Can't buy me love: How to talk about money with your partner
4 min | 14 February 2022
It might not matter too much when you're single. But in a relationship, how you handle your finances inevitably affects your partner. If your attitudes towards money are different it can become a source of friction. Here's how you may prevent clashing money management styles from breaking hearts.
What does money mean to your partner?
Does it make them feel secure to have savings or good to help other people out? Understanding this can help you get to the root of your disagreement and find out how to compromise. Money can also stand in for issues like independence, power and control. It's important to remember that no-one is right or wrong in how they manage their money. By understanding what drives your partner's approach to money, you're more likely to be forgiving when you talk.
Vicky Reynal, a psychotherapist who specialises in financial issues, thinks that because conversations about money can trigger powerful emotions, it's important to approach them with understanding. Reynal explains: "If the couple’s conversation is centred around accusations, this will leave both people feeling angry, frustrated, and misunderstood. Starting a conversation from a desire to understand your partner’s relationship with money is more helpful and is the first step to finding a compromise."
Needless to say, for the conversation to be fruitful, it's not just your partner you need to understand. What is your own attitude towards money? And why are you bothered about the way your partner handles their finances? Try working this out with 'I' statements like 'I feel vulnerable when there aren't savings' rather than 'they' statements like 'they always waste their money'.
If talking about money feels uncomfortable, it may be helpful to change the language. Perhaps you could talk about your dreams and aspirations, and how money could help you achieve them. For example, 'I'd like us to own our own home in three years' time.' Or, 'I'd like us to be able to retire comfortably when we're 60.' Ultimately, the goal is to home in on shared values so you can find common ground.
In fact, argues Reynal, "A healthy conversation around money can set a good precedent for resolving other differences in a couple. Overcoming the challenge of accepting each other’s differences and negotiating a good enough compromise will benefit a couple far beyond the financial."
Once you know what's bothering you both and how your money mindsets differ, you'll be in a better position to reach a compromise. What can you each do to offset what's bothering the other? Could you make sure an emergency fund is fully funded before you splurge, or set up a holiday fund so no-one can get mad when someone suggests going to see the dolphins?
It's also helpful to have a system in place that makes it easy to stay on top of your shared financial responsibilities:
- Add up monthly shared expenses such as your rent or mortgage, utility bills, groceries, and perhaps even your entertainment budget and joint savings
- Divide the amount equally or possibly in proportion to your earnings to work out how much you each have to contribute
- Consider paying the money into a separate account, ideally by standing order so you won't forget
- Identify where it might make sense to pay your bills by Direct Debit, so neither of you will be lumped with the responsibility of remembering to take care of them
Think about the bigger picture
If money is a constant source of arguments, having regular open and honest conversations can go a long way towards resolving your differences. The key is to make a genuine effort to put yourself in your partner's shoes.
"In my experience," concludes Reynal, "money gets used to play out other dynamics in a relationship which might be harder to talk about. For example, a partner that is frustrated that the other is not more generous with money might actually be frustrated about them not giving in other ways."
- Vicky Reynal's website https://www.reynal-psychotherapist.co.uk/ (Opens in new window)
- Find a therapist https://welldoing.org/find-a-therapist (Opens in new window)