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  • Writer's pictureAveril

How To Talk About Money: Tackling Challenges and Mastering Strategies for Couples


Sex and money. Two of the most common sources of conflict and disconnect between couples. Both can be sensitive and complex topics in any relationship, triggering emotions, expectations, and power dynamics. They often link to deep-seated beliefs and fears which make it understandably difficult to stay calm and open to each other’s views.


However, open and honest communication is crucial for building a strong, lasting foundation and a connected future together. In this article, we will explore typical challenges that couples face when discussing money and provide practical strategies to navigate these conversations more successfully.


Challenges and Strategies for Couples in Discussing Money


Challenge: Differing Money Beliefs


Because of the unavoidable presence money has had in all of our lives, our past experiences inform our understanding and comfort with money and finances, as well as our behaviours. Like most of our beliefs, we tend to operate from the assumption that our beliefs about money are true and accurate, and it can be confusing or frustrating if our partner thinks and behaves differently around money.


Strategy:


Get familiar with your beliefs about money and the way these influence how you think, feel, and act with your finances. Look with compassion at how your money mindset may have formed from your early life and other past experiences. Reflect honestly on how your beliefs about money may have positive, helpful aspects, as well as ways in which they might be unnecessary or out of sync with your current financial situation and could benefit from some flexibility.


Share this with your partner, and bring the intention to really understand your partner’s position as you listen to their own reflections. Stay out of trying to convince your partner to come over to your way of viewing money – you don’t need to be on exactly the same page, but you do need to understand what’s on your partner’s page and show respect for it.


Consider how you might adapt your approach your finances as a team to reflect the helpful aspects of each other’s money beliefs. It might take time for one or each of you to become more flexible and comfortable in approaching your finances a little differently, so take small steps if needed. Your financial behaviours are not set in stone, and can be regularly reviewed and adjusted if your mindsets about money shift or your priorities change.


Challenge: Power Struggles


Money can sometimes become a source of control or dominance within relationships. Power struggles centred around money can originate from a number of causes. Unequal earning capacities or debt levels and differing financial responsibilities can lead to imbalances in decision-making power. Money’s frequent link to our sense of autonomy, independence and security can make it a difficult area to compromise or relinquish some control in, particularly if our money beliefs and priorities differ from our partner’s.


Strategy:


If power struggles are coming from an imbalance in income or debt, it’s worth considering how this aligns with your other values and what you consider creates a good partnership and team. Consider what each of you bring to the relationship outside of your financial contribution and how these are recognised and valued. Acknowledge that a person's chosen career or occupation is reflective of more than just their ability to work hard (privilege, opportunity, encouragement, and so on), and carries more meaning than just their capacity to earn.


Develop shared short and long-term financial goals that reflect your values, and encourage both partners to actively participate in financial planning and decision-making processes. And while joint decision-making is important, it is also crucial to respect each partner's need for autonomy. You might find it helpful to establish boundaries and allocate discretionary funds that can be spent individually without joint approval. This allows for personal financial choices within the context of shared financial responsibilities.


If power struggles persist or become overwhelming, consider seeking help from a financial advisor or couples counsellor. Sometimes it is easier to hear feedback and suggestions from a neutral third party, and these professionals can mediate your discussions, facilitating equitable and constructive solutions.


Finally, if power struggles around money are occurring in your relationship, it’s worth reflecting on whether they are also present in other aspects. Is there a broad theme of one or both of you finding it difficult to compromise, or trust one another, or be flexible with the other person’s preferences? Does one of you feel powerless in another area of the relationship, and thus trying to control the finances is an attempt to rebalance that? Controlling money might be symptomatic of broader issues in the relationship dynamic that need discussing and addressing.


Consider the source of the desire to control. Sometimes excessive dominance around money occurs as a form of power and control abuse, and this should be recognised and acted upon seriously.


Outside of an abusive relationship, control is often an attempt to reduce anxiety. If you can identify the origin of the anxiety, you can reflect on whether the concern is in proportion with your current situation, what might help to mitigate the anxiety outside of such strict control, and whether you can trust yourself and your partner to manage challenges as they arise.


Challenge: Avoidance


Like intimacy issues, problems around money often get swept under the rug. There may have been past painful conflicts that make each of you hesitant to approach the issue again. However, unspoken concerns build into resentments and create distance in a relationship. Avoiding speaking about money may also have the long-term impact of affecting your future financial security.


Strategy:


Humbly acknowledging to each other where you may have struggled with money conversations and behaviours in the past helps to set the scene for more productive discussions. Take responsibility for regulating your emotions during money discussions, including taking breaks before it becomes heated. Bring an attitude of openness, non-judgement, and an intention to collaborate on moving forward together.


Foster transparency by openly sharing your financial information with each other, including income, expenses, debts, and investments. This transparency builds trust and enables informed decision-making. Deliberately allocate responsibilities, and determine who will handle specific financial tasks such as bill payments, budget tracking, or investment research. Sharing these tasks ensures both partners feel involved and accountable while playing to individual strengths. Regularly review and update your financial situation together, including whether your approach is serving your shared values and goals, and still reflective of your current circumstances.


While discussing money as a couple presents challenges for many of us, it is essential for building trust, aligning goals, and creating a harmonious financial partnership. By honestly acknowledging the difficulties and implementing effective strategies, including seeking outside support if needed, couples can navigate these conversations successfully

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