An important conversation that is often overlooked when couples first get together is “the talk” about personal finances. In most cases, it’s viewed as too personal a subject, at least in the early stages of a relationship. As time goes by and each party settles into their respective roles, money becomes a more comfortable topic. That’s a good time to broach the subject.
Attitudes towards finance become more important when couples choose to cohabitate. Living together means shared financial responsibilities. Mutual decisions need to be made on how to split rent and utility payments, save for a mortgage or new car, or to pay off debt if that is an issue for either party. This is the point where philosophical differences often arise.
Parental Financial Habits Can Influence Children
Children emulate their parents. In conservative families, finances are often not discussed in front of minors, so children grow up with little or no knowledge about how to pay bills, manage debt, and create a budget. Progressive parents tend to be more communicative. When individuals from these two worlds become a couple, there’s an inherited disconnect on finance.
Another area where parents inadvertently pass on their tendencies is spending. This can include free spending without a budget, a heavy reliance on credit cards, or an insistence that you always pay cash. Think about the potential conflicts when two of these mindsets are asked to coexist in a relationship. Cash versus plastic is a common argument among couples.
Spouses Can Agree in Principle but Act Differently
Let’s delve a little deeper into this. Spouses can agree with something in principle yet act completely different from each other when they put those principles into action. Agreeing to just pay cash for everything doesn’t set spending parameters. Relying on credit cards doesn’t determine how many cards or card applications each party will submit.
Achieving financial bliss between two people with different backgrounds and spending philosophies is not easy to do. It should start with a discussion about values and goals. These areas are usually where common ground can be found. Figure out if you both want the same things in life. Follow that up with setting some short-term goals together.
Financial stress can lead to marital problems, so these issues are best discussed early in a relationship. We’re not talking on the first or second date. If the relationship looks like it could go the distance, a discussion about finances needs to happen. Look for common ground on some of the broader areas and then hone in on the particulars.
Communication is the Key to a Healthy Relationship
You’re not right all the time and neither is your partner. Healthy relationships are built on open communication and compromise when necessary. The latter is difficult when it comes to finance because most of us are pretty set in our ways. Ideally, we want to find someone who thinks and acts like we do when it comes to money matters.
Fear is one of the greatest obstacles to honesty in this area. No one wants a relationship to end because of money problems, but many of those issues can be avoided by simply talking about what each of you expects from the other. Avoid ultimatums, find common ground, and remember that you are not your parents. The two of you have the chance to start fresh. You can do this. Together.