If you’re married or in a serious relationship, then you’ve probably already heard all the advice about how to manage your finances together: communicate, create goals together, don’t hide information from each other. This advice all sounds easy to do – and it’s certainly easy to give! But people aren’t perfect and neither are relationships. So what do you do if you simply can’t see eye to eye with your partner on your finances?
It can be a scary moment when you and your partner first realize that you don’t see eye to eye on your finances. You might see him or her in a whole different light. How could your seemingly logical fiance really believe that she should go shopping every month? How can your normally frugal husband think it’s okay to purchase lunch out every day? See what I mean?
First, try to suspend judgement. We all have something in life that we like to do that isn’t logical. I, for example, refuse to buy lunch out every day. But if a long day calls for an afternoon mocha from the local coffee shop…I’m probably not going to say no. So rather than think that this disagreement is a foreboding sign for your relationship, remember that we all have little splurges that don’t always make sense. It doesn’t make us bad people – it just makes us people.
Once you let go of judgement, then the defeatist attitude should drift away as well. You and your partner probably don’t always agree on which food to buy, what music to listen to, and what kind of house to live in. Most likely some sort of compromise has to come into play on all of your decisions. So too, compromise needs to happen in the financial talks.
Forget the “What” and Ask Each Other “Why”
Now that judgement and defeatism are out of the way, you and your partner can sit down and have a few honest talks. Yes, I did mean to write “talks” in plural. As nice as it would be to come to an agreement at once, it probably won’t happen. It might take several months to really understand where the other is coming from. The fact that you’re listening is what’s important.
The most important aspect of listening to each other is not just asking what your partner thinks, but also asking why. If your husband wants to put all of your bills on a credit card each month it could be that he thinks it’s worth paying off the balance each month and gaining rewards. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with this idea, it just means that you should not assume he thinks it’s okay to rack up debt. Again, you likely won’t reach a compromise during the first talk. So just open the conversation and seek answers from each other to get closer to an understanding.
Step Outside of Your Own Shoes
When you’ve been in a long relationship it can be very easy to forget that you and your partner come from different backgrounds. You two have been building a life together for so long that your background may feel like a distant memory. But boy does that stuff come up during disagreements!
For example, you might nearly faint when you hear about your girlfriend’s student loan debt for the first time. However, if her family couldn’t afford to pay for college then it might make more sense why this debt was necessary. Your partner could also wonder why you have the financial philosophy you do. When you and your partner have your money talks and ask the ever-important why, just remember to put yourself in your partner’s shoes so you can meet his or her most important needs in the compromise.
Forgive Past Mistakes and Prevent Future Ones
True difficulty can come when financial mistakes have already been made. Maybe your partner slipped up on the budget you both set. Perhaps you kept some financial secrets from your partner and they started to snowball. Whatever the case may be, a relationship has to be a place of openness, honesty, and trust. That means in finance too. If a mistake has happened and your partner is committed to ensuring it doesn’t happen again, then move forward together.
Just Like Your Relationship, Let Your Financial Philosophy Evolve
A relationship must evolve as each individual grows. So it should come as no surprise that your couples financial plan should evolve as well. You two should check in on your plan, progress, and goals regularly to make sure you’re still on the same page. This not only helps you reach your goals, but it’s a great way to check in on each other’s financial philosophy.
For example, years of working together on finances could bring a couple together who used to be total opposites on the financial spectrum. That’s the beauty of having multiple talks and accepting that you won’t necessarily understand each other the first time! You almost have to experience ups and downs together to see your partner’s point of view more clearly.
Planning finances on your own is hard enough. When you add another person into the mix, well, let’s just say it isn’t always smooth sailing. Realize it’s okay that planning your finances together might get frustrating, confusing, and maybe even a little upsetting. But with open communication and compromise, there is a good chance that you’ll be able grow together and see eye to eye.
Great tips! I especially love the point you make about forgiving mistakes and prevent future ones. There is a great book out by Usiere Uko titled, “Practical Steps to Financial Freedom and Independence: Your road map to exiting the rat race and living your dreams” that has been especially helpful to my husband and I in helping us establish our financial goals. The author is very knowledgeable and uses his life story to illustrate the steps necessary to make change. We are still working on our goals, but feel great now that we at least have a plan.
Thanks so much Betty! I’ll definitely have to check that book out and it’s great to hear that this has helped you in your own life.
Compromises are hard when it comes to finances in relationships. Identifying battles that are insignificant cuts out most of this.
Great point, Mike! Choosing your battles is a big part of making these compromises work!
This is true because individuals almost always disagree with how to handle money. If you do not discuss often goals will suffer and the effort of the financially savvy spouse does not correlate to the other because the goals and successes are not shared openly.
That’s why doing things like pre-marital counseling where someone sits down and asks you have you thought about how you’ll spend and save money together is huge. Lots of blank states back at the counselors, I’m sure.
If you can discuss things up front when everyone is calm that’s a ton better than doing it in the heat of the moment.