Merging Money: How To Get On The Same Page Financially (And Emotionally) With Your Partner
When two people commit to one another, they essentially decide to join their personal lives and everything that comes with them – including money and finances. Being on the same page financially with your partner is indeed one of the keys to a happy and successful relationship. But as many couples know, that’s often easier said than done. After all, every person comes to the relationship with different ideas and attitudes about money.
So how can couples align their approach to money and finances to ensure a happy and successful relationship? Let's find out.
What Prevents Couples From Getting On The Same Page Financially?
Before we get to how couples can get on the same page financially, it’s worth looking at what usually keeps them apart when it comes to finances.
According to Ed Coambs—a Certified Financial Therapist, some of the main factors that prevent couples from getting on the same page financially include differing attachment styles, fear of rejection or negative evaluation, and each partner’s financial background.
1. Different Attachment Styles
Attachment styles, according to the American Psychological Association (APA) dictionary of psychology, refer to the "characteristic way people relate to others in the context of intimate relationships, which is heavily influenced by self-worth and interpersonal trust."
Put more simply, Coambs describes attachment styles as “internal relationship roadmaps that tell us what our intimate relationships are going to be like."
There are four main attachment styles:
These attachment styles directly impact how you approach the issue of money with your partner, including how often you discuss money with them or whether you discuss it at all.
More specifically, Coambs explains that if one or both people in the relationship have either of the latter three types of non- secure attachment styles (i.e., anxious, avoidant, or disorganized), it psychologically predisposes the relationship to more strain and stress and can affect transparency, connection, and mutuality, according to Coambs. This can prevent couples from getting on the same page financially.
Take the anxious attachment style, for example. Coambs says that, “anxiously attached individuals have a lower view of themselves and a more positive view of the other person, and so can often get stuck in cycles of trying to please their partner while losing interest in themselves." This can affect their level of financial communication with their partner.
Coambs hypothesis is backed by a study from Journal of Financial Therapy that shows that the higher a person scores in the anxious attachment style, the less comfortable they’re likely to be talking about financial matters with their partner.
People with this attachment style, according to the study, have a more difficult time discussing sensitive topics because they want to avoid conflict as much as possible. Any conflict is likely to be interpreted as a threat to the relationship. Because money is often a taboo and sensitive subject, as well as a possible source of conflict, anxiously attached individuals may avoid talking about money with their partner in order to avoid negative interactions.
2. Fear Of Rejection Or Being Negatively Evaluated
People might also avoid talking about money—and, therefore, getting on the same page financially—for fear of being judged, negatively evaluated, or rejected by their partner. If you fear your partner will consider your financial ideas or suggestions to be stupid or unreasonable, you’ll have little to no motivation to talk money with them and thus get on the same page financially.
Some people have a problem making their partner or spouse their number one financial confidant. Someone whose primary contact or source for financial information, support, and advice all their life has been their parents, for example, might have a difficult time shifting this role to their partner.
When making financial decisions, such as buying a car, they might still turn to their parents or close friends for advice before they talk to their partner. In the worst-case scenario, they might not even bring up the issue with their partner or consider their opinion.
Unfortunately, couples can't get on the same page about money unless they can trust each other to be their primary financial confidant. If you are thinking of making a big purchase that might affect shared finances, your partner should be the first person you talk to about it, not your parents or friends, no matter how financially savvy you think they are.
How To Engage In More Healthy Ways On Money
Coambs' best advice for dealing with finances as a couple is to practice financial empathy. He says: “Being able to put yourself in your partner’s shoes is one of the biggest pieces that couples need to develop in order to really enjoy their financial life together."
People who are financially empathetic try to listen to and understand where their partner is coming from. They don’t dismiss or shut down an idea from their partner outright without at least taking time to think it through.
If your partner notices that the financial ideas they bring to you are always dismissed without consideration, they might stop bringing them up altogether. The next time they have an idea or suggestion, regardless of how good it is, they may not relay it to you for fear of rejection. Or they may decide to go ahead and implement the idea without consulting you, and choose to deal with the consequences later. Ultimately, this will only lead to conflict when everything comes out.
So, the next time your partner comes to you with a particular idea or suggestion, don’t shut them down with a hard “no” – ask them to tell you more about it instead. Ask them why the idea is important to them and how they think it might affect you individually and as a couple (without being judgmental, of course).
As Coambs says, opening up or inviting your partner into a conversation can increase the ability to get on the same page financially.
How To Build A Solid Financial Foundation As A Couple
Coambs advises couples to begin by reflecting on their money story, including who they have previously trusted or turned to for financial information and guidance. When was this advice helpful and when was it not? A self-reflection of your money story and influences can help you gain valuable insight into your current approach to finances and see where you can do better or change.
The next big thing is to actually communicate with your partner. Yes, talking about money can be awkward, but it’s something that needs to be done.
To begin this journey, first assess how comfortable you are talking about money and your financial future with your partner. Use a scale of 1-10, for instance, and if your rank or score is low, ask yourself what it would take to get up the scale.
Coambs has several suggestions on how people in a relationship can learn to become open about money.
Set a Money Date
According to research, the more regularly you discuss money with your partner, the less of a taboo topic money becomes, and the simpler it is to open up about it.
One great way to overcome the fear and anxiety of initiating money conversations is to simply schedule a recurring “money date” where you and your partner talk about finances with your partner—perhaps once a month or even every fortnight.
A money date can provide a fixed and defined space to discuss any financial concerns you may have instead of having to try to weave them into everyday conversations while worrying about how your partner will react.
Start Reading And Listening
There are a lot of great books, videos, and audio resources like podcasts out there on people’s relationships with money. You can use these resources to explore and potentially improve your personal relationship with money. This can enhance your ability to talk or be more open about it with your partner.
Develop An Ability To Trust Yourself With Money
Learning to trust yourself with money, including how to use it, can also help you become more open about talking about it.
Once again, this comes down to fear of being judged. You may be afraid of discussing money with your partner because you are afraid that they might judge you or negatively evaluate how you currently use it or have used it in the past. Learn to trust your own financial decisions and you will become more comfortable talking about money with your partner.
Some couples can also benefit from professional help.
Financial therapy can help facilitate you and your partner’s understanding of your conscious and unconscious feelings and behaviors around money and empower you to effectively communicate about money with one another.
It can also facilitate the development of empathy between you and your partner in regard to your feelings and behaviors about money.
When you start talking about money with your partner, remember that you don’t have to discuss everything at once. As much as you might want to, you simply won’t be able to come up with one financial plan that will solve or address all financial issues in the relationship in one sitting. Indeed, if you have never had any serious money conversations with your partner before, it’s best to start slow and handle one issue at a time.
Becoming Financially Aligned
Money can be a touchy subject. But if you want a happy union, you and your partner need to be financially aligned.
Getting on the same financial page as your partner is an ongoing journey that involves reflecting on your financial background and influences, overcoming your fear of judgment or conflict, opening up to your partner, and learning to be financially empathetic towards your partner. It can take some time to get on the same page financially, but the outcomes can be well worth the effort.
We hope this 3-part series has given you the tips and guidance you need to make money work for you rather than against you in your relationships.
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