To manage money and marriage together, spouses must understand each other's ideas about finances. While money doesn't buy happiness, there is a strong correlation between happiness and "the degree to which our financial decisions and behavioral choices are in alignment with our deepest values," says Susan Buniva, a therapist in Richmond, Va.
"For couples, it is a process of discovery, both individually and collectively, that allows us to live with more synchronicity and happiness," she says.
To see a complete view of the financial world from your spouse's viewpoint, ask open-ended questions, says Lynn Ballou, managing partner of Ballou Plum Wealth Advisors LLC in Lafayette, Calif. She recommends questions such as the following:
- How did your parents handle money? How are your siblings dealing with money?
- Do friends and family ask you for loans? If so, how do you respond? Do you ask family and friends for money?
- How did you begin your independent financial life? When did you start paying your own bills? Did you ever run into trouble with debt?
- How do you define "needs" versus "wants"?
- Do you use cash, swipe credit cards or write checks? How often do you sit down and review your circumstances against the financial vision you have for your life?