Love and money don’t mix. Or at least that’s how the conventional wisdom goes. Statistics are rampant detailing how money problems are the leading causes of divorce, and one of the leading causes of stress in a household. Income discrepancies can cause tension between partners, leaving the feeling that one isn’t pulling their full weight. Different spending habits and priorities can cause friction and resentment. So we should just accept the fact and move on, right? Or not.
Getting on the same page as your partner is possible. It’ll take some work. But it’s possible. You might be polar opposites, in which case it might take a little more work, but it’s still possible.
Without being open about all your priorities, spending habits, income, and mistakes, you and your partner are operating completely in the dark. To get on the same page, the two of you have to know where you’re at. Open communication is hard. If it weren’t everybody would already have this down. The problem is that we’re human and are prone to keeping secrets. We might be embarrassed about our overspending, priorities or mistakes. Sharing leaves us feeling vulnerable, which is hard.
The alternative to open communication is worse. At first it might feel easier to cover up things that we want to hide. Unfortunately, those things have a habit of festering and growing. Worse, you’re not going to really be able to hide it for long, leaving your significant other feeling betrayed. Furthermore, all these financial decisions that you’re hiding likely will lead to bigger financial problems- overdrawing your checking accounts, not having enough to cover bills or running up expensive debt.
Get in the habit of being completely honest with your partner about each other’s incomes, and what each other’s financial goals are. Agree on spending limits for different categories or habits. Discuss large purchases together. Always disclose mistakes such as overspending or missing a bill payment right away. It’ll be hard at first, but it will get easier and will have huge rewards. As you two get in the habit of being vulnerable together, you’ll be fostering a trusting relationship, which has infinite worth.
The only way that open communication will work is if the two of you both adopt a non-judgmental attitude of teamwork and respect. Start by identifying your common goals and a few goals that are especially important to each of you. You’ll likely have to compromise some of your own goals to accommodate those of your partner’s. When you approach your differences, mistakes, problems, and spending habits, don’t guilt trip or judge your partner. Rather use these discussions to develop habits that will help you reach your goals. When one of you makes a mistake, don’t dwell on it, but rather figure out how you’re going to fix the mistake and get back on track.
Budgeting and Analysis Sessions
Learning open communication and respect is a fantastic foundation, but you also have to make a habit of putting it in practice. I know most people don’t like budgeting, but it’s absolutely fundamental to your personal finances. When there are two of you, its important that you make your budget together. This is where you put your spending guidelines down on paper. You may have come to a theoretic agreement on your spending, but when you put it down on paper, you’ll see how realistic your theoretic plan actually was. You’ll likely have to make some more adjustments and compromises.
Once you have your budget in place, you’ll need to periodically re-assess to make sure you’re sticking to your budget. Again, this is a step you should take with your partner. You’ll likely find places where you’re having trouble staying within your budget. You need to figure out together what changes you’ll need to make to keep to your budget.
A Ride Into the Sunset
For many people, that blissful ride into the sunset with your new spouse is quickly derailed by fighting and resentment about money. However, by practicing openness, honesty and respect even in your financial life, and by making a habit of running the numbers together, you’ll be a lot closer to the blissful sunset. You’ll be surprised how soon this openness becomes natural, and how similar your habits and goals start looking.
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- While I do strive to only write accurate information and dispense valuable advice, I am not a licensed financial adviser. All information is based solely on my personal experience and personal research and should be treated as such. Find out more.