As our relationship evolves and we begin to contemplate a shared life together, there is a question that will always rear its head, and that is how do we sort out the finances?
It is an important question as money has so much to do with feeling safe and secure in our relationship. It is also one of the primary drivers of arguments, with research telling us that over 70% of couples argue over money.
Such arguments are bound to become significant as the decision is made to move in together and share bills, particularly if there is one partner who is not mindful with their spending habits, coupled with someone who is careful with their spending.
This can create anxiety within the marriage or partnership, which often cannot be easily understood or fixed impacting the two-some.
What we have to remember here is that as we come together as a couple, we bring with us baggage from our past, so childhood experiences, such as whether life was a financial struggle, or whether we are from a more affluent background, can have an enormous impact on how we view money.
Psychologically we know that how we are raised affects how we think about money and what we then expect from a partner when it comes to spending and saving.
In my own work as a relationship therapist I have known of couples where the male has grown up in a family with below average incomes and when they have found themselves coupled with people who grew up in wealthier circumstances, they have found themselves becoming stressed and insecure.
The heart of this insecurity comes from the fear that they may not be able to live up to the expectations of their partner when it came to earning money.
These kind of couples often resolve this issue through therapy, by both focusing on what matters in their relationship, with often the most important thing emerging in their relationship is their love, respect and care for each, trumping any financial concerns.
What is important to note here is that this conversation had to be had, and had it been avoided, then the stress and pressure that was being created would have become a destructive force in their relationships.
One of the major other areas of conflict that I come across in my work is the perception of dishonesty between a couple around how they spend money.
Now in my experience as a couple’s therapist, I would not say that many couples are dishonest about spending habits, instead they tend to be struggling with differentiation. This is the process of being an individual while staying close and connected to your partner.
As individuals we like to think we can do what we like with our money, however once we decide to be in a committed relationship, such thinking will compromise the relationship and to avoid this we need to begin to think about how our spending impacts our partner.
The sudden decision to buy a new outfit, or to head out with your mates and gamble heavily, without communicating this to your partner, is a recipe for distrust.
What is needed to be remembered here is that you are no longer single, so you need to respect that new dynamic and come to an agreement on how you spend and save money.
Clear decisions need to be made on whether you have joint funds and also the level of independent discretionary spending you are both comfortable with.
When it comes to finance in a relationship, what works best is transparency, and you need to take it a step beyond simply setting saving goals and budgets.
Instead the conversation needs to be around discovering how the two of you think about money. How much is money and success tied to your self-worth? Then the biggest question of all, how can you ensure that money will not become a negative factor in our relationship?
The answer is to be open honest and transparent with each other, have each other’s back and always put the relationship first!
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