When we get our earliest introductions to romance, it’s usually the stuff of fairy tales: soul mates, love at first sight, happily ever after, etc. While these are beautiful goals and ideals, they don’t prepare any of us for the day-to-day details of a relationship.
For example, “once upon a time” never mentions crucial elements like bills, budgets, and bank accounts. We tend to learn these lessons (or not) on the fly.
As a result, it’s not unusual for couples to experience money issues. No two people will view finances in the same way. But they can transform the topic from conflict into teamwork.
The Old Green Deal
Money issues are as old as marriage itself. So, before you go any further, cut yourself some slack. This disruption isn’t some unique, unfixable flaw. Many, many couples have fought over finances and many, many couples have done the work necessary to flip that dynamic.
Here are some of the more common topics behind money fights:
- Secret spending: Not telling your partner about your expenditures is a fast lane to conflict.
- Incompatible goals: Without shared goals, you will naturally view present-day finances in an incompatible manner.
- Cultural/personal differences: Each of us is shaped by unique circumstances (e.g., culture, class, etc.) that shape our relationship with money.
- Different child-rearing styles: How you choose to raise your children is, by default, a financial issue.
- Shared or separate bank accounts and credit cards: Independence is essential, but not everyone wants to split their money into two accounts.
How to Stop Fighting and Start Collaborating
Regardless of why you have money fights, you must, and you can change those patterns. To follow are some general tips:
Set Goals Together
Open up about what is valuable to you and what you wish to accomplish. Do this without initially factoring in money. Work as a team towards something. Discover where your wants and needs intersect, and the money goals will arise organically.
Start From a Place of Trust
Regardless of personal background, don’t dismiss your partner’s ideas about money. Trust that they see things as they do for good reason. Again, work as a team. This approach doesn’t mean you’ll always agree. But it can mean that those disagreements will not morph into fights.
This strategy is tough but 100% necessary. Neither of you can — or should — get your way entirely. This is a collaboration, right? Thus, by definition, compromise is inevitable. Go into your money discussions knowing that you’ll need negotiations.
Joint or Separate: The Link is Transparency
How you choose to do things is unique to your relationship, including whether to link individual finances. Remember too, this choice is not a permanent decision, so you can try both to see how they feel. You always have the right to respectfully amend a situation that isn’t working.
With that said, whatever form of mutual economic plan you choose, both of you must commit to transparency. Money-related secrets will eat away at your bottom line — and your trust.
You Likely Don’t Need a Financial Advisor First
Couples who don’t have a firm plan for financial communication usually need a couples counselor to guide the way. As you may see by now, money fights often reflect deeper concerns and underlying issues. The path toward collaboration begins with this realization. Once you accept that some emotional work needs to be done, you can make progress.
Working through this process is far more efficient when in the presence of a skilled professional. Your therapist will be the unbiased guide you need to identify trouble spots. From there, you can make the kind of sustainable changes that enhance the quality of your relationship.
Please read more about couples therapy and reach out today for a consultation to learn more.