Why Should You Communicate Finances as a Couple?

“For couples, the hardest thing to talk about is sex and finances, and that’s because our parents didn’t talk about it when we were growing up,” said Jordie Smith, licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) and owner of Jordie Smith Counseling, LLC External link  in Canton, Michigan. Having conversations about money with a romantic partner is important for developing and maintaining lasting and healthy relationships, she said.  

 

Why is talking about money important for relationships?

  • Conversations normalize the subject. If your parents treated money like a taboo subject, you might also avoid discussing savings and debt.
  • Financial peace brings a sense of safety. Calls from bill collectors or fear of the cost of an unexpected emergency can cause anxiety and stress.

“When you are in a relationship, you want to be safe with that person,” Smith said. “When you have some outside factors that aren’t addressed, that threatens the safety.” 

Being transparent and open to discussions about spending and saving keeps relationships strong and prevents financial infidelity—when a partner hides debt or purchases. Those unpleasant surprises do not help build relationships, she said.

Online Counseling Programs has rounded up resources for couples to help them understand why money should not be a taboo topic and how to consider finances at different stages in their relationship.

Table of Contents

How To Deal With Money Issues in a Relationship

Before the commitment stage of a relationship, couples should discuss money in the same way that they talk about their work, their friends and their families, Smith said. 

 

“Oftentimes, we will ask how your relationship was with your mom or your sister, but we don’t talk about our relationship with finances,” she said.

As individuals grow closer, those conversations should begin to touch on subjects such as their philosophy toward money and their spending habits. 

 

Talking About Finances in a Relationship

 

When people commit to a relationship, they should continue to engage in productive financial conversations. Smith offered strategies to help facilitate the discussions:

  • Schedule regular meetings to talk about money. If you have children, make it a family meeting. Make it weekly, bi-weekly or monthly.
  • Manage expectations about the meeting. Life changes, such as a job loss or promotion, affect money. Be prepared for emotional discussions.
  • Make clear how each of you values money. Does one partner like designer labels while the other does not?
  • Work together to find a compromise or financial plan that satisfies both. Identify what expenses are a priority, and make a plan to pay for them.

How To Have the Hard Conversations About Money

Finding ways to approach the subject of money may require sensitivity, but transparency encourages trust. Relationships require trust and effort, Smith said. She offered tips for partners to use when they are having the difficult conversations: 

 

Use the Speaker-Listener method. This facilitates active listening. By allowing one person to speak at a time while the other listens and confirms what they heard before responding, the process slows down to a more thoughtful interaction.

 

How To Use the Speaker-Listener Method: 

 

Partner A: I feel frustrated that we aren’t saving more money by staying home for dinner. 

Partner B: I understand that you feel frustrated that we aren’t saving more by staying home for dinner, but I get stressed by meal planning and preparation.

Partner A: I get it. Meal planning and preparation causes stress, so why don’t we do takeout? We’ll at least save on drinks, parking and a larger tip.

 

Use “I” language. Blame does not get assigned to the other person when starting the conversation with “I feel” or “I get stressed out.”

 

Move the discussion forward. Dwelling on the problem is not helpful and potentially continues a blaming cycle. Acknowledge it, and then discuss common goals to reach resolution.

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