When it comes to talking about money, it's best to be clear
and direct. Don't assume your partner will just work out your
attitudes or what you're feeling. These discussions must take
place before a relationship becomes serious and must continue
periodically throughout the marriage or relationship, especially
as your financial situation and lives change.
In the podcast accompanying this article, I talked to Dr
Emily Stein, a psychologist who counsels individuals and couples
about the impact of money problems on a relationship. She
points out the different meanings that money can have for
women and for men. She suggests ways for couples to avoid
money problems and ways a couple can talk about and resolve
conflicts about money. She also talks frankly about how some
money issues, unfortunately, cannot be resolved. Here are
four dos and four don'ts in the mix love and money.
The Four Do's
1. Do talk about how you handle money and what you do and
would like to do with it. This does not have to occur in the
first blush of the relationship and you don't have to question
someone about all of their attitudes at once. But as you get
to know each other better and as situations occur, explore
issues like spending, saving, bill-paying habits, attitudes
toward debt, gambling and dreams of what you would do if one
suddenly had lots of money.
2. Do recognise attitudes can be different, but complimentary
to your own and negotiate compromises that work for both of
you. Recently I met a couple who had been married nearly 50
years. She was a spender who knew she needed to save more
and he was a saver who needed the security a big rainy day
cushion. They decided at the beginning of their marriage that
they would be more comfortable having separate current accounts.
They worked out an agreement where he would pay the mortgage
with his earnings and she would pay the utilities and furnishing
for the house. Each agreed to save a minimum amount from his
and her salaries in separate savings accounts and increase
this amount as their salaries rose. She could do whatever
she wanted with the remainder of her money and he agreed not
to question her about it. Because both of them adhered to
the terms of the agreement, they've never had an argument
about money during their long marriage. And while she hasn't
saved a much as he has, she has saved more than she ever expected
3. Do try to be dispassionate when talking about money problems.
Don't always think that a person's attitude toward money is
necessarily a judgment about you. For example, if your partners
wants to maintain a separate current account, it may not mean
that they distrust you. It may be a desire to maintain a sense
of independence and control. Or it could mean they're embarrassed
by something that happened in the past and they aren't yet
ready to share that information. Try to listen with an open
mind, even if the information is something you may not want
4. Do continue to talk about money throughout the relationship
to make sure that you are still working together comfortably.
Dr Stein notes that changes in a couple's financial situation
can lead to changes in the way one or both people handle money.
Sometimes behaviours can seemingly appear from nowhere, such
as being stingy or gambling. It's best to schedule periodic
talks (annually or semi-annually) about how your individual
and mutual financial needs may be changing over time.
The Four Don'ts
1. Don't get seriously involved with someone who has a totally
different attitude about money or think you can change someone's
basic money habits. Money attitudes are very difficult to
change in people. You may help them mitigate that behaviour
or temporarily act differently, especially if they are at
a point of crisis. However, when the person becomes comfortable
again, they are likely to revert to the behaviour that got
them into trouble in the first place. Unless you like financial
masochism, it's best to avoid trying to have a relationship
with such a person.
2. Don't let problems percolate. Discuss issues that bother
you before they reach an explosive crisis point. The discussion
is bound to be emotional, but try to remove the underlying
anger or annoyance from your words. Express your concern or
perceptions clearly and simply. Thinking about what you are
going to say in advance always helps. Listen to your partner's
responses objectively, even when it may be difficult to hear.
You don't always have to respond immediately. Give yourself
a few days to calm down and come up with some suggested solutions.
Let these serve as a starting point for creating a workable
compromise, if there is one.
3. Don't keep secrets from your partner, especially about
bad financial situations, like debt or gambling. People often
hide irresponsible financial behaviour because they fear the
reactions from their spouses. On the other side of the coin,
discovering that your spouse has been hiding such activities
always feels like betrayal. The trust that's lost is hard
to rebuild. It's best to tell your partner when things are
bad. Because telling the truth is a responsible action, you
may find that your spouse is more understanding, appreciative
and supportive than you expected.
4.Don't lend your partner money unless you can afford not
to be paid back. Loaning money to a boyfriend, girlfriend,
or partner who then never pays it back is one of the most
common stories of financial betrayal and a frequent cause
of hardship when the relationship end. The "loan"
can be charging an item for the person on your credit card,
co-signing a personal loan, or borrowing against your mortgage
to give them cash. At the bottom line, don't sacrifice your
own financial well being or safety net to help someone who
you may not pay you back. Unless you can afford to lose the
money, then don't lend it. And don't feel badly about protecting
your financial wellbeing.
The bottom line is that, love and money mix well if there
is honest and clear communication about both your expectations,
strengths, and, perhaps most importantly, weaknesses. The
resulting mutual understanding and support can help keep money
in its proper place among the many wonderful aspects of a
Source: Alvin Hall, MSN Money