It’s no secret that money can cause problems in any relationship—even if you haven’t tied the knot. Financial issues can surface for a number of reasons, from problems with debt to irrational spending habits and more. Personality factors play a big role as well, particularly when one person is a spender and the other is a saver. With so many hurdles, it’s a wonder any couple can agree on how to manage their money.
Unfortunately, financial problems are all too often the precursor to a relationship split or even a divorce. That may seem counterintuitive given that couples are almost always better off financially when they’re together. Nevertheless, many couples simply can’t agree on how to manage their dollars and cents.
With that in mind, here are a few tips to help you navigate the money challenge and safeguard your relationship—before it’s too late:
- Communicate openly with each other. I start just about every article on relationships with this noteworthy piece of advice. That’s because a lack of communication almost always leads to problems. When it comes to finances, couples need to honestly discuss their views about money and how their financial personalities may differ. Although it’s important to have this discussion at the point when the relationship is getting serious, the conversation should be ongoing—maybe every month or every quarter, depending on your situation.
- Establish joint financial goals. Work together to create a budget you both can live with, and then stick to it. Leave some room for compromise as a way to address any differences in your financial styles, and establish common goals so you’re both working toward the same outcome.
- Come clean about debt. Debt can be a factor both before and after the relationship gets off the ground. If you have prior debt, be honest with your partner about it. Decide as a couple how you plan to address it. Then set some ground rules about how much debt you may or may not want to accrue as a couple. If you have poor spending habits or struggle with large amounts of debt, let your partner know in an honest and forthright manner. Together you can develop a plan to help correct the problem.
- Resist the temptation to be controlling. One person in the relationship may try to call the shots when it comes to your joint finances, but that’s never a good thing. This is often prevalent when one person has a greater income than the other, if one person loses a job or leaves the workforce to raise the children, and a host of other scenarios. These are circumstances that should be discussed in detail, but regardless, the person making the money should be mature enough to avoid any power plays.
- Avoid financial infidelity. This occurs when one person in the relationship is dishonest about spending or hides assets from his or her partner. This behavior can lead to an overall lack of trust in the relationship. It could also create problems when it comes to making larger purchases as a couple, such as purchasing a home, as hidden debt could make these purchases unattainable. Avoid the problem altogether by openly discussing your finances as a couple. When there are no financial secrets, you should be able to agree on how to manage your money.
- Discuss children and extended family matters. Let’s face it. Kids are expensive, and childrearing can place a financial strain on your relationship. When it comes to raising children, couples should discuss their expectations and the financial responsibilities associated with it. Similarly, one or both individuals in a relationship may be faced with the need to provide financial support for an extended family member. This, too, should be discussed early on in the relationship so you agree on how to handle the situation if and when it occurs.
Dr. David Lowenstein is a Columbus, Ohio-based psychologist with more than 35 years of experience. He conducts individual, family, and group therapy sessions in his German Village office and also via telehealth. Dr. Lowenstein is also available for expert forensic testimony, and for educational workshops and presentations. He is frequently called upon as an expert source for print, radio, and broadcast media. Contact Dr. Lowenstein at Lowenstein & Associates, 691 South Fifth Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43206, or call 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.