Talking about money in a relationship, can be stressful. But, you really need to talk about this one. I know, no one likes to hear let’s talk about the budget. When you go into a relationship, you each come from a different family of origin. This means that you each have a different language. I have found that many couples have a different language (aka-belief system) about money.
That is why money and relationship problems go together.
After a while, you are going to have to talk about money. This can start when you are dating. This is not a problem that will go away if you ignore it, or don’t talk about it. That will actually make it worse in the long run. Make sure that you are gentle with this conversation. Some people are more traditional and feel the man should pay for everything. Although, times are changing and many people are alright going dutch. Whatever, you choose make sure you are comfortable with the decision. Also, make sure this is a decision that you both feel good about.
At the beginning of a relationship, you are developing the foundation for how you handle money in your relationship. It’s important that you both know what is coming in and what is going out. This means you need to start talking about money. You also need to work on understanding one another beliefs about money and where they came from.
Here are 5 steps that will help build understanding about money and relationship problems:
- Be open to accepting influence from your partner. You might wonder what this means. This is where having a conversation is really helpful. Ask your partner questions about his/her belief system about money. How did their parents spend money? Did they have secrets around money? Did they hoard money or hide it? Did they view money as power? You need to listen with an open heart and stay away from judgement.
- Be empathetic. In order for your partner to open up with you, your partner must feel safe. This means you need to listen with empathy. This will help create understanding in the relationship. It can be easy to feel defensive when you are talking about sensitive information. When you get defensive with your partner, this will cause your partner to shut down and not want to open up to you. If you keep doing this, not only will they not want to open up to you about money they won’t want to open up to you about anything else.
- Stop blaming your partner. This means start accepting responsibility for your part in this problem. You need to realize that it took two people to create this problem, and it will take two people to solve this problem. When you are in a relationship, it’s easy to vilify your partner when things go wrong. You may yell or criticize your partner. When you do this you will only make the problem worse. If this keeps happening you will begin to turn away from one another. Which means you are slowly chipping away at the relationship.
- Be open to a compromise. If you can’t compromise, then you both will lose. Even if you feel like you are winning. You need to feel equal in a relationship. This means that you both make decisions together in the relationship. Maybe, this is an area where the conflict keeps coming up and you can’t stop arguing over it. This may mean that you don’t feel equal in the relationship.
- You don’t have to solve the problem right now. You both want to feel safe talking about your problems in the relationship. This means you won’t solve all of your problems right away. It’s alright to table the argument, as long as you go back to it. This is not the same as avoiding conflict in the relationship. Agree to meet at a later time to discuss the problem. Preferably, a time where you have both had a chance to cool down. If you continue to argue over the something, it will only get worse. Meaning you will say things that you can’t take back. This will also create a lot of pain around the problem. Meaning every time the subject of money comes up, you will either want to run or have your defenses up right away.
I’m going to be honest. I have seen a lot of couples in my office, and this one comes up a lot. But, there is hope. When you build understanding about the problem it will help solve the problem. As The Gottman Institute has said, “You must first understand the problem before you can solve it.” This means you need a lot of conversations about the problem and time to understand the nature of the problem.
If you like this article, then go to Relationship Challenges. There are many helpful tips on how to build a healthy and happy relationship.
Lianne Avila is a Marriage & Family Therapist helping couples in San Mateo, CA who are looking to rebuild a close emotional connection and get their relationship back on track. Please subscribe to Lianne’s newsletter on www.LessonsforLove.com to learn more about her services and expertise.