Talking to Your Partner About Money

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Study after study confirms it: money is the #1 reason couples fight. It’s the #2 reason they get divorced, right behind infidelity. The good news is that money, while difficult and sometimes emotional, can actually help you bond as a couple. All you need to do (as if it’s that easy) is start talking to your partner about money.

Why Talk About Money as a Couple?

When you start combining your finances and general daily expenses (and even before!), talking about money can feel contentious. You may view money one way, while your partner views it differently. Beyond just viewing money differently, you may each have different expectations on how you spend, save or invest money. Adding to the complexity are varying incomes or debts that each person brings to the relationship.

Whatever your partnership struggles are, the best way to get to the root of them is to talk about it. To start talking about money, it helps to start with positives.

Talking About What’s Important — Rather Than What’s Wrong

It’s very common to dive into a discussion (or argument) about money when something has gone wrong or when you’re upset. As you probably know by now, this doesn’t accomplish much and you end up fighting again later. So, to break that cycle of negative emotions about money discussions, start by talking about the positives. Namely, what’s important to both you and your partner.

Schedule a time to sit down and talk about the future of your money and what each of you feel is most important when it comes to money.

  • What type of life do you want to live?

    • Do you want to live in the city or country?

    • No kids? One kid? multiple kids?

    • Minivan or speedster?

  • Is there a couple you look up to financially? Who and why?

  • What are our financial goals?

  • Is there are a couple that seems to be “living” those goals? Who and why?

Other questions like “When do you want to retire?” or “Where do you want to travel?” are also great questions to kickstart the daydreaming as a couple, so you’re both on the same page when it comes to making a plan for your money.

All of these big life events are powered by money, but they’re big, dreamy goals you can look forward to together. By talking about what’s important, you can then focus on how to work together to make those dreams come true.

The best part? You don’t have to start with the budget talk or looking at credit card balances. Focus on the good things so that you can build a better connection with your partner before you move into the heavy stuff.

Learn Your Partner’s Money Language

In most cases, couples don’t have the same “money language.” We expect our partner to understand and often think the way we do about money, but that's not the reality for many people. Thankfully, there is a way to bridge this gap.

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As you and your partner start talking more about money, you’ll be able to see how the other person reacts to the conversation — and what they take away from it. Some people prefer to talk about general money goals but not about the details down to the penny. Some people need to see spreadsheets or visual charts to see their progress or debt to really drive the point home.

Use your first few discussions about money as an “experiment” to see how you both talk about money. The best first step is to just ask your partner how they want to talk about money.

  • What's worked well in the past?

  • Which specific discussions have we had that made you feel good about money?

  • What has been a struggle for you in past conversations?

  • Which discussions have left you feeling upset or discouraged?

Thinking about how your partner reacts to other discussions and requests is a good baseline for what to expect in your money communications. However, to really strengthen the conversation, and to make sure neither of you feels attacked or under interrogation, it helps to have a really clear picture of your communication styles.

To help you see the differences in your communication styles clearly (and to end money fights for good), you can use our Critical Communications Factor free download. Share your circled preferences with your partner so that you can both understand where the other is coming from. You’ll also be asked to write out the best money conversation you’ve had as a couple and what made it a great conversation. This should help you hone in on communication styles, which makes money talks much easier.

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