Today’s post is written by Certified Money Coach Maureen Gilbert from www.loveandfinances.com.
When we fall in love it’s tempting to think “love can conquer all” ~ that no matter what, if two people truly love each other they can work through their problems. Unfortunately, the reality is a little more sobering. Not only do ½ of marriages end in divorce but financial/money fights rank as the cause either directly or indirectly in 60% of divorces. Most of these problems could be avoided if a couple looked at their money patterns and values before comingling their money. This often doesn’t happen because not only is money a taboo topic to discuss, but also there is something culturally unromantic about discussing money.
The spending used to be cute…
One of the greatest challenges I see between couples is when one is frugal and the other is a bit of a spendthrift. The frugal partner can genuinely feel like their partner’s unconscious spending is eroding all of their good efforts and careful money execution. This scenario is more common than you may think. The reason is that we often unconsciously attract someone that reflects our disowned qualities – our shadow in Jungian terms. Initially, these unintegrated aspects of ourselves feel endearing, special and charming in our partner. You may love that he spoils you with extravagant presents or spontaneous (and therefore costly) weekend getaways. Once the initial glow of romantic love starts to dim these same aspects we love can start to wreak havoc on our relationships. However, if you view relationship as a spiritual pathway to healing and wholeness, even the most difficult conflicts can be used to both grow individual and as a couple if they are handled properly.
1. Start Early
Don’t wait until you’re married or engaged to address concerns about spending and saving. Some people are willing to shift their behaviors and change, and others aren’t. If you can’t navigate these difficult topics before your lives are comingled odds are it won’t get any easier later. Use the principles of Non Violent Communication to address your concerns productively and respectfully. State what you observe; how it makes you feel and what you need. For example: “I notice that each month you are running a balance on your credit card. This makes me feel anxious and scared because I don’t want money wasted on interest. My request is that we stop using credit cards and plan a budget for our spending.” If you can’t handle these conversations on your own work with a money coach if you need to but don’t think these patterns will shift without serious attention and effort.
2. Sort Out Yours, His and Ours Spending
Everyone needs some financial freedom even in a relationship. Frugal partners can tend to question the spendthrift partners spending even on little things. This can erode trust and intimacy over time. Decide how to share joint expenses (housing, utilities, joint vacations) and then allow each person to spend the leftovers as they see fit. Set a $ limit over which you need to discuss a purchase and under which “no permission” is required. We all know that little purchases can add up to a lot of money but everyone deserves the respect and freedom to spend “their money” as they see fit even if you disagree.
3. Try To Appreciate What the Other Person Brings
Fights happen when we frame our partner’s behavior in a negative light. Maybe without your partners willingness to spend a little more freely you would never enjoy some of the fun things money can buy. Likewise, without your conservative saving and frugal nature you might never own a house or be debt free. Instead of seeing the other person as trying to sabotage you focus on the balance and synergy you create as a whole. Create a list of “what I love and appreciate about you.” Invite your partner to see you as his “good financial management guru” instead of a stingy naysayer.
4. Figure out What Your Top 3 Values Are
More fights happen over “what we’re spending on” than “how much we’re spending”. If your values are out of sync finding a harmonious financial relationship is much more difficult. The reason is that values aren’t good or bad – they just are. You also can’t debate or rationalize someone’s values. When you have values conflicts compromise can be really challenging. If you care about the same things even if your spending patterns differ it’s a lot easier to allocate your shared financial resources.
5. Ask Yourself the “Golden Question”
Whenever I’m working with someone who is unhappy with something in their relationship I always ask the golden question: “If the other person doesn’t change and this is as good as it gets can you be happy in this relationship?” So much time and energy gets put into wanting, hoping and trying to change what we can’t control: other people. You may be able to influence someone else (“Hey, let’s make a budget and live within it.”) ~ but you may not. We can only truly control ourselves, never another person. If your happiness is based on someone being different from who they are, you’re in dangerous territory. Money is one of the most important areas a couple needs to navigate. There are frugal guys out there – unless you can be truly happy in a relationship with a spendthrift don’t let romantic idealism over ride your person values in the area of personal finance.