Money can’t buy a happy relationship. But daring to talk honestly about it with your partner will deepen your loving connection and bring a little peace to your purse.
By Liz McLardy, as published in WellBeing Magazine Issue 170
Money seems more likely to infect our relationships with fights, fears and shame than to spark joy. But money shouldn’t be the greatest cause for breakups and marriage breakdowns. How you choose to approach your co-financial life can be your relationships greatest strength.
If your relationship is suffering from the emotional debt of not daring to talk honestly about how you feel, think and interact with your money, then consider changing the way you both approach co-managing it.
John Armstrong writes in his book How to Worry Less about Money that “the goal of a relationship is that both people flourish together. And because money is a crucial ingredient in flourishing, it is a crucial ingredient to marriage.”
We should follow our hearts when we are on the quest to find the perfect partner but we should not be afraid to consider the financial implications and explore how you would approach the topic of money together.
Money cannot buy a happy relationship. But as a resource it can enable you to use your talents to make a difference and to focus on the things that you and your partner really care about. It can help you to build a future that will bring meaning and fulfilment into your lives. Money and love are closely connected, although we may try to trick ourselves into thinking otherwise.
The truth is, money is never just about money
The relationship you have with money significantly impacts you and your partner’s physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. The emotional stress often manifests in our physical body as headaches, digestive problems and high blood pressure.
Money is a complicated topic. It touches every aspect of our lives. It makes us question our self-worth, fuels judgement and often makes us feel like we are not enough and we don’t have enough. Arguments about money are usually cries out for recognition of deeper unmet needs and less about the numbers.
We can feel ashamed about our spending behaviour, suffer in the depths of debt or just get caught in a place of struggle with how we relate to money. This can make us feel ashamed and embarrassed.
These uncomfortable feelings we have toward money is a great opportunity to get self-curious and to deepen our understanding of ourselves and our partners.
Money is a gateway to self-awareness
Bari Tessler is a successful financial therapist and author of The Art of Money: A Life-Changing Guide to Financial Happiness which offers an approach that creates the real possibility of “money healing”. Tessler encourages us to view money as a gateway to self-awareness and as a training ground for compassion, confidence, and self-worth.
Everyone has fears, challenges and frustrations about money. The interesting fact is that money stress actually has very little to do with the dollars and cents and more to do with our thoughts, feelings and behaviours.
Tessler says “money has been the elephant in the room your whole life. Because…no one has taught you how to really deal with it…When we dare to speak the truth about money, amazing healing begins,” she says. So, instead of continuing to avoid this elephant in the room, why not try approaching money as an opportunity to deepen the connection and passion in your relationship.
As a starting exercise consider what your current spending behaviour is saying about you. When you spend like there is no tomorrow you are sending that same message to yourself and to your partner. When you save, no matter how small, you communicate that you are investing in your future and want to care for and protect it.
Take control of your co-financial wellbeing
There is no denying that money and wellbeing are linked. However, it is less to do with how much you earn and more to do with how financially in control you feel. Professor Bob Cummins from Deakin University, the author of the Australian Unity Wellbeing Index, has found that financial stress has similar effects on the body as physical torture. But, he identifies that it is the feeling of being in control with your money that will release you from this stress.
Financial control, strong personal relationships and sense of purpose are what Cummins believes are the essence of wellbeing. His “golden triangle of happiness” clearly indicates that by sharing your thoughts, secrets, hopes, dreams and fears about money with your partner and choosing to take control of how your earn, spend, save, share and invest your money you will be well on your way to boosting your wellbeing.
Together you can choose to engage with money in a more healthy and meaningful way. You can embrace your differences and allow your vulnerabilities and plans for the future deepen the loving connection you share.
Bring empathy to your money conversations
The simplest way to bring more peace to your relationship with your purse and to your partner is to simply start talking about money and make it a weekly ritual.
Approach each money conversation with the view to share each other’s money struggles while aiming for constructive outcomes. Being empathetic instead of sympathetic is important. Empathy builds connection and allows you to see and feel from each other’s perspective.
If you have just moved from single life to couple life your freedom and private spending habits might feel exposed. It is important to not compare or judge each other’s money situation or spending habits, this will only create barriers and disconnection.
Find a time when you will both be relaxed and schedule your first money session like a date! Take the time to acknowledge that you are committed to your relationship and to protecting it, which means talking through financial challenges and goals. Ritualise it with music, a cup of tea or a dessert to create an enjoyable environment.
Your first money date doesn’t need to have a strict agenda but a good starting point would be to talk about how you (individually & collectively) relate to money (fears, dreams, beliefs, behaviours) and what you want to change. Focus on sharing and not judging. You might find it helpful to keep a money journal so you can take notes.
Be loving, practical and sacred
There are some really practical things you can do to create a loving, practical and sacred space to talk about money. Here is a checklist to consider when scheduling your first money date:
Listen with compassion and suspend judgement
Have a shared outlook towards managing your money
Share your money dreams, beliefs and behaviours
Talk about your private money histories
Know what you own and owe
Set spending boundaries & ‘free use money’ limits
Tackle challenges with a safety net fund and commit to long term savings
Explore helpful co-money management techniques (for example joint bank accounts, cash budgeting to stick to spending limits and choosing debit cards instead of credit cards)
Balance your saving/spending tendencies
Discuss how to earn, spend, save, share and invest in a way that is meaningful to you both
Bring a sense of adventure to your money conversations
Create a harmonising environment for your money dates with candles, aromatherapy oils, music and a treat.
Create shared goals
Once your money dates have explored how you both relate to money, you can start to invest further in your partnerships financial future by identifying what you both value and create shared goals.
If you have already been through the buying of an engagement ring, planning a wedding and choosing where to live then you will be very aware of the impact that what other people value has on your choices.
“Nowadays people know the price of everything and the value of nothing” – Oscar Wilde.
It takes courage and discipline to stick to your unique set of values and to spend your money on things that bring joy to your lives. This is where your partnership can offer some of its greatest strength. By taking the time to understand what each other really cares about you can provide support in helping each other ‘flourish’ and spending meaningfully.
Creating shared goals is much the same. Do you want to own your own home or is this your parents dream? Do you want to run a business together or is it feared because your parents think it’s too risky? Do you want to travel or study? You might not know all the answers to these questions and that is perfectly ok. The important thing is to consider and choose from all the possible experiences you could share with your partner, have great expectations of your relationship and its future.
Balance the masculine and feminine
Studies have shown that men and women often have different views about money. For women, usually driven by more feminine energy, money is seen as a sign of security and stability. They are usually more likely to save for emergencies and worry when financial challenges arise.
Men on the other hand, driven by masculine energy are more likely to take more risks and often see money challenges as a threat to their self-esteem.
It is important to embrace the masculine and feminine energies that you both bring to managing your money. This will bring advantages and disadvantages to different money matters. Be aware of them but don’t let them get in the way of your overall goals and ability to achieve them as a couple.
Remember that your co-financial life is an adventure. There will be many twist and turns along way. These energies will continue to change as will your life together. By being conscious of them you can be equipped to make the best money decisions.
For example, if you choose to become parents it is likely that the feminine energy in both of you will increase. You will both be seeking more financial security and stability in the early stages of parenthood. It is a good idea to anticipate these changes and adjust your financial plan accordingly.
Compassionate communication, honesty, trust and openness are undoubtedly important ingredients for a healthy relationship. Be it with yourself, your partner or your money.
Money can seem like a complicated topic, but doesn’t need to be. Just start by talking about it and defining what money success means to you individually and as a couple.
Your co-financial life is an adventure; enjoy sharing it together. Remember to make sure that the love you have for each other is at the foundation of everything that you do and that this adventure together is much more valuable than your bank balance.