Money is one of those subjects that prompts strong emotions in many people. As a result, discussing money with your partner can be a daunting task. Even sitting down and touching base can feel stressful to some couples — even when there isn’t something in particular to talk about. As you establish a long-term and committed relationship with your partner, it’s important to discuss money in a constructive way. Here are 5 tips that can help you as you discuss money with your partner:
1. Create a Regular Money Discussion Schedule
The first thing to do is make money discussion a regular occurrence. This way, talking about money becomes less awkward. When you know that you are going to talk about money, it’s a little easier to prepare. Arrange a time at least once a month to sit down and discuss money. You can talk about the budget, review what you’ve done well, catch up on your shared goals and identify areas that need improvement. Setting a regular time will get you in the habit of talking about money, and smooth the beginning of your discussion.
After a few meetings you might be surprised to find how natural it is to talk about money, even during times when you don’t have a scheduled meeting. This is a positive development, since it means that you are increasingly comfortable with the subject, and you are more likely to touch base before financial issues becomes big problems that turn into emotional stumbling blocks.
2. Understand Where Your Partner is Coming From
This is especially important if you and your partner have differing views about money. You can compromise with different spending styles, but also it’s important to be understanding of your partner. Take the time to get to the reality of your partner’s money philosophy. You should know what matters to your partner, and understand where he or she is coming from. When you know where your partner is coming from, you are less likely to take things personally when you don’t agree, and more likely give (and receive) a certain amount of grace during your discussions.
3. Be Honest About Your Money Concerns
Not only do you need to be willing to listen to your partner and understand where he or she is coming from, but you also need to be honest about your own money concerns. When you are worried about money, make sure that you share that information. Also, be willing to share your own financial philosophy. You want your partner to be able to know where you are coming from. If you have money problems in your personal finances, share that information. If you are upfront about your debt and credit issues, you can tackle them with the help of your partner, and you will be more likely to succeed as a team.
4. Talk About Money When Conditions are Closer to Ideal
One of the advantages of scheduling regular money checkups is that you can plan ahead to create a situation that is as close to ideal as possible. It’s more difficult to have these types of conversations when you are tired or hungry. You might be more inclined to snap at your partner, or show impatience. It’s also a good idea to schedule your money talks for times when you don’t have other distractions, such as after the kids go to bed. Some couples even make a date of their money discussions. They might get a treat, like ice cream or wine, to enjoy while discussing money. This can be a good way to set a positive tone for the talk. If you happen to have had some unexpected stresses during the day, it might be a good idea to reschedule for the following day, after you have both had a little more time to rest.
5. Don’t Be Afraid to Bring in Someone Else
Sometimes it helps to have a third party present when discussing money with your partner. A financial planner can help you stay focused on your goals and the essentials of your situation. If you want to sit down with a spiritual adviser to help you maintain a peaceful atmosphere, that can help as well. You don’t have to involve someone else every time you have a money talk, but it doesn’t hurt to get an outside opinion, or mediation, if you are discussing something particularly difficult, or if you are struggling to find common ground.
Discussing money with your partner can be a positive experience if you let it be. Make it a point to get on the same page, and you will be more likely to succeed as a couple — and with your finances.
Miranda is freelance journalist. She specializes in topics related to money, especially personal finance, small business, and investing. You can read more of my writing at Planting Money Seeds.