Want to talk openly about money with your loved one?
Money seems more likely to infect our relationships with fights, fears and shame than to spark joy. But money shouldn’t be the greatest cause for breakups and marriage breakdowns. How you choose to approach your co-financial life can be your relationship’s greatest strength.
If your relationship is suffering from the emotional debt of not daring to talk honestly about how you feel, think and interact with your money, then consider changing the way you both approach co-managing it.
“The goal of a relationship is that both people flourish together. And, because money is a crucial ingredient in flourishing, it’s a crucial ingredient in marriage.”
John Armstrong writes in his book How to Worry Less About Money, “The goal of a relationship is that both people flourish together. And, because money is a crucial ingredient in flourishing, it’s a crucial ingredient in marriage.”
We should follow our hearts when we are on the quest to find the perfect partner; however, we should not be afraid to consider the financial implications and explore how to approach the topic of money together.
Money cannot buy a happy relationship. But, as a resource, it can enable you to use your talents to make a difference and to focus on the things you and your partner really care about. It can help you to build a future that will bring meaning and fulfilment into your lives. Money and love are closely connected, although we may try to trick ourselves into thinking otherwise.
Money is never just about money
The relationship you have with money significantly impacts on you and your partner’s physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. The emotional stress often manifests in the physical body as headaches, digestive problems and high blood pressure.
Money is a complicated topic. It touches every aspect of our lives. It can make you question your self-worth, fuel judgement and make you feel like you are not enough and you don’t have enough. Arguments about money are usually cries out for recognition of deeper unmet needs and less about the numbers.
You may feel ashamed about your spending behaviour, suffer in the depths of debt or just get caught in a place of struggle with how you relate to money. This can make you feel ashamed and embarrassed.
These uncomfortable feelings you have toward money — and which many of us share — are a great opportunity to get self-curious and to deepen your understanding of yourself and your partner.
Money is a gateway to self-awareness
Bari Tessler is a successful financial therapist and author of The Art of Money: A Life-Changing Guide to Financial Happiness, which offers an approach that creates the real possibility of “money healing”. She encourages us to view money as a gateway to self-awareness and as a training ground for compassion, confidence and self-worth.
Everyone has fears, challenges and frustrations about money. The interesting fact is that money stress actually has very little to do with the dollars and cents and more to do with your thoughts, feelings and behaviours.
According to Tessler, “Money has been the elephant in the room your whole life. Because … no one has taught you how to really deal with it … When we dare to speak the truth about money, amazing healing begins.” So, instead of continuing to avoid this elephant in the room, why not try approaching money as an opportunity to deepen the connection and passion in your relationship?
Arguments about money are usually cries out for recognition of deeper unmet needs and less about the numbers.
As a starting exercise, consider what your current spending behaviour is saying about you. When you spend like there is no tomorrow, you are sending that same message to yourself and to your partner. When you save, no matter how small, you communicate that you are investing in your future and want to care for and protect it.
Take control of your co-financial wellbeing
There is no denying that money and wellbeing are linked. It’s less to do with how much you earn, however, and more to do with how financially in control you feel. Professor Bob Cummins from Deakin University, author of the Australian Unity Wellbeing Index, has found that financial stress has similar effects on the body to physical torture. But he identifies that it’s the feeling of being in control of your money that will release you from this stress.
Financial control, strong personal relationships and a sense of purpose are what Cummins believes are the essence of wellbeing. His “golden triangle of happiness” clearly indicates that by sharing your thoughts, secrets, hopes, dreams and fears about money with your partner and choosing to take control of how you earn, spend, save, share and invest your money, you will be well on your way to boosting your wellbeing.
Together, you can choose to engage with money in a healthier and more meaningful way. You can embrace your differences and allow your vulnerabilities and plans for the future to deepen the loving connection you share.
Bring empathy to your money conversations
The simplest way to bring more peace to your relationship with your purse and to your partner is to simply start talking about money and make it a weekly ritual.
Approach each money conversation with a view to sharing each other’s money struggles while aiming for constructive outcomes. Being empathetic instead of sympathetic is important. Empathy builds connection and allows you to see and feel from each other’s perspective.
“When we dare to speak the truth about money, amazing healing begins.”
If you have just moved from single life to coupledom, your freedom and private spending habits might feel exposed. It’s important to not compare or judge each other’s money situation or spending habits; this will only create barriers and disconnection.
Find a time when you will both be relaxed and schedule your first money session like a date! Take the time to acknowledge that you are committed to your relationship and to protecting it, which means talking through financial challenges and goals. Ritualise it with music, a cup of tea or a dessert to create an enjoyable environment.
Your first money date doesn’t need to have a strict agenda but a good starting point would be to talk about how you (individually and collectively) relate to money (fears, dreams, beliefs, behaviours) and what you want to change. Focus on sharing and not judging. You might find it helpful to keep a money journal so you can take notes.
Be loving, practical & sacred
There are some really practical things you can do to create a loving, practical and sacred space to talk about money. Here is a checklist to consider when scheduling your first money date:
- Listen with compassion and suspend judgement
- Have a shared outlook towards managing your money
- Share your money dreams, beliefs and behaviours
- Talk about your private money histories
- Be open-minded
- Know what you own and owe
- Set spending boundaries and “free use money” limits
- Tackle challenges with a safety net fund and commit to long-term savings
- Explore helpful co-money-management techniques (for example, joint bank accounts, cash budgeting to stick to spending limits and choosing debit cards instead of credit cards)
- Balance your saving/spending tendencies
- Discuss how to earn, spend, save, share and invest in a way that is meaningful to you both
- Bring a sense of adventure to your money conversations
- Create a harmonising environment for your money dates with candles, aromatherapy oils, music and a treat
Create shared goals
Once your money dates have explored how you both relate to money, you can start to invest further in your partnership’s financial future by identifying what you both value and create shared goals.
If you have already been through the buying of an engagement ring, planning a wedding and choosing where to live, then you’ll be very aware of the impact that other people’s values have on your choices.
When you save, no matter how small, you communicate that you are investing in your future and want to care for and protect it.
It takes courage and discipline to stick to your unique set of values and to spend your money on things that bring joy to your lives. This is where your partnership can offer some of its greatest strength. By taking the time to understand what each other really cares about, you can provide support in helping each other “flourish” and in spending meaningfully.
Creating shared goals is much the same. Do you want to own your own Home or is this your parents’ dream? Do you want to run a business together or is it feared because your parents think it’s too risky? Do you want to Travel or study? You might not know all the answers to these questions and that’s perfectly OK. The important thing is to consider and choose from all the possible experiences you could share with your partner, and have great expectations of your relationship and its future.
Balance the masculine & feminine
Studies have shown that men and women often have different views on money. For women, usually driven by more feminine energy, money is seen as a sign of security and stability. They are usually more likely to save for emergencies and worry when financial challenges arise.
Men, on the other hand, typically driven by masculine energy, are more likely to take risks and often see money challenges as a threat to their self-esteem.
It’s important to embrace the masculine and feminine energies that you both bring to managing your money. This will bring advantages and disadvantages to different money matters. Be aware of them but don’t let them get in the way of your overall goals and ability to achieve them as a couple.
Remember that your co-financial life is an adventure. There will be many twists and turns along way. These energies will continue to change, as will your life together. By being conscious of them, you can be equipped to make the best money decisions.
For example, if you choose to become parents, it’s likely that the feminine energy in both of you will increase. You will both be seeking more financial security and stability in the early stages of parenthood. It’s a good idea to anticipate these changes and adjust your financial plan accordingly.
Compassionate communication, honesty, trust and openness are undoubtedly important ingredients for a healthy relationship. Be it with yourself, your partner or your money.
Money can seem like a complicated topic but doesn’t need to be. Just start by talking about it and defining what money success means to you individually and as a couple.
Your co-financial life is an adventure; enjoy sharing it together. Remember to make sure that the love you have for each other is at the foundation of everything you do and that this adventure together is much more valuable than your bank balance.
Share, create & celebrate
To master the art of love and money, follow these six steps:
- Share your own private money history. Everyone has their own unique experience when it comes to money. By sharing how finances were handled in your childhood home, what money means to you and how you feel your financial worth relates to your value, you’ll allow your partner to more deeply understand you and the way you interact with money.
- Share your money fears and dreams. Acknowledge that neither of you is completely free of financial fears. It’s OK to worry and dream about money. Together, you can make a plan to resolve and achieve them.
- Create a shared vision. Talk about how you will manage the flow of money in your lives and your priorities. Discuss how you value each other — presents, shared experiences, simplicity to create time — as well as what you value: buying a house, further study, holidays, volunteer work etc.
- Set boundaries. Once you have become a committed couple it’s important to work together to set limits on spending. But equally important is that you both have money to continue to spend freely to avoid unhealthy behaviours like hiding transactions and purchases.
- Practise healing money rituals together. Incorporate mindfulness into your day by being compassionately self-aware of your money thoughts. Write down any persistent worries and tackle them together.
- Celebrate your successes. Choose how you will celebrate your financial successes and your ability to take back control of your money situation.
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