We’re always told that money should be something that is regarded without emotion. When we make decisions about money, we are supposed to be rational so that we don’t make poor choices.
Unfortunately, money stirs strong emotions in us. It’s very difficult to leave emotion out of it entirely. This seems even more apparent when you are discussing money with your life partner. Both of you might be passionate about what you want done with the money, or you might be both resentful of the financial situation you find yourselves in.
As you get ready to discuss money with your life partner, it’s important to take a step back. Here are 5 tips that can help you as you have money discussions with your partner:
1. Make it Regular
One of the best things you can do is sit down to have regular discussions about money. Many couples only talk about money when there’s a problem. As a result, the whole money discussion is inherently negative. Not only that, but when you’re already in crisis mode, it’s hard to have a calm discussion about finances.
Set a regular time to talk about money. This can be once a week, once every other week, or once a month. Some couples talk about money every quarter, but many experts say that it’s best to talk about money at least once a month.
Get in the habit of having regular discussions about the situation, what you are doing with the money, and what you want to do with the money. If you establish money discussions as routine, they are less stressful. Plus, the regular look at your finances as a couple means that you can often catch issues before they get out of control.
2. Create the Best Possible Conditions
We’re all a little more difficult to talk to when we are tired or hungry. It’s easier to get upset when you are stressed, or angry about something else. Make it a point to create the best possible conditions for your money discussions. Since you know when they will be happening, you and your partner should each plan to come to the talk well-rested and well-fed. If one of you has had a stressful day, perhaps push the appointment back an hour or two so that you both have time to unwind a bit and relax a little. Try to address finances when you are both in a good mood.
3. Try to Understand the Other Point of View
My husband and I have different spending priorities. As a result, it can be difficult for him to understand why I want to spend money on a weekend getaway, and I have a hard time grasping how important it is for him to buy an expensive built-to-scale figure of Batman. I love Batman, but I don’t need a visual reminder of how awesome he is.
Try to take a step back and understand where your partner is coming from, and acknowledge that you don’t always have the same idea of how to spend money. Remember that your partner’s spending priorities probably aren’t wrong — they’re just different. If you can both come from a place of understanding, your money discussions will likely be more productive.
When my husband starts getting heated about our different priorities, we break off that line of discussion and return to shared goals. We have some deeply shared values, and we both agree that certain financial moves, such as saving for retirement and doing what we can for our son’s college, are important. When the differences threaten to overwhelm us, we switch gears to the more important, long-term, shared goals. After reminding ourselves of what we have in common, it’s easier to work on compromises for our differences.
5. Involve a Trusted Mediator if Necessary
In some cases, you might need a trusted mediator to help you facilitate your conversation. While it might be uncomfortable, consider talking to a spiritual leader, or seeing a financial planner. An outside person can often help you keep things civil, as well as help you focus your attention on items that need the most attention. A third party can also help you break the ice and figure out where to go next.
What are your best tips for discussing money with your life partner?