I firmly believe that being in a relationship with someone you love deeply is one of the best parts of life. It’s about knowing you can come home to someone who cherishes both the good and bad sides of you. It’s a feeling that can’t be reproduced; it’s special, sometimes fleeting, and rewarding. A strong relationship relies a lot on honesty, be it about one’s past, mistakes, or medical history. One of the most important things to be honest about is your finances. While it’s never an easy topic to discuss, it’s one that can shape and influence the very core of your relationship.
In a study completed by Jeffrey Dew of Utah State University, they found that when couples argued about finances, they used negative conflict tactics more often than positive ones. . This means less calm, rational discussions and more heated arguments, some even resulting in violence. Finances can clearly be seen as a source of contention for many couples. In fact, at study by Ameriprise showed that 31 % of all couples surveyed argue about finances at least once a month. On a more positive note, TD Bank’s study showed that couples who have frequent conversations about their finances were happier in their relationships. It’s clear from these studies that while talking about money can be stressful, having frequent conversations about it has an opportunity to improve your relationship.
Here are some things to keep in mind when having a conversation about finances with your significant other:
Setting and timing: Nobody wants to go in depth about their student loans or other debts when they’re strained from work or just utterly exhausted. It’s already an uncomfortable, stressful topic, so why make it worse by talking about it when you already feel that way? Make sure that both you and your partner are in a good mood for your conversation. I would suggest having this conversation on the weekend, or a day when neither of you are working. Next, make sure your setting is one that’s quiet and relaxing. If you already live together, having it at home would be best. If you don’t, pick one of your places or somewhere where you can have a private conversation without being disturbed.
Go into it with an open mind: If this is your first serious conversation about finances, make sure you keep it judgment free. You’re about to share a lot with each other, and this does have the potential to change your relationship. Much like the other important conversations, such as marriage, moving or career changes you need to treat it. Regardless of what happens, you’ve taken an important step in the right direction when you sit down to have this talk. Even if you feel that you and your spouse cannot settle on finances, or if there’s something in their plans that you just can’t agree or live with, it’s good to know that now rather than later. It gives you time to make the appropriate plans.
Be honest about everything: Finally, it might be tempting to glaze over the unpleasant details of your finances, but it won’t do your relationship any good. If you’re willing to lie about a gambling problem or an enormous amount of debt you have, it can cause a rift in your relationship if your spouse finds out. Even if they didn’t, it’d still be a concerning red flag in your relationship. If you’re willing to lie about maxed out credit cards or a substantial student loan, what else are you willing to lie about? Your finances might raise some alarms, but it’s so much better to have them out in the open rather than hiding them. Building the foundation of your relationship on trust and candidness will make it stronger.
So, with these tips in mind, it’s a good idea to map out your discussion, that way you can stay on topic. I recommend laying it out in terms of your past, present, and future.
Past and Present: Go over your past financial endeavors with your significant other and figure out how they still effect you. Did you have a credit card while you were in college? Could that have effected your credit score? Did you take out a student loan? Do you still have some to pay off? A lot of your past decisions still have an effect on you now, so it’s important to go over them. Next, go over where you stand financially, any kind of debt you have, and any sort of investments or goals you are pursuing. This will provide a solid background on the situation you’re in now.
Future: This is where you and your significant other can decide what you want to do in the future, together and separately. While ideally, you’d want to talk about combining your finances, especially if you’re thinking about getting married, it’s also important to talk about your individual personal financial goals. If you feel that these plans line up and can work well together, or if you can come to a mutually beneficial financial agreement, then congratulations, you’ve just had a successful conversation! If you find yourself still feeling unsatisfied with it, don’t be afraid to have a couple of conversations about it. Chances are that questions will arise after your heart-to-heart, so feeling like you’ve covered all your bases will be important.
Maneuvering a successful, calm financial conversation can be difficult. It’s a touchy, sensitive subject for a lot of people, and many do have financial baggage from their past. In reality, none of us are perfect. While some of us might have pristine financial records, there are other areas in our lives where we might struggle. That’s why you should always encourage honesty and reserve your judgment. Being in a relationship will always require patience and compromise, so by getting a head start on conversations about money, you can better secure your future with the one who means the most to you.
Your comments are welcome.
Rachel is a media relations specialist and content writer for CreditSoup.com. In her free time she enjoys cultivating a strict personal budget, as well as avidly pursuing hobbies such as writing, painting, and working out.