Finances may not be the number one cause of divorce or relationship issues but it does rank up there in the top 5. Now with this whole COVID-19 pandemic occurring, finances struggles are becoming a bigger issue, not just for couples, but for everyone. However, today I would like to focus on tools that may help relieve the strain for couples. Below are a few tools and tips I have found to have a positive impact and reduce some of the stresses in a relationship.
I spent several years working with couples as a counselor and what I saw that was at the core of majority of the issues they had, was communication (Yup, pretty much 99% of the couples I met with). There was either a lack of it, or when they tried, they just communicated differently and didn’t understand each other. So, it doesn’t come as a great surprise to know communication was one of the biggest causes for financial stress in relationships.
Communication is Key!
Whether you are at the beginning of your relationship or have already been in one for a while, if you haven’t already had the money talk, you need to have one. Time to implement some communication! Take some time to sit down with each other and discuss lifestyle expectations, financial goals and values. Your values in life will have an impact on your financial visions thus is why it’s on the list. Now, when having this conversation, expect there to be some give and take on both sides of the party. Try to understand where the other person is coming from, whether you completely agree with them or not.
Schedule the Couple’s Meeting
Now once you have this initial money talk, make sure you continue it with either weekly or monthly talks. I call it “the couple’s meeting”, but you can name it something more fun to bring some light-heartiness to the relationship. The Couple’s Meeting is not just about finances, it’s about all aspects of the relationship and I recommend it to help couples connect and grow together. In this meeting, you talk about what is going right in your relationship, plans for the week, review goals, and if anything needs to be worked on in regards to the relationship and finances. In regards to your finances, prioritize any new goals that are set and review status of current goals. Also review your budget and the efficiency of where your money was/is being dispersed.
Are You the Spender or Saver in the Relationship?
If you are the Spender in the relationship, consider an “allowance”. I know this will hit a nerve with some of you, but I need you to take a step back and look at it from a different angle. Recognize that you are indeed a Spender and then think about what is most important to you, prioritize. I’ve worked with many couples who didn’t like this due to feeling like they were losing their freedom, but in reality, it really is being responsible. If you struggle with controlling your spending habits, then by receiving an allowance, you are making sure the most important bills, saving goals, and living expenses are being taken care of first. Then you have the freedom to spend your allowance on whatever you want. The same goes with the Saver in the relationship.
On the flip side, Saver, don’t go overboard and be completely strict on saving everything. Being too controlling over the money can damage your relationship. Also, if you are the kind that likes to track everything in regards to the money, realize that your partner may struggle with this. If your partner does, the more you try to get them to track everything, the more strain will be put on your relationship. Recognize this and focus on only tracking the most important transactions.
Separate Bank Accounts?
I recently read an article from a very well-known financial guru who states that he discourages separate bank accounts in a marriage. For those who agree with that, you are not going to like what I’m going to say next. From my time working with couples, I strongly question this. From what couples have told me after figuring out their financial success, having both separate and joint bank accounts can help the relationship. The separate account is to be used for your “allowance” and the joint account is for the bills, savings, living expenses, vacations and big-ticket items. Have all income go into the joint account first, then based off of your budget and financial goals, decide how much will go to the “allowance” accounts.
One thing I will add to this is I want you to avoid what they call the “power play” when it comes to the income of both partners. If one person enters the relationship with more money or makes more money than the other, this does not mean that person has control over the money or uses it to control the other partner. Also, the one who makes more money doesn’t automatically get the bigger allowance.
Only You Can Decide What is Best for Your Relationship!
Just remember, at the end of the day the only people in your relationship is you and your partner. You both know your life and relationship best and only you can decide how to manage your finances properly. Side note, just like other areas in your relationship, you are in this together, it’s NOT you versus your partner. So instead of blaming each other, ask the questions: how are WE going to correct the issue and get us pointed in the right direction?
If you feel like the issues in your relationship goes beyond simply coming to an agreement on your finances, I would encourage you to meet with a couple’s therapist, even if it’s just one session. I have had clients resolve their own issues after just one, while others needed a few more. Having a third impartial point-of-view can be extremely beneficial and they can work with you and give you tools which will help strengthen your relationship.
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