Money matters: how to talk about money in a relationship
With money lying at the root of so many relationship breakdowns, Jo Middleton shares some advice to help you talk honestly about money with your partner
They say that money can’t buy you happiness, and while that’s certainly true, a lack of money – or differing attitudes to finance within a couple – can certainly be the cause of a lot of unhappiness. What often makes the situation worse is our typically British disinclination to talk frankly about our finances. For some reason, money is still a fairly taboo subject and many of us find it difficult to open up and be honest about our financial situation and attitude towards money.
If you want to build a successful relationship, being able to talk about money is important. You’ll avoid so much potential conflict if you can be open and upfront about it from day one. So, here are a few top tips to help get you on the right track.
Understand your own attitude to money
Ideally, this is something you should do before you get into a relationship, but it’s still a useful exercise at any time in your life. You may already have a good idea of your general attitude to money, but being really clear about your financial goals – both short and long-term – your attitude to risk and your day-to-day spending habits, can help build strong foundations for a healthy relationship.
If it helps, write down specific thoughts, feelings and goals to give you a clearer idea of what drives you financially and identify potential sources of conflict. Once you understand yourself, you’ll find it easier to see where there’s room for compromise and what your money deal breakers are likely to be.
Be open but not overwhelming
In the early stages of a relationship, you’re going to have to find that balance between being open and being plain intimidating. Nobody wants to be quizzed on their credit record on a first date (and beware anyone who does quiz you) but you do want to encourage honesty from the start. In the early days, while you’re still getting to know each other, try to introduce money talk in more general ways.
For example, you could talk about how you might spend a lottery win or how your family was with money when you were growing up. These conversations can give you an insight into financial compatibility and help to set the scene for more serious financial discussions later on.
Imagine your future together
For many couples, talking about money means deciding who’s paying for dinner or checking that your partner has paid the gas bill, but money talk doesn’t have to be dreary and all about the short term. To get you more excited about tackling finance questions, and to strengthen your bond as a couple – try dedicating some time to planning your future together.
What will it look like 10 or 20 years from now? Where will you be living? What will you do for work? How wealthy would you like to be and what are you prepared to do or sacrifice to get there? Creating a shared vision can help you to set short and long term goals as a couple that you’ll both feel invested in.
Keep your cool
If your partner does come to you with money worries or debt issues, then try to stay cool and be as objective and non-judgemental as possible. Yes, you may be angry, but facing up to a debt problem is tough, so acknowledge the courage that it has taken your partner to talk about it. They know that they’ve messed up and telling them that will only make them defensive and less likely to speak honestly about financial problems in the future. Most debt issues can be dealt with when you know the details and take action.
Listening is always at the heart of any good relationship – genuinely listening, so that your partner really feels that their opinions are being heard. Rather than flying off the handle if your other half blows the budget, take the time to listen to why things have gone wrong, so you can make sure it doesn’t happen again.
The same goes for money conflicts. If you’re keen to save for a house deposit but your partner wants to take a holiday, listen to their reasons. It could be that they feel you’ve been working so hard that they want some time out with you to reconnect. Remember, money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you a holiday, and sometimes that’s exactly what you need.