Different opinions don’t have to equal conflict

Money matters are a primary cause of arguments in a relationship, and sadly often lead to breakups. So if you realize early on that you and your partner have differing perspectives on money, you can work at improving your mutual understanding of one another’s positions from the get-go, before any conflict arises. If a problem should occur down the line, at least you’ll have both laid the groundwork to know what’s going on in the other’s head.

The most important first step is trying to see your partner’s point of view. Then you can work together to agree on your financial goals, plans, and boundaries. Whatever you do, don’t sweep money under the rug, so to speak. It’s easy in the moment to ignore the mounting pressure of such a vital matter in your relationship—but it’ll come back to bite you if you don’t face up to reality.

Finance dates and money stories

Everyone has their own unique take on money because its existence is so intrinsic to our lives. Pretty much everything we do is related to money in one way or another, so our view on money is governed fundamentally by our values and personality. Someone might get a thrill out of taking risks with their investments while being reluctant to save for emergencies. To them, money might be a scorecard—so when they face financial difficulties, their self-esteem is disproportionately affected.

But what if their partner is far more conservative in their investments, and tries to live sensibly, even frugally? This isn’t necessarily a recipe for conflict; problems occur only when one ignores the input of the other, or when one partner doesn’t want to participate in financial decisions whatsoever. As long as both parties leverage their perspectives, they can compromise, landing on an agreed plan of action. This can be far more effective than if it had been put together by only one partner.

One fabulous way of bridging the divide is a monthly “finance date,” when the two of you sit down over coffee and review the last few weeks’ money questions and concerns. You can even delve deeper into each of your “money stories,” your own personal experiences with money and where your values and feelings pertaining to it originated. This not only helps build a better understanding of one another’s positions on financial issues, but it can also give you an unexpected window into your partner’s past and upbringing. You never know what anecdote they might come out with.

Here are some helpful questions to get your money stories exchange going if you’re not sure how to begin:

  • What’s your earliest memory about money?
  • What did you learn about money as a child?
  • What worries do you have about running out of money?

With time and effort, you can work as one toward your money goals

Marriage is a partnership, and both parties need to be involved in the finances. Even if one takes charge because they’re particularly savvy, they need to keep their partner in the loop, and their partner in turn must do their best to attain a rudimentary understanding of their partnership’s financial situation. As you work on your plans together, you’ll increasingly recognize the power of being aligned on your goals.

When we can share and discuss our financial experiences with our partners, we boost our awareness of and support for each other. Make these dialogues open and ongoing, part of an overarching money plan whereby together you put systems in place to harness each other’s strengths. You can always consult a financial professional to facilitate or advance these conversations, especially if the two of you reach an impasse. Together you can be unstoppable in working toward your money goals—as a team.

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