The way we handle money is deeply personal, and its impact on relationships is substantial: research shows that arguments about money are the number one predictor of divorce.
So, whether you’re single or in a relationship, you should spend some time understanding your relationship with money. If you have a partner, the next step is figuring out whether your goals and attitudes about money align (or don’t).
To help, here are 3 tips to prevent money problems from hurting your relationship.
#1: Try to understand your relationship with money (and your partner’s)
Deeper attitudes about money consciously or unconsciously affect every aspect of your decision making, whether you’re single or in a relationship. Are you inclined to spend or save? What are the values that drive your decision making process around money; for instance, what do you value more, experiences or objects, security or freedom to spend? What are the long term goals guiding your spending? How much emergency money do you like to have stashed away? If you’re in debt, what’s your plan to get out of it? These are great questions to ask a partner, but you should start by asking yourself.
#2: Plan ahead to minimize surprises
Money issues are bound to happen in life, but if you have a game plan in place and you understand where your partner comes from, money issues can be tackled together and feel less traumatic. In other words, if life is what happens to us when we’re making other plans, then you need to have a game plan in place before life happens.
Start by asking questions at every stage of the relationship so that unexpected rough patches don’t cause a rift in your relationship. If you’re married, have a monthly money check-in to avoid the problem of unforeseen expenses de-railing you and to make sure you’re ready for big (read: expensive) life transitions like buying a home or having children.
If you cover the financial ground before you get married, you can make sure you don’t get blindsided by unexpected debts or surprising hidden habits.
#3: … And be honest
You won’t get anywhere if you or your partner can’t fully come to the table, so make sure you’re both able to be completely transparent about financial matters. If your partner is evasive with your questions, or if you’re struggling to stay honest with your partner, try to figure out what’s behind it. For example, could your partner be avoiding conversations out of shame that he or she earns less? Do you have debt shame? If the behavior persists and doesn’t add up, it could be a sign of financial infidelity.