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Talking to your significant other about money can be reaaaaaaaaaalllllllly hard; I know because I’ve had to go through this myself.
I remember having an honest conversation with Tom about my money situation prior to considering buying a house together. Essentially I had been hiding my debt from him from the start of our relationship, but when it came to looking at mortgages, I realised I needed to come clean.
There was no way I’d be able to afford it given my credit rating at the time.
I was terrified. I had all sorts of fears of being abandoned, rejected and quite frankly, dumped.
Luckily for me, I have an amazing boyfriend who understands me better than I know myself, and he had already suspected about my debt. So after a lot of snot and tears on my part, we had a cuddle and he said we’d work it out. He was able to buy our house on his own, and I have breathing space to sort out my debt. Phew!
I think talking to your partner about money is so important. This week I released a blog about how to “do money” as a couple, but talking about it to work this out is the hard part.
What to talk about
I have a few ideas of questions to ask each other to tackle this topic.
Sit down together in a relaxed environment with the purpose of talking about money. Make sure you won’t be interrupted as far as you possibly can. You could make it a date! (Wine is optional, but you need to maintain a clear head to talk properly). Have tissues on standby.
- Talk about your money story – tell them your earliest memories of money, how you spent money as a kid, and how your parents spent money. Give your partner space to do the same. Can you both spot any patterns in your current spending that may be caused by your past experiences and habits (yours or your parents)?
- What shared (or not) values do you have about money? Do you both like spending, or saving? What are your attitudes to investing?
- What are your future plans? Do they align, or are they very different? This includes children!
- What worries you both about money? Maybe losing it? Not having any? Is it not being in control?
- What do you need to confess? Do you have lots of debt, or have you spent money on something you now regret?
- Is there an income discrepancy? Do you know what you both earn?
- Do either of you have any “fantasies” about money – i.e. expecting your other half to “rescue you” from your money troubles.
Of course, this list of questions is not exhaustive, and as you discuss, you might bring up more things to talk about.
Let your partner talk openly and try not to interrupt. Speak from your heart and tell them how important this is to you. Use phrases like “I feel….” rather than “I think….” to avoid getting into arguments, assigning blame or telling each other what to do!
If you can’t do it all in one sitting, break it up. There’s no rush. Just don’t allow it to be ignored if you do this. Be compassionate and understanding towards yourself and your partner. Talking about money is hard, and it will take time.
If one of you has just broken some bad news, hold space for them. Make sure you allow them to feel heard and not judged. Hugs and tissues go a long way. Don’t feel tempted to rush into fixing the problem immediately or shout at them. Allow it to sink in first, then later, talk about how you could work through it together.
If there is an income discrepancy, then how does the person who earns less (if any at all) contribute to the relationship? Raising children and maintaining a home ARE important contributions that deserve acknowledgement. It seems ridiculous having to write this, because it should be a given, but I know how easy it is for some people to forget. This is your friendly reminder!
I truly believe that partners come into our lives for a reason. Could they come into your life to teach you something about your own money habits? Tom certainly helped me to see that saying no is actually a necessary tactic in order to save money and not overspend.
Despite your best efforts, sometimes it helps to have a mediator in conversations like this. Couples counselling could be a really good way to approach it.
What if my partner won’t talk about money
Baby steps are important. I think there are some issues that need discussion and are non-negotiable like, future plans and whether you want children (just not on the first date ok?!). However, assuming your partner doesn’t care about how your retirement fund is being invested or thinks they “know it all” when it comes to money, if they don’t want to talk, then don’t force them.
Even when their habits are very different to the sort of lessons I’m teaching you, and you really want to share it with them, sometimes it does more harm than good to discuss it. For your own sanity and commitment to the cause, just allow them to continue to do what they do. Keep your money separate except for the essential stuff like bills, and make sure you save and invest your own money.
This, by the way, is not sweeping the issue under the rug. This is about YOU taking care of YOU and leading by example. When you partner starts to notice your habits, you never know, they make start to ask you about it.
If they don’t, and remain stubborn, don’t allow them to knock you off your course. When self-development changes occur on one side, this may cause friction in the relationship, because the status quo is being tampered with. This is quite uncomfortable for some people, and you may get a lot of resistance.
“If you have goals and plans, don’t allow others to disrupt them just because they haven’t learnt to think like you yet….”
Talk To Me Instead!
At the end of the day, we cannot force others to do anything. All we can do is work on ourselves and walk our own path. If you’re having difficulty, keep your opinions to yourself at home and come and use our Facebook group to get your money-fixes! This is certainly what I’ve learnt to do, and I have found myself a lovely community of people who think similarly to me – yourself included!
Be the change you want to see, and who knows what might happen next!
See you next week,