For most couples, money is a tough subject to talk about openly and honestly. A big reason for this? We are often given confusing messages about money from a young age. How we spend it. How we save it. What it can get us and what it can’t. We learn about money mostly from our parents, and we’re taught messages that end up sinking in deep to our core. A few examples of the money messages you may have heard:
“Money doesn’t grow on trees.”
“A penny saved is a penny earned.”
“Money is the root of all evil.”
We are also taught early in life how to talk about money. Think back for a moment to what you witnessed about money growing up. How did your parents talk about it? Was money a topic of joy, ease, or happiness? Or was it an argument about bills, spending, and not having enough? Perhaps you heard absolutely nothing about money, which could lead to an overall lack of understanding about it.
Money often makes people uncomfortable and even shameful due to mistakes made with it. Or if you were told that wealth makes people bad or selfish, you may harbor guilt if your bank account feels a bit too full. If you grew up hearing your parents argue about finances, you may believe that money drives people apart. It is no wonder why so many couples either avoid money conversations altogether or experience turmoil whenever they approach the subject.
But the good news is that you can actually create a stronger connection through successful money conversations. The strongest couples are also those that can talk openly about money and share financial goals.
If you struggle to talk with your partner about money, follow these strategies and you’ll find success! Here are three ways to discuss finances without fighting.
1. Seek to understand your partner.
Relationships involve two complex and diverse individuals. We feel most connected when we also feel understood, heard, and appreciated. But don’t get me wrong; understanding does not necessarily equal agreement. When talking about money, try to understand your partner’s perspective, their goals, and their attitudes. Listen to what they say they learned about money growing up. Then, be curious! Seek to learn about your partner and hold back on judgment. Being critical shuts down curiosity and is hurtful. The idea is not to convince your partner to think like you, but to appreciate where they are coming from as their own unique self.
2. Set goals together.
Once you understand one another, you’re ready to set goals. Bring one or two financial goals to the table and discuss them with your partner. The most important part of goal setting is being specific. State exactly what you want in numeric terms — whether it is a dollar amount or a percentage. Then state how often you want an action to occur (i.e., I want to save $20 every two weeks) and give yourself a time frame for achieving the goal (i.e., I want to ultimately save $500 in five months). The other important aspect of this strategy is that the goals be shared and supported by both partners. You can have individual goals too, but these goals are to support your relationship. After completing this with your partner, you’ve had your first financial date!
3. Make a money date.
To get really good at having money conversations, you need to practice. My biggest recommendation is to set up regular and consistent “money dates.” Mark your calendar and commit to a regular time where you focus on each other and your bank accounts for at least one hour. Turn off the TV and give each other your full attention. Review your goals and celebrate even the smallest of successes. If you’ve had some slip-ups, revisit step one and plan together on how to correct an issue. Remember, you’re in this together!
Money conversations don’t need to be scary, shameful, or destructive to your relationship. Money is an essential part of our lives, and when you’re committed to another person, it becomes an essential part of your relationship.
Jessica Waclawski is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.