July 12, 2020
No one wants to fight about money with their significant other. Trying to figure out money issues together can add more stress to any relationship. This doesn’t have to be the case. Follow these conversation tips to make managing money together a much smoother process.
Before you start the conversation, set everything up for success. Time your conversation for when your partner is ready and willing to communicate. You want this conversation to be productive, not destructive, for your relationship. Bombarding them with bills and budgets after a stressful day at work will likely not end well. The best place to be vulnerable about monetary habits is within a safe atmosphere. Create an environment where you both feel comfortable to share anything.
Preface your talk by talking about goals. Most couples have the same goal in mind when it comes to finance: earning and spending it well. Where they can differ is what managing it looks like. Remember that neither of you are against each other. You both aim for the same target—good money management. This will help you when you dig deeper into specific spending categories.
If this is your first conversation about money, take this time to get to know where your partner is coming from. Don’t start off by making them list everything they’ve bought in the past month. Only get specific about numbers when both of you are comfortable doing so. Talk about easy things first. What are their long-term financial goals? How well do they think their parents handle money or what they would do if they won the lottery? Ask for their opinion on what would be a comfortable salary to live on. What larger purchases do they hope to make someday? What would they do differently with their finances than their parents? Remember, the deeper your relationship, the deeper you can dig into specifics.
Talking about money is scary. Especially if one of you has a significant amount of debt or unhealthy spending habits. Listen and understand where they are coming from. Give them your full attention to lower their fear of judgment. This also sets them up to respond well to anything you need to share later on in the conversation. Use this conversation to build trust, not to put each other down.
If your answers to the simple questions differ from each other, ask them why they chose their answer. No one is right or wrong here. You may think going out to eat every weekend is a good investment for your relationship, but they don’t agree. Ask why. They may be more concerned with paying off their student debt before splurging on fast food. You’ll have more compassion knowing what they value and how that affects their decisions. Work together to find a reasonable compromise if you’re putting a budget together. Both of you value a strong relationship. Spending lunch at home may fit your budget better than eating out every weekend.
Remember that financial discussions are not a one and done situation. Lifestyles change, relationships grow, and new circumstances always come up. The first few conversations might not be easy, but the more you practice, the easier it will get. You can always revise your plans if you see something doesn’t work anymore. If one of you is struggling to stick to a budget or getting frustrated, walk through it together. A healthy relationship is more important than following a rigid budget.
As you wrap up conversations, you may not have everything figured out. Big or small, these conversations are investments in your relationship. When you listen well and ask for clarification, you both get better at communication. When you both communicate well, your relationship and finances get better.