Money Talks: Cash Flow In Relationships
Whether you and your partner are in a similar income bracket or not, it isn’t easy to know how to talk about money. Money can be a sensitive topic, and feelings can get hurt. Even the strongest couples can find themselves fighting over savings accounts or frivolous spending.
While you may never look forward to having a money talk with your partner, there are ways to make the conversation a lot less painful.
When you were little, dreaming about falling in love, you probably weren’t thinking about paying bills or refinancing your house. Making and spending money is an inevitable part of being a human. But it’s not always the most romantic topic of conversation. In fact, talking about finances honestly can be a really unromantic, un-fun, and undesirable step in your relationship.
Remember Your Roots
Financial security (or lack thereof) in childhood can have an enormous impact on how you handle money as an adult. If you came from a wealthy family that never worried about paying bills or putting food on the table, it’s likely you would understand personal finances different from a partner that grew up in a working-class home. While you certainly aren’t defined by your childhood, being honest with your partner about the way you were raised can help your partner get a better understanding of how you handle money. Additionally, being mindful of your partner’s childhood and family dynamics may help you better understand where they are coming from.
Equity Is Not Equality
In all parts of a relationship, it’s important to remember that equity is not equality. You and your partner don’t have to make the same amount, or split bills exactly 50/50. You are both contributing to your relationship. Perhaps your partner cooks for you or takes care of chores around the house. Maybe they watch your pets or kids so that you can go to work. Maybe they contribute to your relationship in other ways — they emotionally support you, they mediate between you and your family, they moved to the city you were in to be closer to you. A healthy relationship means that you and your partner are both giving, but you don’t always need to be giving the exact same things in the exact same amounts. There are endless ways to contribute to a relationship, all of which go way beyond dollars.
Know Their Triggers
When you’re with someone long enough, you start to learn the things that make them super upset. If you know that paying bills is a trigger for your boo, or talking about saving up for a house makes them anxious, try to be gentle when those topics come up. You don’t need to avoid hard conversations. In fact, talking through the hard stuff will make you stronger as a team. Yet, knowing where to give a little extra kindness or patience can help you both keep the peace.
Have Smaller, More Frequent Chats
Rather than one big “money talk” where you sit down on opposite sides of a table and seriously solve every single problem in one sitting (I’m getting hives just thinking about that), try to have smaller more frequent talks about money. Though it may seem scary at first, the more you talk about it, the more comfortable and normal it will feel to have little check-ins about bills and bank accounts.
When you go for months without talking about money, it’s likely that you and your partner will both start to have your own resentments and grudges about what the other person is doing. And when you finally do have a talk, you’ll spend so much time bringing up things in the past, you’ll never find a solution.
Take A Time Out
Remember how Lily and Marshall would take breaks from their fights in How I Met Your Mother? Consider a tense money talk a perfect time to take a little breather. Again, money can be sensitive. It can make people feel inadequate, invalidated, and unstable in their life choices. Remember that you don’t have to solve all your problems in one night. If things are starting to get emotional or someone is getting upset, walk away from the conversation for a moment. Get a breath of fresh air. Remind your partner why you love them and how excited you are to be with them. Know that in time, you will find a solution that works for both of you.
Griffin Wynne is a non-binary writer, artist, and plain seltzer drinker. When they’re not discussing sex in the ~digital era~ or crying to the Dixie Chicks, Griffin enjoys camping, reading, used clothes, and documentaries about cults. They’re a Capricorn King, a genderless cowgirl, and a ’70s mama who is always down for dollar oysters and road trips. Griffin uses they/them pronouns and has the same birthday as Kyle Richards.