Using money to strengthen your relationship
How to Have Productive Money Talks With Your Partner
by Pam Hutzler
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Money Talks with Your Partner
We have all heard the saying "Money can't buy love." But, money certainly can play an important role in the harmony of a relationship. When two people have differing approaches to and attitudes toward money, it can quickly wreak havoc and cause issues. So, what's a couple to do? If you find yourself in a relationship with a person who does not share your approach to money, it's time to have a money talk with your mate. It's worth the effort to attempt to get on the same financial team. Here are six things to keep in mind when you broach this difficult and important topic so you can ensure a productive money talk with your partner.
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Since this can be such an emotional topic, the timing of your conversation is of utmost importance. If you have a house full of kids, it's probably not the best time to broach the subject. Wait until the kids are in bed or otherwise occupied, so your full attention can be on the topic at hand.
Likewise, it's always best to approach difficult topics when refreshed and ready. Therefore, sitting down to have this conversation after a long, hard day at the office is unwise. Wait until you and your spouse are well-rested, energized, and ready to talk. Otherwise, your talk could quickly turn into an overly-emotional, unfortunate event that you'll regret.
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Have a Plan
When important meetings are planned in the business world, generally there's an agenda for the meeting that's followed to keep the attendees on task and focused. This is also a good idea for your money talk. Before the meeting, both partners should have a list of questions, suggestions, and concerns. The partner who handles the family finances should also know and be able to give examples of budget trouble areas, spending patterns, and common expenditures. Otherwise, your meeting could follow an unintended path.
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Don't Forget to Listen
One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say. ~ Bryant H. McGill
It's natural human behavior to want to exert your viewpoint when you feel you are right and justified in your feelings. But, the most powerful thing that you can do that will bring profound benefits to your conversation is to be quiet and listen. Keep an open mind and don't interrupt when your partner is speaking. Conversations quickly turn sour when accusations and defensiveness come into play. Remember that you vowed to love this person for life and work to protect their feelings and dignity.
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It's a common occurrence for one partner to handle the family finances. And, this is probably true because it's easier to keep things organized and in control if there's only one hand in the pot. However, your goal is to begin to work as a cohesive financial team and that means teamwork. While it doesn't have to be a permanent situation, it can be very enlightening for partners to pay the bills and balance the budget together for several months. In fact, it would probably be a great idea to do this together while having regularly scheduled money talks, so as a team, you can discuss strategies for success.
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Don't Forget to Have Fun
Even the best-laid plans can go awry if they are too restrictive. Everyone, including your financial team, needs to have a little "mad money" and fun. Set aside money for a coffee date, to grab a beer after work with some friends, or to visit a used bookstore in search of the great novel. Everyone should be allowed a little discretionary spending on occasion. In the course of your money talks with your mate, figure out what is a reasonable amount per month and put that into the budget.
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Don't Sweat the Small Stuff
The whole idea of these money talks is to develop together and move towards the big picture as a cohesive financial team. If we're honest with ourselves, we have to admit life has the tendency to get in the way of the big picture at times. Maybe a car needs a repair or a spouse has a slip and makes an unplanned purchase. Or, maybe the stove decides to give up the ghost at a most unfortunate time. What's important here is that you don't let the small bumps along the way throw you off your big picture path. So, in your money talks, decide how much money can be put aside each month in a rainy day fund for when "life happens." Be as prepared as possible, but remember to not sweat the small stuff and stay focused on the big picture.
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Whether we like it or not, disagreements about money can have a devastating effect on even the best of relationships. Money problems can lead to feelings of insecurity, mistrust, and fear in a relationship. But, it doesn't have to be this way. The first and most important factor in healing this situation is healthy communication. Use these 6 steps when planning your money conversations to help ensure a productive money talk with your partner.
Also, it's important to recognize when the problem is more than you can handle alone. Don't be afraid to seek wise counsel when necessary. After all, your relationship is worth it.
Reviewed April 2017
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