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Why Couples Should Talk About Finances — and How to Do It

January 31, 20205 minute read

Why are couples afraid to discuss money?

Sometimes it seems like money is the only remaining taboo. Couples who honestly, even eagerly, discuss all aspects of their personal lives suddenly clam up when it comes to finances.

So are credit scores and student loan payments really that much harder to talk about than your dreams for the future or embarrassing childhood moments? What is it about money that causes otherwise talkative men and women to go silent?

If financial discussions with your significant other stop before they get started, you may think the subject isn’t worth pursuing. Maybe you’re just dating and marriage is still far in the future. But if you think your relationship is serious, talking about money is essential.

Here are some reasons why talking about finances is so important, and some tips for doing it right:

Couple sitting on couch reading a piece of paper

Financial compatibility can make or break relationships.

Arguments over money and finances are all too common, and they can cause real harm to a relationship. Even partners who seem to agree on everything may be surprised to discover they have very different views on money.

In a relationship, you learn how and when to compromise with your partner about where to put your toothbrush or how to load the dishwasher. Coming to an understanding early on about how to manage finances is just as important. And couples who don’t talk about money before marriage put themselves at greater risk of finance-related divorces down the line.

If you want your marriage to get off to the best start possible, do yourself and your soon-to-be spouse a favor. Sit down and have the difficult talk — the one about money.

When you marry your partner, you marry their finances.

You may be marrying for love, but money will still be part of the equation. When you tie the knot, you’ll also be tying yourself to the finances of your chosen partner.

That’s why it’s so important to know everything about one another’s finances well in advance of the big day. From the amount of debt you both have to the types of assets you hold and any inheritances you might expect, don’t leave anything to speculation. Laying all the financial cards on the table should be viewed as an essential prenuptial ritual.

Couple sitting on couch having a conversation

Financial infidelity can be devastating.

Trust is an essential component of any relationship, and once broken, it may be impossible to put right. Financial infidelity takes many forms — from undisclosed debt to secret credit cards and overdrawn bank accounts. Any of these could jeopardize your financial future or that of your partner.

Even if your relationship can survive a financial indiscretion, it could still take years for your family’s finances to recover. And if the situation ends in divorce, the diminished size of the joint-asset pie could leave both parties worse off than they would have been otherwise.

If you want to maintain a relationship built on trust, you have to be honest with each other about your financial challenges and learn how to tackle them together.

 

10 tips to get those financial discussions off the ground

Couple laughing while sitting on couch

  1. Go shopping together. A simple trip to the grocery store can reveal a lot about what you and your partner value and how you make buying decisions. You may discover you prefer products that offer the greatest savings. At the same time, your partner may be willing to pay more for eco-friendly or name-brand goods.
  2. Talk about long-term goals. For partners in serious romantic relationships, discussions about the future should be no big deal — and that includes talk of finances.
  3. Approach financial issues from the side. If you’re uncomfortable talking about your finances, talking about friends’ or family members’ financial issues can be a smart way to raise the subject.
  4. Make sure you both have credit cards. This will allow you each to build and maintain credit separately. Maintaining good credit will put you in a better financial position if you decide to finance a car or take out a home loan together.
  5. Share bank statements and other financial documents. When you bring in the mail, open those statements in front of your partner. Comparing finances isn’t easy, but it’s important.
  6. Make it a planning session. If you’re nervous talking about finances with your romantic partner, look at it as a planning session instead. After all, you’re planning your life together, and talking about money is an integral part of the process.
  7. Talk about how your parents dealt with money. How your respective parents handled money can tell you both a lot about how you view the subject.
  8. Discuss your career goals. Partners need to support one another’s careers, and talking about jobs is a financial discussion as well. Future earning power will play a pivotal role in your financial lives, and talking about career goals can be easier than discussing money head-on.
  9. Be supportive and a good listener. It can be hard to talk about money and finances, especially if one or both of you have made mistakes in the past. The support of an understanding partner can make all the difference, especially if one or both of you are struggling with debt. So look one another in the eye, take a deep breath and start talking.
  10. Admit your mistakes. It’s easy to get defensive when talking about money, but admitting past mistakes is the only way to build a better future. Never try to hide your past mistakes or make excuses for them; accept what you’ve done wrong and use it to help you grow.

In a perfect world, conversations about money and finances wouldn’t be so uncomfortable. But in the real world, financial discussions can be a considerable source of conflict, especially in the midst of a new relationship.

It’s perfectly fine if you don’t want to talk about money on a first date. But as a relationship gets more serious, discussions about money, debt and interest payments become more important.

If you and your partner learn how to talk about finances now, those discussions will be a lot easier by the time you’re planning a wedding. And it’ll put you both on the right track to have a more successful future together.

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