Disclaimer: The statements made in this post are the opinion of the author. They should not be viewed as financial advice. Please consult with a financial specialist before making any financial decisions.
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It has been said that your weaknesses are your strengths to the extreme. For example, I have a strength of being on time and getting things done. On the other hand, that can make me extremely impatient. The saddest part of weaknesses being our strengths is that the strengths that helped us fall in love with someone can also have a flip side that drives us bonkers! This can lead to intense stress in a relationship. And one of the biggest stressors on any relationship is money.
For those of you that wonder what all of that philosophical stuff I just said meant, let’s look at a common situation. Let’s say you are a saver—you get a lot of joy from just not spending money or finding the best deals. You start dating someone and one of the things you like best about them is how much fun you can have together. In fact, you haven’t had that much fun in a long time. So you fall in love, you get married, and you live
happily together ever after.
It is only after a while that you notice that your significant other is a spender—someone who finds joy from using money to get what they want now. It hadn’t occurred to you while you were dating how much money they were spending. That was just part of going on dates. But now that you share finances it makes you mad almost daily. It bottles up inside of you. And then you have a fight about money and how your significant other is ruining your financial goals. That is not healthy. And it can be avoided.
The Importance of Being on the Same Page
When you are feeling twitterpated (yes, like Thumper from Bambi), it is easy to get into the mindset that you love your significant other because of who they are and you don’t want to change anything about them, yada yada yada…Blah Blah Blah. If that were true no one would ever fight with their significant other. The fact is, there are things about your significant other that you would change. Accepting that is an important step. Once you accept that, you can start to realize why they are making you upset.
The reason that we get frustrated or mad is always because of unmet expectations.
That means to reduce anger and frustration we just need to realize that our significant other does things that makes us mad then change ourselves to avoid getting mad. Sorry, you don’t get to change your partner. That’s not how it works.
The next step is to get on the same page. This doesn’t mean that your expectations are exactly the same—that would be getting on the same word on the page. To be on the same page simply means that you can easily read what the other is reading. You know each other’s expectations and try to meet them when you can. When you know each other’s expectations, your love kicks in and you try to meet those expectations because you want your significant other to feel happy. That is the key to handling money well as a couple.
How Do I Get on the Same Page as My Significant Other with Money?
There are many things that you can do to get on the same page as your significant other. This list will not be complete, but it will be a good starting point. Try any or all of these tactics to help you and your partner have a smoother financial relationship.
1 Have a monthly Money Date. This might sound like the easiest way to kill something so romantic as a date, but it is actually the easiest way to spice up something so ordinary as talking about money. The way this works is that you get whatever you need for a nice evening together. This can be a pizza or Italian take out. It can include babysitters or staying up late after the kids are in bed. Watching a movie or playing a game together. Anything that you do on a regular date. The key though is to talk about money while you are eating or just afterwards so that you can continue on with the rest of your date.
These money discussions should have a bit of structure to it. Assuming you are trying to spend less than you earn, you can review your spending for the month. What did you overspend on? What do you want to spend more on? Did you reach any goals? What are your new goals? Etc. This aligns your expectations more which helps you not frustrate each other so much.
2 Make a list of things that matter to you financially and share it with your partner. Having a list allows you to compare where you want to be and work together to find the right fit for your relationship. This includes compromise which almost seems like a dirty word these days because of politics. But when it comes to relationships, compromise means survival. Make sure that you don’t go into a money conversation with your list and refuse to add or remove anything to it. The list helps you have your thoughts prepared, but you need to actually listen to what your partner is saying, Choose a plan that makes both of you happy.
For example, my wife and I created a list of things that we wanted. The list includes objects like kayaks and hot tubs, assets like houses and investing, and experiences as well. We both freely add to the list, but something can only be removed if we both agree to it. As we started saving for these things we realized that just saving was burning us out. I wanted to invest more, but my wife needed the vacation. So we moved a vacation to the top of the list and used an unexpected windfall to pay for it. I get to keep investing and she got a vacation. It was a comprise that kept us both happy.
3 Bank Account Separation. Sometimes it is really difficult to get on the same page when a couple has two very different approaches to money. By separating bank accounts it is possible to ease a lot of those tensions. There are many ways to do this, but my personal recommendation if you are in this situation is to have a joint account where money goes to pay for the regular stuff. Bills, mortgage, food, clothing, etc. Then have a separate account for each partner to use however they please. This can be distributed evenly, or unevenly depending on what goals you have or how earns the money, or who is more responsible. Whatever works best for you and your significant other.
Having separate accounts doesn’t mean that you can’t, or shouldn’t spend money on each other. In the spender and saver couple situation, the spender might get some money each month and be in charge of having fun. The saver would get money each month and be in charge the emergency fund and investing. You will have fun together, so the spender will spend money on the saver upfront. But you will also retire together, so the saver is spending money on the spender in the future. This is a great way to play to both of those strengths.
Get on the Same Page with Money Today
Regardless of how you work towards getting on the same page with your significant other, the number one thing to do is to take action. The first step is to let your partner know you want to try one or all of these things to improve your money situation. Please remember three key things when you approach your partner. First, don’t bring it up when you are mad. Both partners need to be calm to have a good discussion about money. Second, ask if they are willing to talk about it at a specific-ish future time (like later this evening after the kids have gone to bed). If you say can we talk about money right now they may feel like they’re being ambushed. Three, make it about them. Mention that you want to help them go on vacation more (for a spender) or invest more (for a saver) or just have fewer money fights. Focusing on meeting their expectations will help both of you feel more at ease going into the conversation.
What are some other ways that you’ve gotten on the same page as your significant other with money? How do you reduce tension in your partnership when it concerns money? Tell me about it in the comments below.
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You can find a full list of definitions from this blog here
Windfall: Any time you receive a large amount of money–it is usually unexpected and irregular. This can be anything from an inheritance to winning the lottery, but a tax return can also count.