empowerment. Facing finances could be fearful but does not have to be, with help and support every couple could find their ‘Moneymoon’.
Giselle Bayard is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with over 15 years of experience in the mental health field. She is a doctoral candidate with Nova Southeastern University and is a member of several professional affiliations. Giselle has worked with a vast array of populations including challenges with work/life balance, marital issues, substance abuse, domestic violence, anxiety, depression, children and teens, social justice issues, maternal and infant mental health, grief/loss and much more.
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To schedule an appointment with Giselle Bayard, PhD (c), LMFT call: 954-778-0786
Money in marriage: Money does not change people, it merely exposes them
There are certain topics that can incite conflict between two people, regardless of their personal connection to one another. Among those topics include religion and politics. The reasons that these topics can be so emotionally charged is multifaceted, but in apart can be related to how these topics are connected to our person hood. For instance, a person’s religious beliefs or spiritual practices can provide a framework and worldview with which the individual’s actions are governed. Additionally, the political candidate, party or issue that one supports can reflect both their values and what is important to them. So when these views are attacked, it’s understandable that an individual would take on a defensive posture.
In the context of a relationship, money is a topic that can spur emotional reactions within a couple-ship. In speaking of money, it is important to note that money refers to more than just the green-colored paper in one’s pocketbook, but encompasses earnings, spending habits, and prioritization of work-related obligations.
While cultural message such as pursuing the American dream and the perpetual longing for what’s new and trending, can impact one’s view towards money, family of origin messages can be strong influencers as well. These messages could have been directly expressed as a part of the family rules or merely modeled through parental behavior. Whichever the case, our relationship with money is often reflective of core beliefs that have been ingrained in us and may not be easily changed.
When a couple finds that topics related to money, spending and work are themes present in the majority of their disagreements or have become a perpetual issue, exploration of the individual views towards and family of origin messages regarding money can uncover deeper issues. Issues related to fear or scarcity, issues related to abuse of power, and issues related to inherent worth and value. Therapist can tap into these underlying issues by prompting the couple to reflect on how they may have used money to cope, specific messages and lesson they learned about money’s relationship to solutions or problems, discussing how financial status supports their value as a person and exploring the secondary gains for earning, saving or spending money. The answers to these questions can shine a light on a dark place, because since money is necessary for survival, unhealthy views towards and relationships with money can be easily overlooked.
Couples do not have the wait until they are on the brink of divorce to face their money demons. They do have to have courage to tread into the uncomfortable territory of communication and compromise, using a few helpful principles:
- Awareness – becoming aware of core beliefs towards money and one’s partner’s money roots. This can also uncover any compulsive issues related to money.
- Honesty – being open and avoiding secrets about bank accounts, credit cards and money “stashes”, because dishonesty could be viewed as a betrayal as harmful and devastating as infidelity.
- Empathy – being kind and nonjudgmental if and when your partner’s view towards money differs from yours. When we seek to be “right”, the couple as a whole loses.
- Disagree with grace – Maya Angelou says, “Once you know better, you do better”. Disagreements may still happen, and you can choose to disagree gracefully without name-calling, stonewalling, becoming defensive or criticizing.
- Adopt a “we” mindset – having separate bank accounts may seem appealing, but can promote separatism (mine vs. yours). Identifying couples goals can keep couples on the same page, and headed in the same direction
- Plan – budget doesn’t have to be a four letter word. Maintaining a budget can create safety, while promoting freedom.
Some say that as many as 50% of divorces are due to unresolved issues with money. Let’s resolve to change that statics and grow stronger together.
Tiffanie Trudeau, is a Licensed Mental Health and Professional Counselor and Certified Sex Addiction Therapist practicing in Melbourne, Florida. Tiffanie has nearly a decade of experience serving adolescent, teen, adult and geriatric populations, and is passionate about helping those who feel stuck, lost and alone. Areas of interest and expertise include mood disorders, substance abuse, trauma, relationship discord and family of origin issues. To learn more about Tiffanie Trudeau, LMHC, LPC, or to schedule a consultation, please contact her at (321) 425-4405.