Money impacts all aspects of our lives in some way, whether we like it or not. We almost all experience the stresses of paying bills, the excitement of a paycheck, and the challenge of setting money aside for savings.
However, even though money plays such a key role in our daily lives, it’s one of the most taboo subjects in conversation.
In fact, studies by Wells Fargo and Nerd Wallet found that 44% of people find talking about money more controversial than any other topic, including politics and religion.
Why is money such a difficult subject to broach? Could it be that we’re embarrassed about our debt? Afraid that we won’t measure up to the perfection we see our friends post on social media?
Whatever it may be, for those that DO talk openly about their finances with family and trusted friends, it can be incredibly freeing. It involves being vulnerable and sharing a big part of your life, and brings you much closer to the other person.
Here we have two people’s perspectives, discussing how opening up the dialogue about their finances with their significant other helped strengthen their relationship.
Note: Without serious intention to nurture your relationship into something fit for the long-term, I don’t know many people who would worry about the financial status of someone they’re just casually dating.
If your relationship is developing into something serious, finance is a topic that needs to be discussed sooner rather than later. For multiple reasons, understanding the financial thought process of your partner is beneficial to the well-being of your relationship. My boyfriend and I have been pretty open about our finances with each other since early in our relationship. It’s something that is important to us separately, so naturally, we discussed it together. I’m not talking about sharing bills or anything like that - I’m talking about understanding each other’s financial expectations and goals. Here’s why money talk is important in dating:
Disclosing such personal information is big. By taking this next step, you’re showing your partner that you’re serious about your relationship. When you share this, you’ll probably experience a sense of relief and feel even closer. Trusting your partner not to judge you based on your financial status is the ultimate trust-builder.
One of the most important things to take away from discussing finance with your partner is being able to understand him/her better. I had already been friends with my boyfriend for years prior to becoming a couple, but I would never have guessed how important finance is to him until we talked about it. We shared our endeavors for the future, and I learned that he is more frugal than I am. Beyond that, I have a good idea of where he stands financially, and it’s nice to understand him in this sense.
I also appreciate that we can share advice and concerns that have helped me better myself financially. It’s become something that is important to our relationship - that is, understanding where the other stands in terms of financial goals - and it's incredibly satisfying when you know your hopes align with that of your partner.
Without discussing finance, you may encounter situations where someone is forced to pay for something s/he can’t really afford. For example, if skydiving is on your bucket list, your partner may feel guilted into joining you even if they can’t afford it. If they don't feel comfortable telling you this activity is out of their budget, it might create an undue burden for him/her.
In addition, you may be creating false standards for each other, and building expectations can be detrimental. If you build off the above example, for as long as your partner doesn’t feel comfortable discussing his/her financial status with you, the burden will continue to grow, and it might create tension in the relationship when expectations aren’t meant. Openly discussing how you want to approach certain aspects of your relationship financially leads to a clear and open line of communication that is vital to the success of any relationship.
Even though you don’t have to share bills and expenses, you can still work on a budget for outings to do together. Since my boyfriend and I are in a long-distance relationship, our budgeting goes into vacations. Even though our relationship hasn't reached the point where we share everything (i.e. an apartment, bills, etc.), it’s nice to work towards something together.
Another aspect of budgeting as a couple is who pays the bill when you’re dining out. This is one of those topics that varies across the board, but I say do whatever works for the both of you. My boyfriend and I work full-time jobs, so I don’t expect nor want him to foot the bill every time. We don’t keep tally of how many times someone has picked up the tab because we're both equally willing to invest in our relationship.
The biggest takeaways I have from discussing money with my boyfriend is understanding him better and strengthening our bond. The transparency we have between us is great for our relationship, and although I know it may not always result in good conversation, I appreciate the honesty and commitment it shows from the both of us.
Statistically, finances are one of the most common causes of divorce. Money can be a source of extreme conflict and stress, leading to a lot of unhappiness in marriage. It can manifest itself in a variety of ways, whether that be arguments about each other’s spending habits or the panic that comes with not having enough money leftover at the end of the month to pay the bills.
With this in mind, it becomes even more apparent why practicing these habits of discussing financial topics in a healthy way and having full transparency with your partner is so important. Marriage is a partnership forever, and it’s about walking through life as a team. This needs to happen with your money as well. Before getting married, you each should learn each other’s spending habits, attitudes towards money, expectations, and goals. By aligning your goals with your future spouse, the transition from dating to marriage will be that much smoother.
As we discussed above, working on a budget together and being transparent about your financial situation helps bring you even closer with your significant other. This becomes even more important in marriage. Ideally, you should join your finances together, so that you’re both on the same page and can both see your full financial picture. Studies show that up to 40% of married couples don’t know their partner’s income, and that is frightening to me. You’ll need to find what works best for your situation, but it seems to me that keeping your finances separate would do more harm than good.
Decide the budget together and then stick to it. My wife and I use Mint.com to set our budget, track our expenses, and keep up to date with how our finances are doing. This builds our trust with one another and helps to keep each other accountable from unnecessary purchases, especially when we are both working toward a common long term goal together. We also periodically check in with each other so we ensure that we’re always on the same page.
While we track our expenses closely, we don’t over scrutinize or complain about what we each have purchased. Instead, we make decisions together based on what we each value. We also each have an allocated amount each month as “fun” money, which we can spend however we want.
Overall, your finances can be a constant source of conflict, filled with guilt and stress over how your money is spent, if you don’t handle them properly within your relationship. On the other hand, by being open and honest with your partner, it can bring you both much closer and help you take your relationship to the next level. It’s all about having it be a team effort, laying the foundation for healthy financial habits while you’re dating, and then taking the next step in implementing those habits in marriage.
Have you discussed finances with your partner? How was your experience with that?
Let us know how you handle the money talk with your partner, whether you're dating or married!