All you need is love. And an honest discussion about money.

21 March 2018

One of the main causes of friction in a relationship is money. In fact, more relationships break up over money than anything else. Sure, couples can argue about other things – how to raise the children, household chores, sex, even who has control of the remote – but money seems to be the one that has the biggest consequences when it comes to the future of relationships.

In this article, we ask the question, “are you and your partner financially compatible?” Before you answer that, here’s another question, “have you had the money talk?” We get it, it’s an awkward discussion to have but if you’re starting to get serious in a relationship, it’s essential if you don’t want bad financial habits to get in the way of your future relationship. Having said that, you don’t have to be at the beginning of a relationship to have the talk. If your relationship has evolved without any meaningful discussion about finances, it is never too late. Whatever stage you are in, have the chat - it’s the only way you can truly understand your partner’s habits and their motivations behind those habits.

The art of compromise.

According to Sue-Ann Bright, a counselling psychologist and owner of Bright Collaboration, navigating your relationship through the financial maze is all about having the right conversations. “Much like with any aspect of a relationship, the most productive way to find out if you and your partner are on the same page with regards to finances is to have open conversations about what money means, what spending means and what savings mean; to name a few. It is often assumed that partners have shared meanings when it comes to words like spending and saving and these assumptions can lead to significant stress if not unpacked and clarified.”

Having ‘the money talk’ isn’t simply about asking “so, are we going to put money away in savings?” over dinner. Money is an aspect of a relationship and, as much as we like to think of finances as unemotional, it is a very personal aspect of a relationship. As Bright points out, “It’s all about how we hold the conversation. If we come from a place of judgement then we will put our partner on the defensive. Your partner won’t be honest if they think that their confession will create a vulnerability that you will then pick on. These conversations must always start from a place of curiosity and a desire to understand, rather than to judge.

Why ‘I’m right, you’re wrong’ is just wrong.

According to Bright, when we are in a relationship, we often think that we are doing something or behaving better than the other party. If you put money aside every month towards saving for a long-term dream, for example, you probably won’t understand why your partner would just blow their whole pay package every month. But, having an honest discussion about money is not about trying to persuade your partner that you are right and they are wrong. This will only make them feel misunderstood and put them on the defensive.

So once you have had the conversation, and established differences between your approaches to money, don’t try and change their mindset (that’s close to impossible) but rather, find a middle ground. If you come from a poor background and have always worried about money, you may be much more cautious than your partner who believes that life is too short to worry about money and, therefore, spends like a money tree just bloomed in the garden. Both opinions need to be respected. As Bright puts it, “each of us is in a relationship with money; when you enter into a relationship with another person, they also have a relationship with money. Compatibility around money matters needs to happen, but this doesn’t mean you have to always agree. What you do have to do is respect the other person’s perspective.” 

"We had the talk, and it didn’t work."

Of course, it is possible that you may have the conversation and still not reach any middle ground. Perhaps, you agree on certain behaviours but your partner keeps reneging on that agreement – what then? It all comes down to respect. “In a healthy relationship, you take someone’s opinion seriously.” Says Bright. “If someone continually dismisses your concerns, there may be something wrong with the relationship.”

It’s easy to dismiss the importance of money in a relationship. Perhaps you believe that your love can conquer all. Maybe you think that, so long as you both control your own finances, there won’t be any friction. But, as one recent study undertaken by Utah State University in the United States found - the more frequent couples argue over finances, the more likely they are to get divorced. So, if you want your partnership to succeed, money needs to be taken as seriously as you take your relationship.

Disclaimer: The advice contained on this blog is for general purposes only and does not take into account individual circumstances, objectives or financial needs. Accordingly, readers are advised to seek appropriate advice from licensed professionals prior to making any investment, or taking up a financial product or service.