Have that money talk -- for better, not worse
Just got engaged? Congratulations! While you're making
those exciting plans for your new life together, be sure to discuss
the ever so unromantic, but important, issue of your financial merger.
"Money is such an emotionally loaded topic that
few couples discuss it directly," says Olivia Mellan, psychotherapist
and author of "Money
Harmony: Resolving Money Conflicts in Your Life and Relationships."
"Yet money, more than sex, is what drives partners
apart," she says.
When should the money talks begin? Get started before
the wedding, not after, advises Stewart H. Welch, a certified financial
planner and author of "10
Minute Guide to Personal Finance for Newlyweds."
"If you want to start your marriage on
the right foot with your eyes wide open, you have to talk about
money and your financial future," says Welch.
"But few of us were ever provided with
good examples of how to talk about money. Even in the 21st century
money is still a taboo subject. You don't hear it talked about in
schools or in the family," he says.
Most of us have trouble talking about money because
money usually represents so much more than dollars and cents, say
"Money is tied up with our deepest emotional
needs: for love, power, security, independence, control and self
worth. And since so many of us are unaware of the emotional load
that money carries, we fight about it without understanding what
the battles are about or how to settle them," says Mellan.
Opposites attract in money, too
"When it comes to money, tightwads marry
spendthrifts, worriers marry avoiders, and planners marry dreamers,"
"Even when opposites don't attract, they will
eventually be created. If two spenders marry, for example, they
will fight with each other for the super-spender role.
"If couples don't talk about money before they
marry, you don't know if you're tying yourself to an over-spender
in debt or a worrier who could drive you crazy," she says.
Money issues are different from other issues in relationships.
They're harder to talk about and harder to resolve.
"The most important thing is empathy -- try to
put yourself in your partner's place," says Mellan. "It's
almost more important to be heard and understood than to have a
partner agree with what you say."
Set the stage for your 'money
So, now you know you need to talk, but how do you actually pull
it off without arguing or getting frustrated? Here's what Olivia
- Find a non-stressful time to talk -- when money
is not a loaded issue, such as during tax season.
- Set aside a time when neither one of you is hassled
or stressed. In this way, you can both devote quality time to
this important sharing session and listen to each other with as
much patience and respect as possible.
- Agree on some ground rules: No interrupting each
other, and after one person shares a difficult piece of information,
the partner should try to mirror it back before responding.
- Mention your concerns about your partner's money
style. Acknowledge what you admire about their methods and what
you secretly envy. Hoarders secretly admire spenders' capacity
to enjoy life in the present, while spenders secretly envy hoarders
ability to set limits, to budget and delay gratification. Making
positive statements will help to make your partner feel safe enough
to give up the negative aspects of their behavior.
- Set a time to have your next money talk. Aim for
weekly conversations in the beginning, then monthly ones.
"It may be hard to have an honest discussion
about your finances," says Welch.
"However, it's important to create a trusting
relationship so you'll be able to talk about money in both good
times and bad times. Start early and you will reap the benefits
for many years to come."