Money drama can be one of the major reasons relationships break up. If you want to keep your relationship loving, calm, romantic and fun, it’s a good idea to get on the same page with your partner about finances.
It can be scary, though. When I first started dating my soon-to-be husband we were both in financial pickles of one sort or another. Both of us were in debt. Both of us were in career transitions. Both of us were just starting out in the online business space. And both of us were making a lot of money mistakes. Most importantly, both of us had shame about our current financial situations. We also had inaccurate perceptions of where the other person was financially. We both assumed the other one was “more together” than we actually were.
My awakening came early on in our relationship, at a tiny gas station in Telluride, Colo., as we were crossing the Rockies on our way to Boulder. Mike (who is now my fiancé) had just revealed the whole truth about his finances. We were one week into our relationship and into what became a 10-month road trip around the USA called The Freedom Tour.
Even though I was scared because it seemed that my fantasy of Prince Charming coming along and saving me from my own financial mishaps was not going to come true with this guy, it was oddly freeing. He’d just told me the worst of it. So I told him my worst of it too. And then we could be together in the truth, instead of being together in an illusion.
There were many more difficult money conversations over the next couple of years (and I’m sure there will be many more in the years ahead), but what’s really cool is that our relationship has gotten easier and easier the more truthful we are with one another, financially and otherwise. And, I’m very happy to report that in our three and a half years together we’ve collectively paid off more than $50,000 in credit card debt and more than $80,000 in student loans! We’re getting married debt-free and, more importantly, we’re getting married as a strong financial team without any money secrets.
Women ask me all the time what they should do if their honey is on a different page than they are financially. Based on my own experience of building a relationship while building a solid financial foundation, I have five simple tips to get you and your partner on the same financial page so that your bank account and relationship can flourish.
- Open your hearts: One of the hardest parts about financial conversations with your romantic partner is that money is such an emotionally loaded topic. It’s really easy to get angry and judgmental. It’s also easy to shut down because of your own money shame. So, when you have talks about money, consciously open your heart.
- Find out what your partner values: Money is just a stand-in for what we value. Ideally we would use our money to fuel the things that matter to us in the world. If you find out what your partner values, or what’s most important to him/her, then you can work together to make financial choices that support both of you. Share your values with your partner too, of course, and continue having open dialogues about them as you build your life together.
- Share your fears: This is one of the hardest things to do, but it’s also one of the highest leverage things you can do to create intimacy and honesty in your relationship. When we get vulnerable and share our financial fears we let our partner in on who we really are. And all of our defenses (that often manifest as anger and shutting down) can melt away so we can create a financial life that’s based on truth.
- Get financially naked: Tell your partner about past financial decisions that you’re not proud of. Tell one another about all of your accounts, your habits, your spending behavior, your debts and your goals. We spend a tremendous amount of energy in life trying to hide things and it’s draining. Tell the truth and then work on solutions and goals together from an open, honest place.
- Make regular money dates with your partner: What we put our attention on grows so if we put our attention on our money and our partner simultaneously, both our finances and our romantic life will improve. Make the dates fun (flowers, food, candles, good music) and treat them as sacred. Go over your expenses, your goals, pay your bills and review your goals. When you do this regularly (minimum of one time per month) you will dodge most financial arguments and drama.
One client of mine told me that she and her husband had the first honest conversation about money in 17 years after reading my book and implementing the strategies above. You, your money, and your relationship are worth this level of care, truth, and attention. Investing in your partner in this way will pay you massive dividends in every area of your life.
Kate Northrup is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.