With Valentine’s Day upon us, I reflect on the many complications that money can cause in relationships. In my experience counseling thousands of people over the past 25 years, typically opposites attract. Not always, but in most instances, I find one of a couple who is fiscally on top of things with the other partner having a more laissez faire attitude about the family finances.
Does this pose a problem? Not necessarily. It really depends on 2 things:
1) Does the person who takes charge of the financial matters feel resentful?
2) Does the less involved partner defer to the other one?
Having been the one who handles the finances in my relationship for over 20 years, I can in all honesty admit that there were times when I felt resentful. I felt like there was a burden on my shoulders, not just to pay the bills, but to work and earn and grow the savings that we had set aside. Over time, I was able to accept that as luck would have it, I’m simply better suited to be in charge of financial matters. Of course, I am a financial planner, but that’s not necessarily why I’m more suitable. I’m innately organized whereas my husband has a bit of adult ADD, and there would be a lot of late fees in our life if he were in charge of bill paying! Knowing that has helped me be OK with adding that chore to my “to-do” list versus his. Whatever resentment I might feel over “having to be in charge of the finances”, pales in comparison to the anger I would have towards incurring incessant late fees and interest charges.
The second point however, is crucial. In my marriage, I get no push back on my decisions of what to spend or how much to save. Nor am I married to an over-spender. So my husband lets me run the ship of the family finances and doesn’t make it difficult through his money behavior. He is on board with the overall plan and rarely spends excessively.
I wish all couples had this kind of situation. Because if I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a thousand times…”I want to save more, but he/she spends so much, I just can’t do it” or, “We wouldn’t have debt if it weren’t for his/her non-stop spending”. Unfortunately, this is more the norm I find with many couples.
Do you and your partner argue over money? Or do you disagree on your partners spending or savings habits, but choose to keep it to yourself and silently curse their behavior and its affect on your financial situation? Either way, it’s not a good place to be. So what can a couple do to come together on money issues?
- Consider letting an outsider look over the monthly expenditures and give their input on the spending.
- If you’re already saving, but arguing over needing to save more, consult with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ to get an idea if you truly need to save more to reach your goals.
A financial plan can help you determine if you’re on track to meeting your future retirement needs and perhaps your partner, who wants to save more, is just living in “the fear of never having enough”.
- Schedule weekly meetings with your partner to discuss spending and monthly meetings to discuss savings goals. Have an agreement that no arguments are allowed, just an overview to get both in a couple engaged in the family’s goals.
So let’s say you try these tips and don’t get anywhere with coming to a compromise, or you’ve tried in the past and know it doesn’t work. Then it’s probably time for some financial therapy! There are therapists who specialize in money issues between couples, as well as Certified Money Coaches. These professionals can help you discover the blocks you have regarding money, and clear the path to new behavior…if you’re open and ready, of course!
It’s sad that too often money comes between couples and can threaten to destroy relationships. Money should simply be a tool we use to live a certain lifestyle, and save for a reasonable future. But since money IS NOT logical and rational, but deeply emotionally charged for most of us, it often becomes divisive for couples. Don’t let money ruin your relationship. Be open to getting help and to change if you need to.
A very Happy Valentine’s Day to one and all!