Stop Fighting About Money
Simply put, financial stress is difficult, time consuming and can put a strain on any relationship. People often cite finances as one of the main reasons for divorce. While I disagree and would say communication issues trump finances, I am aware of how finances can cause strife in relationships. These tips can move your relationship in the right direction when it comes to finances.
Although money is a sensitive topic it is important that couples discuss it before taking big leaps in their relationship, i.e. moving in together, getting engaged, having a baby. These discussions need to be open and honest with no judgement. More than likely if you have been dating for a while, you are aware of any bad shopping habits or if someone has a few degrees it is likely they have some student loans. Hopefully there aren't big surprises but if there are, address them and create goals for resolving it.
From working with hundreds of couples, I notice the couples that fight the least about finances have combined and separate accounts. They tend to put 70-80% of their income in joint checking and savings accounts. These accounts are used to pay all bills, save for rainy days, invest in retirement, and any activities done together. The other 20-30% is used for personal activities, birthday gifts, etc. This allows each of them a space for independence and responsibility in the partnership. Obviously not all couples are going to be ok with this but if they are proactive, they can come up with a system that works for them.
Don't be reactive
When financial problems arise, couples that allow emotion to control them tend to argue about the problem instead of focusing on the solution. Being solution focused instead of problem focused helps couples learn to work as a team. Financial problems can cause trust issues and hurt feelings so it is ok to address your feelings but eventually the couple has to find a way to fix the problem together. Once they have found a solution they are both comfortable with, they can discuss prevention to deter future issues. Remember, this is a process, if you don't belittle one another when discussing the finances you are creating a safe space that allows a deeper connection to grow. You will grow an immense amount of respect for one another when you prove you can solve problems and progress together.
Couples should have regular discussions about finances so there aren't any surprises. I recommend my clients talk about finances once a month. That is the normal cycle of bills so pick a date where you can review the bills that are due while planning for the next cycle. Rule of thumb should be to discuss finances anytime major changes. It is up to the couple to decide what is major. Even if one person normally handles the finances, it is important that both partners have access to the accounts and know how to pay the bills. If something happens to the bill payer, their partner should be to take it over without too much hassle.
Set Financial Goals
Setting financial goals may seem like an easy task because most couples think their goals are normal and everyone should automatically be on the same page. In reality, everyone doesn't want a home, to travel twice a year and 2 cars. Even if the goals are the same it is a possibility that your time frames for completing these goals could be different. Take time to sit down with your partner and discuss your financial goals, rank them in order of priority, and decide how soon you would like to complete them. Couples that are clear on their goals can come up with a plan that ensures that each person is happy with the financial direction of the relationship.
In a loving, healthy relationship the goal is to go through life with a partner that respects and understands all areas of your life including finances. Relationships should help you improve areas that you are already working on while possibly highlighting new areas that need to be sharpened. The more permanent your relationship becomes, the more you should respect that your financial moves will impact your partner. Partners should be committed to economic well- being.
For further inquiries:
Check out Eboni Harris, Licensed Relationship Therapist, at eboniharris.com
Phone: (832) 384- 4445