It’s no secret that communication is the key ingredient to a healthy, long-lasting relationship. But navigating difficult conversations with your partner is no mean feat. This is especially true when it comes to discussing topics that don’t come naturally, like money.
According to Business Insider, the most common fights that couples have are surprisingly not about infidelity or jealous matters, but are about finances, parenting, and sex. Findings conclude that a lack of strong communication skills is one of the main reasons partners aren’t having productive or peaceful conversations about money.
Financial planners suggest opening the line of communication around finances sooner rather than later on, as it becomes harder to break the ice around this subject the longer it gets delayed. Plus, it’s important to understand each partners’ financial status, expectations, habits, and shortcomings when it comes to money, that way partners can make informed financial decisions based on mutual agreements, thus lessening the possibilities for disagreements around finances later on in the relationship.
Money is a tricky subject to address because it symbolizes deeply personal and emotional needs, such as security, safety, and future goals. It also requires a large amount of trust to open up to another person about this extremely personal topic. However, when it is done gracefully and calmly, couples who communicate about money and finances regularly actually strengthen their bond through understanding and communication, which in turn creates a more solid and overall healthy relationship.
When exactly is the right time to bring up finances for the first time in a relationship?
Obviously if you are casually dating someone who you see no future with, or if you are still in the very beginning phases of a relationship, it is not necessary to discuss financial matters since those matters will be dealt with individually.
However, as soon as the relationship feels solidified and both partners mutually feel like they have entered the phase of being in a fully committed and serious relationship with one another, then finances should start being discussed.
One thing to note is that feeling truly mutually committed in a relationship can mean different things for different couples. Some couples don’t feel like they’ve entered the committed stage of their relationship until they have moved in together, are engaged, or married, while other couples might feel this way after a year of dating or less. Basically, any couple who feels that they have entered the phase of their relationship where both partners feel mutually and securely committed should enter the realm of discussing financial matters as soon as possible.
More problems arise in the future for couples who have been in the “serious” and “committed” phase of their relationship for some time but stall on having this conversation and deal with finances individually without discussion from the other. This causes misunderstandings and unpleasant emotions around money-related matters, which stems from not creating the foundations of understanding each person’s financial stance early on.
These are some effective strategies for having peaceful money talks with your partner:
Keep a calm and light tone and don’t make it a big deal.
Breaking the ice on the topic of finances should be done as tactfully and as non-threateningly as possible. Try to maintain a calm and light tone to convey the message to your partner that discussing finances in your relationship is safe, important, and doesn’t have to be uncomfortable. Waiting to bring up finances until an emotionally charged situation arises is not a healthy way to set the stage of communication for this topic. So don’t wait until there is a money-related problem to talk it out; bring it up at a time when the relationship is good and light.
Use a positive and strategic ice-breaker.
Instead of cutting right into the topic sharply and bluntly, start out with a question like “So where do you see yourself in a few years? What do your goals look like?” This is a good question to direct into the realm of finances. Discuss long term financial goals, as well as savings goals, and goals for recovering from any debts. This is also a good opportunity to make sure that your goals lineup with each other.
Open up about how much money you make, if you are in any serious debt, any savings goals, and any current financial struggles you are facing, especially ones that could directly or indirectly affect your role in the relationship. The most important thing is to communicate directly, honestly, and not to withhold anything that could affect your partner, whether it be positive or negative. This step might require quite a bit of courage and bravery, but your partner will appreciate your honesty and vulnerability, which results in strengthening your relationship.
Be okay with agreeing to disagree.
It is likely that you and your partner may not see eye to eye on all financial matters. Some financial subjects will benefit if both partners are willing to compromise, but matters might have to be settled with acceptance and understanding.
Don’t just discuss numbers. Discuss values.
Take time to understand each other’s unique values when it comes to personal finances, spending habits, and savings habits. This allows each person to develop a deeper understanding of their partners money tendencies.
Understand each other’s expectations.
Clearly communicating each person’s expectations around finances in the relationship is one of the key factors for keeping the peace and understanding where each other stands. Some people may have unique expectations, and it’s important to convey these. For example, it might be important for some partners to expect all shared finances (rent, groceries, bills) to be split 50/50 down to the last penny. Whereas it might feel more natural to other couples to take other factors into consideration, or to form a different system of dealing with finances within the relationship. This is a helpful opportunity to develop a system that works for your relationship and that benefits each partner mutually.
Asking “what-if…?” questions is okay.
Have any concerns, curiosities, or future worries about finances, whether it’s regarding yourself, your partner, or the relationship as a whole? That’s okay – just communicate it. And be sure to communicate these questions in a way that expresses a calm tone.
Engage and listen to your partner for optimal communication about finances.
All financial discussions should be a flowing, two-way conversation.