Society gives men and women different messages about how to handle money. Men must be the breadwinners and know everything about finance. Women, however, even if they’re bringing home a paycheck, need to be nurturing and let men make important financial decisions.
These messages put a lot of pressure on the financial aspect of the relationship. Women tend to see concerns or complaints as an invitation to move closer. Men hear concerns or complaints as a warning flag that they are about to get blamed for something. That makes it very difficult to have conversations about money.
In order to avoid the pitfalls that financial differences can open up in relationships, it is essential to have the courage to dig beneath our stereotypes and our different conditioning.
Here are some tips that may be helpful:
Lose the notion of right and wrong.
There are no right and wrong beliefs about money, just different attitudes and beliefs, and they all come from our individual experiences. To tell someone they’re wrong is telling them that your experiences are more valuable than theirs. That’s simply not the truth — you’ll strike a nerve and start an argument.
Don’t use money as a weapon.
Don’t bring money into conflicts where it does not belong. If your partner is upset because you have not been spending time together, don’t say something like, ‘I’m working to pay off your bills.’ Also, don’t go on a spending binge if you’re mad at your spouse. Actions like these take problems that aren’t related to money into dangerous territory.
Set long-and short-term goals as a couple.
Ask yourself questions like, ‘What are some things we want to do with our finances this year? Do we want to build up our savings or take a vacation? What do we want to do in five or 10 years? How does our behavior have to change individually and as a couple in order to accomplish our dreams?’
Stay connected to your goals.
A great way to stay on top of your goals is to do a monthly money date. Attach a positive activity to it, like dinner, and be sure to talk about your goals and dreams, not just your problems. Figure out how to build on each other’s strengths (Note: Do not have this meeting at the beginning or end of the month, as things tend to be tense near bill-paying time.)
Have your own money.
While you have goals as a couple, you also have individual needs and goals. Once you agree on what you will each contribute to the family unit, decide on an amount that is off-limits. If you want to take it out into the backyard and burn it, it’s your decision. No discussion, no criticism.
Our challenges are our greatest teachers. Courageously faced, the bumps couples face in the road to financial well-being can pave a path to communication that will benefit their overall relationship.