It is often said that you shouldn’t bring your feelings into any consideration of money, let alone any actual discussion. Money requires clearly thought-out decision-making, and our culture tends to separate emotion from reason as far as possible. Emotion will supposedly cloud decisions, making them questionable, if not downright regrettable.
Nonetheless, money cares for none of that. It has a powerful effect on our emotions, often more so if we’re determined not to feel any type of way about it. Discussion of money with your life partner can exponentially multiply the Emotion Factor, since it’s natural for both of you to have strong feelings about what to do with your money. You may also both harbor regret or bitterness if your finances are strained and times are difficult.
Preparation before such discussion may help prevent tensions from getting too high and possibly leading to murder. Here are a few ideas that may help facilitate peaceful discussions of money with your beloved:
Make it Routine
For many couples, money is not important enough to discuss until it becomes a problem; this includes the one I’m half of. We don’t find money very interesting, so we tend to discuss it only when there is something negatively impacting our finances. It’s healthy not to overemphasize money, especially in a society obsessed with it. However, if money – or any other topic, for that matter – is only discussed during a crisis, it becomes inherently negative because of the associated tension.
This can be avoided if you agree to discuss money as a couple on a routine basis. Whatever frequency you deem necessary between you is fine; weekly, biweekly, monthly, etc. Less often is generally thought by ‘experts’ not to be frequent enough; these discussions don’t have to be lengthy, if neither of you sees a need for it, but keeping the subject out in the open is important.
However brief your discussion, time should be part of it: What happened previously, what is happening now, and what you both expect or desire to happen in the future with your finances. Establishing money discussions as routine makes them less stressful. Plus, a regular look at your finances as a couple gives you a chance to prevent potential problems from developing.
Eat and Sleep Before Money Discussions!
Most humans are harder to deal with when they’re hungry, tired, or irritated. These discomforts put us on edge and make us more prone to getting upset. For this reason, ensure the best possible conditions for financial discussions:
- You already know when they’ll take place if you’re making them part of your routine, so plan to rest and eat beforehand.
- Take your own and your partner’s stress level into account. It’s not a meeting of corporate executives, it’s an intimate talk about mutual interests; if one of you is stressed, rescheduling won’t hurt.
- Being in a good mood is best for any discussion, but especially one that might be sensitive, like a couple’s discussion of money.
- Relax. Even a crisis has to pass; you’re a couple for so many reasons that are more important than the amount of money available at the present moment. Put it into perspective!
Take a Walk in your Partner’s Shoes
Couples are couples not only for what we have in common, but also for the ways we balance each other – for our differences as well as our similarities. For instance, I’m an incurable bookworm. If I go within a two-mile radius of a bookstore, I come home loaded down with new books. My husband shakes his head. Meanwhile, he has a collection of over 30 guitars, each chosen for some reason that is inexplicable to me. When we plan a trip, I’m excited about saving space and money for the souvenirs and keepsakes we might want along the way, while he’s on Amazon buying 50 sets of long underwear for each of us (in the SUMMER, mind you) and a new tent with built-in LED lights.
Neither of us is wrong; we just have different priorities and perspectives. Understanding this from the outset leads to more productive financial discussions.
Focus on Shared Goals
The natural continuation of mutual understanding in a couple’s discussion of money is the ability to return to commonalities when the differences threaten to cause strife. There will always be things we see differently, but there are also always things we agree on; shared passions in the present and goals for the future. Couples Cash has some good insight to share on this topic also.
Trusted Third Parties in Case of Crisis
If you really cannot see eye-to-eye in certain instances, it might help to enlist someone you both trust to play mediator. I would personally find this uncomfortable, but many couples find it helps to bring a spiritual leader or financial planner into the discussion as an objective third party. This is especially helpful in cases of stalemate, where no progress can be made toward an agreement just between the two of you.