Sometimes, talking about money is viewed as a necessary evil, but it is just that: necessary. Ideally, the subject of money should be initially broached very early on in the relationship – hopefully before you even cement your relationship by having sex!
It’s imperative to talk about your opinions, views, habits, etc. and although my time frame may seem extreme, who wants to go down the road to sexual intimacy only to have it torn apart by a struggle in the realm of financial compatibility?
This is where what I call “Smart Heart Dialogue” (or, the money language of love) comes in. It’s designed to help you share your financial history with someone you’re becoming intimate with.
When Money Conversations Begin
The conversation starters are usually in reference to a transition in a relationship, as that can often be where the rubber hits the road, financially, for many couples. Integrating your differences and views about money during a shift in a relationship can be difficult but is so important to the ongoing health of that relationship!
Understand that a person’s money habits can be ingrained in them from a very young age, and therefore are usually held to pretty tightly, even if that person doesn’t realize it!
As you transition through a relationship there are a few scenarios that lend themselves to talking about money. Here are a few:
Moving In Together
“If we move in together, do we split all the bills?”
*A mid life change like moving in together can be an ideal time to talk about expectations for how to deal jointly with finances outside of a marriage. It’s not usually best to combine everything right off the bat, and a good way to deal with this question can be to suggest having a “fund” that you both do contribute to equally.
It can be used for your fun activities. Then, you can make decisions together about that fund. This helps smooth the transition to possibly having more of your money in joint accounts one day.
Overspending And Loans
“I overspent while we were on vacation, can you lend me some money?”
*The person asking for a loan may not take money and budgeting as seriously as you do. Or maybe you overspent too. Whatever the case, you need to evaluate how you deal with money, leisure activities and “spur of the moment” purchases together.
And if you’re the person being asked for a loan, approach the subject carefully as you don’t want to seem judgmental toward the person who probably isn’t too thrilled about having to ask in the first place.
Money In A Committed Relationship
And if you’re in a committed relationship where you’ve had some of the more basic talks there are still ways that money conflict can manifest itself in ways you weren’t expecting!
“We can’t afford to go on vacation with your family (or our friends) again this year if they’re going to invite us as their guests, then make us pay for our share of everything.”
*You need to lay out expectations for big ticket items and expenses at the on-set. Together, decide what you can afford and if necessary inform the other party, and present it as a unified decision.
“Do you have to review my credit card bill each month?”
*The person asking this question may feel like a child in the relationship – always being checked up on. Issues from childhood and the way the parents dealt with money/relationships aside, if the person IS feeling belittled, as a couple you need to work hard toward sharing the “power” of the checkbook.
One person shouldn’t feel like they’re less-informed or less-involved in the process. This can lead to contempt and revenge spending or “POP shots” – pissed off purchases aimed at exacting revenge on the other person.
By being honest and respectful you can get through these dialogues and relationship transitions and grow with your relationship as it continues to change over time! More dialogues and instructions on dealing with financial life changes can be found in Dr. Bonnie’s new book, Financial Infidelity.