When you’re in the first bloom of romance you don’t want to be talking about something as unsexy as money, but you should, says Melissa Browne.
Whe you begin a new relationship you might feel comfortable talking about whether to split the bill, but when it comes to finances and your relationship, for many of us, that’s where the comfort ends. Which is a problem.
If you want a truly healthy relationship, you eventually need to have “the talk”. And I’m not talking about the number of sexual partners you’ve had, whether you want to have kids or where you want to live. I’m talking about taking your finances seriously.
It’s not sexy, but here’s why you should do it. Many couples avoid the financial side of their relationship because it feels awkward to discuss money. They don’t ask curious questions or find out their partner’s value on money. They don’t discuss whether they’re financially compatible and they don’t discover if their partner has a lot of debt or a bunch of outstanding tax returns. This means that money becomes a serious relationship issue simply because both parties are unwilling to deal with it.
Money breaks you up
Research has repeatedly shown that finances are the most common source of fighting among couples, provoking three arguments per month on average.
The fact that your partner insists on always buying rounds at the pub, brings gifts and always picks up dinner on the way home from work might seem incredibly generous early on, but when you’ve moved in together or are saving for something significant, it becomes a source of tension because you feel they’re squandering funds.
Or maybe the fact that you have three credit cards and are thousands of dollars in debt feels embarrassing, and you don’t want it to affect your partner’s opinion of you, so you’re motivated to avoid conversations about money. This becomes an issue that grows and grows to the point where your partner feels blindsided when they start talking about buying a house and suddenly realises your debt and bad credit rating will mean you can’t contribute.
No matter your monetary situation, silence and secrets will only damage your relationship. It’s time to talk money.
So how do you start making money a healthy part of your developing relationship? How do you avoid the ick factor and include finances as one of the many subjects you’re willing and able to talk about as a couple?
You just start. I think many topics are potentially awkward if we’re not used to talking about them. By suggesting to your partner that you understand money is the number one thing couples fight about and you want to ensure it’s not something that becomes an issue in your relationship, you’re already introducing the topic as a positive thing.
Start safely by talking about your money values, how you feel about money and even take the brave step of offering a little financial transparency of your own, such as what you have and what you owe, what’s easy for you when it comes to money and what’s hard.
You might talk about how money was modelled to you growing up and what you struggle with when it comes to finances. Start a conversation about how your early perception has affected your relationship with money as an adult.
Will it be awkward? Probably. Will it be worth it? That depends if the relationship is worthwhile. If it’s a one-night stand you’re probably not going to bring it up, but as a relationship develops, money needs to become just another topic you’re willing to discuss openly and honestly.
Melissa Browne is CEO of accounting firm A&TA and financial planning firm The Money Barre. Her latest book Unf*ck your Finances is in stores now.