It makes the world go around, but money can be the source of serious problems among couples. In some cases, it can lead to total relationship breakdowns.
Of course it’s not the money per se that creates the issues, but rather our views surrounding it. It comes down to our financial values and whether or not they’re compatible with those of the person we’ve chosen to spend our lives with.
What the experts say
Experts agree that money is one of the major contributing factors leading to separation.
This is due to the potential outcomes or fallouts relating to financial management or lack thereof. Whether that be buying your first home or surviving on one income after starting a family – arguments about money can be intense.
“The way we think about money represents some of our values, and problems can arise when these values clash,” says relationships councillor Susan De Campo.
“So, if one person believes it’s important to pay off the mortgage as soon as possible and the other person believes it’s important to have overseas holidays every two years, because you will not be able to do both, conflict arises.”
De Campo says couples with opposing financial values can make their relationship work. But, they need to engage in open and honest communication.
The first step is recognising your own attitude to money, as well as that of your partner. At a very basic level, that’s determining whether you’re a “saver” or a “spender”.
Approaching a conversation about finances
It’s crucial to have a conversation in order to discover each other’s values and belief systems associated with money. Of course, discussions of this nature can deteriorate quickly if not approached with caution.
De Campo suggests underpinning your discussion with an attitude of ‘respectful curiosity.’ And to bear in mind that the way most people approach money is related to their parents’ financial personalities.
General conversations are a good place to start and once you do get down to the nitty-gritty, try to avoid using accusatory tones. If you disagree on a point, rather than becoming angry, try to use a question as a catalyst to analyse the issue further.
“A great question to ask is ‘can you help me understand that – it’s not an idea that I grew up with’,” says De Campo.
Accept that you’re different
Understand that different means just that.
It doesn’t mean one person is right and the other is wrong. You can agree to disagree, providing you can recognise your individual attitudes and find a way to meet in the middle.
Allocate a “free spend” allowance
If money is tight, and especially if one half of the couple enjoys a frivolous spend, allocate a specific amount for discretionary purchases.
Whether it’s per week or per month will depend on your how much disposable income is available. But keeping the value consistent, and removing limitations on what is being purchased, will reduce feelings of resentment down the track.
Draw up a budget
The benefits of developing a detailed budget are significant.
It helps to paint a clear picture of our financial health, as well as how much disposable income is left after bills and expenses are paid. It also takes the guesswork out of financial discussions.
Be financially transparent
Trust is crucial for the success of any relationship. The perception of dishonesty surrounding spending can prompt feelings of betrayal which can be difficult to overcome.
Whether your bank accounts are joint or separate, being transparent with spending is important. It helps maintain a sense of intimacy and trust.
Be honest from the beginning, including disclosing any debt or credit problems. And continue to be transparent, regardless of any disagreements.
Get professional help
If all else fails, seek the support of a financial professional. Financial advisers are used to having conversations with couples about these difficult matters and can assist in developing a plan that suits both parties.
Source: Macquarie Group Limited