Money and Marriage

How to Talk About Money In Your Relationships

Even the strongest relationships aren’t easy all of the time. Creating a healthy relationship takes work, including a great deal of emotional commitment and dedication.

We do a lot of marriage counseling at Foundations. Couples come to us seeking clarity and support on a variety of relationship issues like intimacy, sex, divorce, affair recovery, communication, conflict resolution, and so much more.

However, money is one of the most common conflict triggers in relationships, especially marriage. Like sex, money is an emotionally loaded topic, so it’s no surprise that many couples have a hard time talking about it. In fact, over the years I’ve found that couples have a harder time talking about money than they do about sex and intimacy.

Why is money such a difficult topic in marriages?

For starters, many people have a complex and often troubled relationship with money. When they get married or otherwise become coupled, conflicts about money can get downright explosive. Then, there are other people who have no individual problems with money; the trouble begins after they're in the relationship, when their spending habits suddenly impact the other person.

There are a number of reasons so many couples have such a hard time openly communicating about money. One major part of the problem is that, as a culture, we don’t really talk about money. Secondly, we aren’t taught how to team up and manage finances with a partner or spouse.

However, the bigger, and far more complex pain point is that money is tied up with so many other factors: self-worth, accomplishment, social standing, freedom, fear, the future, the unknown, and everything in between. Our beliefs about money develop years before we ever even consider commingling our finances with a romantic partner. Research has proven that we “inherit attitudes, values, and beliefs about money from our parents and other family members.” In most cases, we don’t even know that we have these beliefs around spending and saving money.

The importance of talking about money early in a relationship

In the early stages of a relationship it’s common to talk to your partner about things like marriage, whether you want children, and career goals. When the topic is finances, though, those important, candid conversations are far less common.

I worked with a couple recently that had absolutely fantastic communication. They had been married for five years, but even before the wedding they had done a lot of great work on their own in terms of talking about their issues, their desires, and what they wanted out of the marriage. They talked about sex and intimacy, starting a family, how to deal with in-laws, household division of labor, religion, and where they saw themselves in 50 years.

What they HADN’T talked about was money.

Now, five years in, they came to see me. It turns out that each of them had a very different relationship with money. He was a spender, she was a saver. Totally different ends of the spectrum. But, because of their original associations with money, one could not truly see where the other was coming from.

Our approach was to dig deep. For the first time, the couple talked about the nitty gritty financial aspects of their lives – paying bills, budgets, and saving for the future. But, most importantly, they each shared how they felt about money. Money for her brought up feelings of fear and anxiety. For him, money was simply something that ebbed and flowed, something that made it possible for him to do the things he loved and to buy the things he wanted.

Overcoming money conflicts in marriage

Conflicts over money are not impossible to overcome. And it’s never too late to have that conversation. Whether you’ve been in a relationship for ten weeks or ten years, communicating about your money history is the first step to getting on the same page about your finances.

Here are some other tips to avoid conflicts about finances and marriage:

  • Be a team and create a financial plan together
  • Get everything out on the table, like debt
  • Talk about your overall financial goals
  • Express your fears surrounding money
  • Discuss your spending comfort levels
  • Discuss your own personal history with money
  • Be solution-minded and avoid blaming your spouse

If you’d like to talk about how you and your partner handle finances and marriage and how conflicts over money might be impacting your relationship, call Foundations Counseling today.