If money is causing tension between yourself and your partner, you’re not alone. Financial stress is the number one reason for relationship breakdown in Australia (Relationships Australia) and across the world.
The second reason? Communication difficulties. So it’s clear that having effective conversations with our partner about money is an important way to keep our relationship healthy and strong. So why is it so hard to talk about? How do otherwise happy couples become so quick to argue when money is involved?
Firstly, we’re conditioned not to talk about it. Many of us are taught from a young age that money is a private matter, and it’s rude to ask about personal finances. People may quickly become uncomfortable when the topic is raised, shutting down conversations even with those closest.
But it’s not just the social taboos that make it awkward. Our thoughts, beliefs and core values about money are deeply rooted in our subconscious mind, which means they are connected strongly to our emotions. It is not uncommon to feel fear, abandonment, anxiety, aggression, entitlement and shame when the topic of money comes up – and often we don’t even know why! But these types of emotions are not helpful for open and honest communication.
Financial stress can have a big impact on our family relationships but it doesn’t have to be so hard. When you’re on the same team as your partner, you become a great source of strength for each other, working together to build the abundant life you deserve. Small steps can lead to big progress, so here are my top tips for communicating with your partner about money.
- First, understand yourself.
Do you know your own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to finance? Are you clear on your values and beliefs? What are your goals? Once you understand exactly what money means to you, it becomes easier to talk to your partner about what you are trying to achieve together.
My Money Mindset Quiz is a fun way to learn more about your money personality, and the powerful archetypes that drive your behaviour. Take the quiz here!
2. Start the conversation as early as possible.
Ideally, we would talk about our financial goals and values from the moment the relationship starts “getting serious.” Should we move in together? Do you want kids? How much do you owe on this house?
But if you’ve been married five years and you still don’t know how much your partner has in their super fund, don’t worry – all is not lost! You can get back on track – just start talking as soon as you can.
3. Choose the right time.
The middle of an argument about how much your partner spent on a new boat is not the time to start planning your retirement. Emotions are high, defenses are up, and the only guarantee is that you’ll both get upset. Try to set aside some time when you won’t be rushed or interrupted so you can have a relaxed conversation, perhaps over the beverage of your choice. I’d like to encourage my clients to set up a money date once a month. It could be at the kitchen table to have a glass of wine with some background music, even enjoy a nice picnic in the park, or simply have a walk together. There’s no right or wrong form of it, but the most important thing is you both enjoy the time spent and the conversation you have. Money is part of our life, and we should learn how to be open to talk about it with our loved ones.
4. Start small.
One of the reasons people experience financial stress is that it all just feels overwhelming. It seems like there’s too much to do and it’s too hard to understand, so we bury our heads and avoid thinking or talking about money. But if, as a couple, you can just get the conversation started in a light and fun way. One of my clients set up a challenge with her spouse by noting down money spent on ice cream and biscuits each time they take kids out for a walk or grocery shopping. Sometimes a small gesture, an unconscious habit can be a good starting point for your money conversation. You may just find that the flood gates open and the next thing you know, you’re working on your household budget together for fun (you never know, right?).
5. Seek to understand your partner.
What are their values, beliefs and goals? Strengths and weaknesses? Concentrate on listening instead of giving your opinion. Once you understand where they are coming from, it will be much easier to formulate a plan for the future, together.
6. Be compassionate.
There is no single, right way to manage our money. Everyone has a different idea of what financial success looks like, and a right to achieve financial happiness in a way that suits their own goals, values and beliefs.
No-one is perfect, and what one person sees as a total waste of money might have profound importance someone else. Remember how closely money is tied to our emotions, and that your partner should feel safe to be honest and vulnerable with you. If you can talk to each other without judgement than you will open up your relationship to a-whole-nother level of intimacy and understanding. So let’s start our money conversation and have fun with it!