Money is one of the top causes of arguments along with sex, housework and children. More than a quarter of couples say that money problems are the biggest strain on their relationships, according to counselling service, Relate.
The thing about money is that it reaches into every aspect of our lives. It’s an emotional subject that can often cause anger in relationships, particularly when there is an imbalance in power or difference in attitudes.
In a time of economic uncertainty, people naturally become more anxious and this general concern can trickle into everything. But while some of us may find it embarrassing to talk about money, it is essential that you discuss your finances with your partner to make sure you are on the same wavelength.
When they meet the partner of their dreams, so many people have the conversation about whether they want children and their goals for life, but money often gets forgotten.
The issue with this is that money can unfortunately become one of the biggest stresses and strains for couples further down the line and if only this could have been discussed rationally at the beginning, it might have helped matters.
Here is how to do it:
Who holds the purse strings when there is only one income?
After children come along, many women reduce their hours at work or leave their job altogether, and this can create an imbalance in financial control because they are earning less and footing many of the bills associated with the kids. Understandably, this creates heaps of conflict, stress and resentment.
Often, the person who earns the money expects to be in control of the spending, while the non-earning partner in the relationship believes the decisions should be made jointly.
What this comes down to is all about control. If either person uses money to control their partner – even subconsciously – it can wreak havoc on your relationship.
Personally, when my income dropped after my daughter came along, I insisted on a joint bank account for all our day-to-day spending. Yes, each of us could squirrel money away for savings, but everything we bought came out of the household account. Often, it is the mother who winds up spending the most on the child whether it is lessons, new shoes or days out, yet they are the ones with the reduced income. If I had a nickel for every time I heard about how my friend’s child was dressed head-to-toe in Mini Boden or Jo Jo Maman Bebe, but the mother is wearing six-year-old knickers from Sainsbury’s that have holes in them, I would be a rich woman. And it winds me up like crazy.
In my opinion, the person that provides the free childcare should not be penalised. It is as simple as that – and for us, works a treat.
It’s all about the timing
To get the conversation rolling, make sure you chose your moment wisely and opt for a neutral time. Don’t wait until a hefty credit card bill has landed on the doormat or you have been made redundant to broach the subject. The goal is to have a calm, relaxed discussion when there’s no specific money issue at hand.
While in a perfect world you would have discussed money before the relationship got serious, it is never too late to talk about it. Sit down together and be honest.
Understand different attitudes to money
Everyone has different approaches to money and your partner is unlikely to have a mirror-image style to yours. This can work well, as you might find one person is a spender and the other is a saver, creating a balance. But it may also be a recipe for disaster.
Past influences, experiences and family patterns affect how we view money, so it is not surprising that money can mean anything from power, security or freedom. It is crucial to find out what it means to each partner.
Perhaps a person who is a big saver associates money with security because they have childhood memories of their parents struggling financially. The important thing is to ask yourself: “why does my partner act like this?”
If you understand and appreciate where the other person is coming from, you can work better together and make more balanced decisions.
Face the music
If you run into money problems, the first thing to do is work out where the money is going and face the situation. Go through bank statements, look at credit card debt and scrutinise your household bills together. After all, two heads are better than one.
Avoid the blame game
If you are the saver in the relationship, it is easy to point fingers at your partner when there is not enough money to pay the bills. As tempting as this is, try to avoid doing this and instead work out the situation together.
Remind yourselves that you’re working as a team, and be supportive. Don’t create personal issues such as ‘your debt’ or ‘my wages’; instead try and share the responsibility of money, together.
It is important that both of you can manage your finances, so why come together at least once a month to check over the situation.
Set mutual goals
Decide what is important to you both, what goals and aims you have, and then look at your finances – is the money there or do you need to alter the amount of income and outgoings? Then draw up a household spending plan and stick to it.
By setting up a financial plan for your future, you and your partner can be on the same page financially and this will avoid any hard feelings or disappointments.