Discussing money and finances with your partner is often a very sensitive issue. Conversations around income, spending/budgeting, and debt, etc. can be awkward and uncomfortable to discuss in detail with your partner. Money is a common button pusher for people, especially for couples who are still adjusting to affording life as a “we”, rather than as an “I.”. As uncomfortable the process is, it’s a necessary process to have and to practice regularly if you want to develop a healthy relationship with your finances as a couple. It’s important to develop and share financial goals, be honest about your money situation so your partner can be of support and help you handle whatever issues there are. The longer you allow your fear or discomfort of addressing the finances with your partner, the longer you will allow the money to control and dictate your relationship. Ideally, money talks with your partner are supposed to be just that: talks about money. Not arguments over who spent want, or dwelling in the past, or blaming each other for financial decisions and/or problems. At the Center for Growth in Philadelphia there are concrete actions you can take to develop a healthier relationship with money as a couple.
Plan a date.
Plan a “date” to discuss money. Ideally you and your partner can choose a regular time and day on a weekly basis for your money date. In addition, other issues can come up in between these dates where you should schedule an extra money date. Whether you plan the date money date 5 hours in advance, or five days in advance, making an agreed upon date to discuss money gives you both time to identify your goals and prepare what you want to address. Making a money date helps you establish boundaries around discussing financial issues with your partner. This creates safety when talking about money and is intended to avoid any impulsive or emotionally charged money talks. In order to stay focused, find a place in the home where the two of you can talk without the distraction of the television, or children running around fighting for your attention. Put the smartphones down, take out your agenda, and any other resources you may need to have a successful money date (bank account statements, check books, bills, etc.)
Make a list.
What do you each want to discuss? What do you each want to walk away with after your money talk? Anything can be discussed regarding money and finances. It can be a date to simply pay the bills together, or to create a budget for the new month, it could be to develop a plan to start saving for your summer vacation. Having an agenda keeps the conversation clean and task oriented, so the two of you can work towards your goals together and walk away feeling accomplished, rather than defeated and lost.
Leave your emotion at the door.
The point of following the above guidelines is to end the negative association you have with discussing money with your partner. Discussing money with your partner does not involve blaming, shaming, or criticizing one’s spending habits. This is the time to look at each other’s actions around money and identify what’s working, and what needs improvement. For example, if your money talk involves reviewing last month’s budget, as you review the spending you may realize that you both stayed under the grocery budget, but went over in money spent on take out. This is your opportunity to focus on the new month and ask yourselves “How can we correct this behavior in the new month?” This is your chance to talk it out and plan together on how can you lower your spending and increase your self control paying for takeout? When we lead with our emotions when spending or discussing money, this is when we fall into bad habits of overspending and resenting our partner when it comes to finances. The more often you sit down with your partner and plan out your intentions for the month with spending and saving, the less often you will find yourself in Target convincing your partner on why you need an item from the home goods aisle that wasn’t on your list and was never discussed before. As you and your partner develop your own routine around discussing money and work on keeping the talks task-oriented, you will find as you continue the talks it will feel more task based and less emotionally draining.
Developing a healthy relationship around discussing money as a couple takes time, practice, and patience. Some discussions will feel easier than others depending on what the topics are and where you find yourself in accomplishing your goals. You’re teaching yourself and your partner a new habit, while correcting very established, bad habits. This kind of retraining takes time and working on it. Just like any new skill you are trying for the first time.
Start this new action by setting a date with your partner to discuss your financial goals for the future. Have both you and your partner make a list of all of goals for the year that you would like to accomplish and the discuss them together. As the two of you talk about how you can make these goals happen, these goals will help establish the foundation of ongoing conversations around finances and how you want to handle them starting today.