Discussing finances can be an awkward topic in general, let alone in the context of relationships. This is due to the fact that there are a number of assumptions made about a person regarding their finances. An individual's financial status can also throw up a number of questions when it comes to dating. Will they only want me for my money? Do they have the stability to raise a family? Will they be threatened by my success? These are just some of the questions that people may ask themselves when it comes to money and a potential significant other. New relationships make us feel vulnerable and when coupled with a topic which can make some feel equally as vulnerable it can lead to an unsettling and stifling conversation. The circumstances you start thinking about regarding the topic can increase any pressure already felt by a new couple, due to the fact it occurs when you start seeing longevity in the relationship and are enjoying someone's company.
Advice differs on when is best to broach the subject, however most professionals will advise that although it is certainly not a topic for the first few dates, it is undoubtedly something that should be discussed towards the beginning of a relationship, when you are still in the honeymoon stage. This is because you are still at the point of being inquisitive and exceedingly happy, which helps to counteract the negativity that talking about finances can often bring. It is also important to normalise the topic of finances early on, so as to ensure it does not become a bone of contention down the line.
A report by The American Psychological Association in 2016 found that one third of couples confirmed that finances were a major source of conflict in their relationship. This was particularly the case when there was financial uncertainty and a lack of equality in the control over finances. This inequality referred to one partner taking full control over the other, leaving the other with no responsibility, which can lead to a lack of communication which in romantic relationships is highly destructive. This is because differences are not discussed and a lack of understanding leads to heated conflicts. Dew (2008) found that couples who disagreed about finances once a week were 30% more likely to get a divorce. This highlights the negative emphasis finances can have on your relationship, if not discussed in the correct manner.
In order to avoid such a fate, it is important to keep calm when discussing money and to come up with a plan to fulfil financial goals. Blending financial goals helps to minimise the effects finances have on your relationship and examine what it is that you want out of life financially, as well as a couple. The likelihood is that you and your partner will differ in your approach to spending and saving, one of you may be more money conscious while the other free-spirited when it comes to spending. Our pattern of perception is a direct reflection on how we witnessed finances in our childhood and how money impacted us growing up. Thus, it is important to understand where your partner is coming from and to recognise your differing perspectives. Once you have achieved this understanding, you will be able to figure out what works for you as a couple. It is important that you are both involved, as previously stated, but the responsibilities each partner takes needs to work for you as a partnership, whether that be dividing financial responsibility straight down the middle, or assigning specific tasks to each person e.g. one focusing on daily expenditure whilst the other focuses on savings.
Finances can also be seen as a cornerstone of creating a life together, hence the importance of understanding each individual's financial goals as well as shared goals. As a result, it can become an emotionally charged subject, as more often than not, it can feel like there is a lot on the line, will you have the ability to buy a family home, travel to undiscovered places or afford to have a child? If one person does not feel like they will get their goals met or their partner is too controlling, it can build up resentment. There is also the chance of misperceiving your partner's intentions, which again shows the importance of positive and honest communication. Conflict regarding finances is the strongest predictor of divorce over any other marital issue, it unearths a deep-rooted power struggle of how you want to live your life. Talking about finances can bring not only a resolve in your financial status as a couple but can bring clarification on how you tackle life together as a whole. If you do so in an equal, honest and positive way it will pave the way for a happy, successful relationship.
American Psychological Association (2016). Stress in America: The impact of discrimination. Stress in America Survey.
Dew, J. (2008). Debt change and marital satisfaction change in recently married couples. Family Relations, 57(1), 60-71.