It’s good to keep in mind that arguing about money is the number one predictor of whether or not a couple will stay together. And the truth is, everyone comes into a relationship with particular “baggage” when it comes to money. These are based on our personal experiences, how we were raised, and so on. Talking about money can therefore be a minefield, but let me tell you, it doesn’t have to be. And one way to avoid those minefields is by having a ‘money date.’

First of all, I’m a big proponent of two essential qualities in a relationship—honesty and fearlessness. My partner and I decided very early on that these two traits would be our non-negotiables about everything, and it’s not always been easy. We’ve had to tackle such uncomfortable subjects such as in-laws, sex, children, and yes, what has many times been the elephant in the room, money.

But it does pay off! My partner and I have chosen to be upfront about our money issues and situations, including our credit rating, various debts, how much is in our savings accounts. We’ve also tackled what we wanted to spend and scrimp on, and ultimately, our goals and dreams. This has caused us to trust each other deeply, and at this point, several years on, we’ve gotten a lot more comfortable talking about these topics.

If you’re in a serious relationship, don’t wait too long to talk about money. If you find yourself skirting around these issues, wanting to avoid them rather than having a serious talk, perhaps that’s your sign to open your mouth. This may even prevent you from getting any unpleasant surprises down the road.

As credit card expert and debt coach Beverly Harzog says, “You don’t want to wait until you’re madly in love and committed before finding out your future husband has a terrible credit score and $30,000 in credit card debt.”

 

Schedule a money date

Schedule it in. I mean it. Do this instead of mentioning finances on the fly when you’re clearing up after dinner or between advertisements on your favorite series. It will show you’re serious about the topic.

What’s more, it will give both of you the opportunity to think about your own personal finances before you actually sit down together. Scheduling a money date blocks out an amount of time when your attention will be on nothing else but money.

You might be thinking, ‘but it’s just money. Surely money doesn’t deserve a date all on its own?’

Actually, it can and it sometimes does. One good example is when you’re discussing your hopes and dreams. Telling each other what you want to financially achieve with your lives deserves its own special time.

When do you sit down to discuss money, it’s a good idea to keep things light at the beginning. There’s no point in plunging in with all seriousness at once. Try to ease your way into the conversation, particularly when you’re tackling a problem. You might feel awkward when you’re not used to being upfront about these things, and you know you’ve been avoiding them. That’s okay, in fact, it’s perfectly normal.

Pro-tip: some small talk wherein you ask your partner how his day went will go a long way. So will a beer or a glass of wine. Money is a serious thing to discuss, which is why, rather ironically, relaxing a little bit can actually help.

Do you want to grow your money savvy? We’ve got a list of finance books recommended for every woman who wants to learn how to handle finances.

 

How do you know when it’s time for a money date?

Well, let me just say that there won’t just be one money date over the course of your relationship. It will be more like a continuous conversation between the two of you.  One that’s taken up every so often at different times along the course of your relationship.

Of course you’ll talk about money towards the beginning, establishing a budget, along with boundaries, expectations and parameters. As time goes on, when there’s a major expense up ahead such as a wedding or vacation, you’ll discuss money. Same thing when you make a significant purchase like your own home or a new car.

But the need to seriously talk about money will also arise unexpectedly. For example, when something that your partner has done involving money rubs you the wrong way. This is a good sign that it may be time to have another serious sit-down.

On a personal level, you may been struggling with negative thoughts about money. No worries, we’ve got some advice here showing how to make some changes in your perspectives.

According to millennial money expert Stefanie O’Connell, “Any financial behavior that makes you uncomfortable — whether it’s your partner constantly leaving you to pick up the check or you charging nights out to your credit card that you know you can’t afford — has the potential to become an issue between you and your partner.”

And again, the answer is to tackle it sooner rather than later. Letting things slide is neither good for your relationship nor your bottom line.

But, having said that, there’s no need to jump in with guns blazing, ready to confront and assign blame. Make sure you don’t talk to your partner when you’re angry or upset. This may make you more prone to say things you regret later on.

Instead, give it a bit of time until the strong feelings have passed. And when you do talk to your partner, remind him that you’re on the same team. You’re working together for your shared future, and therefore you don’t want anything to derail that.

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Anna Maria Romero is the Deputy Director of Lifeline Foundation by day and a freelance writer by night. Lifeline Foundation’s advocacy includes empowerment through financial literacy, which is why she has written and taught on this subject on numerous occasions.An educator by profession and training, Anna Maria graduated from the University of the Philippines, cum laude, and taught for more than two decades, having opened a school in 1995. She stepped down as as principal of South City Central School in 2015 in order to pursue a career in the non-profit sector.She is a contributing writer to an online news site, and has been on the creative team of “This Journal Will Actually Change Someone’s Life” since 2008, which is published by FreeSpeech Publications in Manila, Philippines.Anna Maria is a passionate advocate, volunteer, organizer, counselor, communicator, editor, and traveler, who’s always ready to pack up and go where she’s needed.

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