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by Julia Naftulin
September 17, 2020
by Julia Naftulin
September 17, 2020
Money has a way of driving rifts in relationships, especially romantic ones. A study of 4,500 couples even found that money-related arguments were the most intense fights couples had, no matter their income or debt levels.
"Arguments about money are the top predictor for divorce because it happens at all levels," lead researcher Sonya Britt, assistant professor of family studies and human services, said in a press release.
Those arguments often derive from different financial views, like if one partner is a spender and one is a saver.
There are, however, ways to quell that anxiety and prevent money-related fights if you and your partner want to move in together, combine finances, or budget for a specific goal like buying a home or having a child.
But first, remember that you and your partner will never see everything eye-to-eye, including money matters, and that's OK. Relationships aren't about harping on your significant other until they break down and agree to do what you want.
Relationships are, however, about growing from difficult conversations, and this a necessary one. It's important you first both acknowledge your divergent financial strategies if you want to avoid future pent-up feelings that could end your relationship.
Before you even start a conversation about money, shift how you're thinking about it. Rather than a battle, view it as a way to learn more about each other and what makes you tick, Tribeca Therapy founder Matt Lundquist, said.
"Think of it as building infrastructure for talking about hard things," Lundquist said. "People who can talk about money in uncomfortable ways can also do the same about sex or other [touchy] topics."
He added that often, couples who discuss these awkward topics come away learning more about their partners than they assumed they would. Maybe you'll learn your partner's online shopping habit that you can't stand is a habit because they almost never shop at brick-and-mortars, or that they spend a lot on take-out meals because no one taught them how to cook.
"Be more curious versus having a mindset of 'I can't live the way you do,'" Lundquist said.
Your initial money chat should focus on getting to know more about your individual backgrounds as they pertain to money. See, it's impossible to separate how you were raised and how you saw your parents treat money from your own financial hangups. Taking a deep dive into that subject can help you understand a partner's live-in-the-moment attitude toward spending, for example, and they can understand your more frugal approach.
When you're having this chat, make sure you let each other speak without interrupting the other, since this conversation isn't about proving your money moves are the right ones. In fact, if your partner's money habits bother you, think about why even before you even approach them.
If, for example, you're afraid your partner's spending habits will result in them falling short on the rent you both contribute to, consider whether there's evidence that's true or if that supposition stems from your fears. For instance, maybe you have a family member who was evicted for falling short on rent and you fear that could become you, or your parents harped on you for your entire life about making rent on time and it's now ingrained in your mind.
Often, people's money-related fears lead them to believe their own money habits are morally superior to others' habits. That mindset won't get you anywhere productive relationship-wise.
"Don't pass your fear to the other person," Lundquist said. "Recognize it comes from within you; otherwise it can destroy your relationship because it makes you mad at the other person."
Lastly, create a mutual understanding that this is an open conversation and each of your views on money may change over time. When that happens, you both have to be open to reevaluating the terms of your unofficial contract and re-learning what money means to each of you.
If you love and trust your partner enough to live under the same roof, buy a house together, or start a family together, you have to trust they'll understand the types of financial situations that make you uncomfortable and will do what they can to prevent them because they love you too. And you should do the same for them, too.
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