How to talk about money in a relationship?
One of the most confusing and frustrating topics in a relationship is money. It’s awkward and weird. Full of confusion and misunderstanding. And, if you’re like me, then personal finance will make you worry that you do not want to join your partnership. So this causes a hitch: how to talk about money in a relationship.
It should be noted that my anxiety around this subject is not purely anecdotal. Research shows that money is a major cause of partnership fracturing, with some studies suggesting it is the second leading cause of divorce. “It’s the number one cause of relationship stress,” admits Adam Kol, a certified mediator and financial coach for couples. However, this reality has both darkness and light – which is why Kol dedicates his career to helping partners find common ground and saneness around money matters.
Featured image by Belathée Photography.
“Everybody can live well financially and in intimacy,” says Kol. This starts with having a conversation about it.
To find out where to start, I clicked on Kol for his insight on how to talk about money in a relationship. I also discovered another truth: Why is this topic still so taboo?
When it comes to money in a relationship, why is it challenging?
There are several reasons why money can be a difficult topic to explore with a partner:
Reason #1: We tend to lack healthy role models when we’re young.
Kol believes that when we are young, we often see money as a source of limitation or conflict. “Most of us also grew up with some sort of relationship with money, and parts of that relationship can be challenging, difficult, or hurtful in some way.” Then we bring negative connotations around money into our adult lives, often without realizing it. When it comes to partnerships, “we are certainly two different people with two different life experiences and money trying to figure out how to merge,” continued Kol.
Reason #2: There is a digital dimension to money.
Math and anything related to math can “create the impression that there is a right or wrong way of doing things,” says Kol, who says this can encourage thinking about: I struggle with math, so I’ll do with money, so, therefore, I’ll avoid this topic. (This is true for me, when one breaks a sweat from adding a tip to a check.) “People can feel overwhelmed or as if they’re not smart enough.”
Reason 3: Money can be a source of control and antiquated gender expectations.
“At a societal norm level, we tend to encourage boys to learn math and science,” says Kol. As a result, money problems can disproportionately affect women, thereby causing friction in heterosexual relationships. “This also has to do with things like gender pay gaps and the fact that women, financially speaking, tend to be worse at divorce than men.”
Tips for talking about money in a relationship
Before you get started, consider this: There is no right or wrong way to talk about money with your partner. Start and continue at a pace that works best for both of you.
Tip #1: Plan ahead
Consolidating time to focus on money gives you and your partner a warning. On the contrary, getting into a topic without warning can be intimidating, says Kol. It can also make your partner think, Where does this come from? “They can defend,” added Kol. “Or they might not be in great minds.”
Tip #2: Choose a reciprocal time and place
There is no general finance room or money hours. The key to landing at the best time and place is to focus on what will make you and your partner feel most comfortable and decide on a time and place as a couple. This might include spending an hour on Saturday morning coffee or chatting while hiking.
Try to find a time when you’re both off work and free from the chaos and distractions that grab your attention, says Kol. “This allows you to be present.”
Tip #3: Rely on Vulnerabilities
Money is a sensitive subject that no one expected. Plus, as mentioned, each person comes to this with a unique money history and mindset. All of this, says Kol, makes exposing your vulnerability around the subject a vehicle for deeper intimacy. “Even if it says, ‘this is important and you’re important to me, so I wanted to talk to you about this but I’m scared.’” Acknowledge the level of fear or the depth of the challenge. Challenges can start the process of building intimacy.
Tip #4: Track your own pace
The first conversation doesn’t necessarily include a full audit of each other’s bank statements. The same goes if and when you make financial decisions together. “You can start small, and build conversation and intimacy in a way that benefits both of you,” says Kol.
How can talking about money deepen intimacy?
In short, money is hard – but talking about it is both important and an invitation to move deeper with someone. It’s important to remember that training on this topic doesn’t mean you have to dig deep in the first place. Go slow and treat money as a means to expand your overall close relationship. “Sometimes just opening a crack shows how close someone is,” says Kol. “You have this privileged relationship with them and they have a privileged relationship with you where they can be secretive about some parts of you that are messy, perhaps not pretty, and even a little scary. .”