Of all the variables that can affect the quality and closeness of our intimate relationships, money is one of the most powerful. But it’s not just about how much money a couple has—how each partner thinks and feels about money plays heavily on a couple’s financial and romantic future. In fact, money fights are one of the most common causes of strain and conflict on relationships. But they don’t have to be.
Let’s face it, money isn’t just a numbers game. People have widely varying perspectives, emotions, and beliefs about finances. And it’s not hard to imagine the conflict that could arise if both partners have vastly different views about money, including what it means and what to do with it (e.g., spend vs save).
No matter where you are in your relationship, these five questions can help guide your next conversation about money:
1. Can you recall any attitudes or behaviors you witnessed by your parents growing up regarding money?
So much of what we believe and feel about money is based on the modeling we had growing up. Perhaps our parents or caregivers were…
- constantly worried about money (“We can’t afford that”) suspicious about money (“it’s the root of all evil”)
- dishonest about money (“Don’t tell your mother about this”)
- or generally positive about money (“Money goes where it’s valued”)
No matter what our early childhood environment was, it can affect the way we view our own finances as adults.
Allow each partner the chance to talk freely about their experienced with money was as a child. This should help you both gain valuable context about the way each of you view finances today.
2. As a couple, what is our current net worth?
Consider this the brass tacks of a marital financial inventory. And whether you look forward to answering it or dread it, this question offers a valuable opportunity to get clear on your current financial situation.
Take your time as you list out your current liabilities and assets. Do your best to reserve judgement right now—you’re simply trying to gather information. Stay focused and stay honest. If helpful, consult with a financial planner.
3. What are our biggest concerns about money right now, and what can we do about them?
It’s important to address your fears surrounding money, if only to voice them and gain some reassurance from your partner. Acknowledging your fears during a financial inventory (which you might consider having at least once per year, or even once per quarter depending on your situation) also helps you creatively come up with ways that could resolve or mitigate these fears.
Common fears that married couples have surrounding money include:
- Being able to pay for their children’s education
- Affording/paying off the mortgage
- Having enough for retirement
- Dealing with market volatility
- Being able to support aging parents
You might not be able to figure out a strategy to deal with these fears in the moment, but you can at least get some creative problem-solving flowing.
4. Are we in alignment about “our” vs “your” vs “my” money?
There’s no one way to divvy up money within a relationship—each couple needs to find a strategy that works for them. And if you’re already married, you probably already have some sort of system in place.
But almost nowhere in your marriage is transparency and honesty more important than in finances. Unaddressed concerns about how either of you spend money can breed resentment.
So, use these questions as opportunities to check in with each other about how you categorize your financials, especially if you’re in a single-earner situation.
Do you need to adjust your monthly budgets?
Should you consider opening a new checking account for one or both of you?
Ultimately, remember that you’re operating as a team, even if you have your own interests and hobbies to invest in.
5. What are our top financial goals?
Now the fun part!
Be sure to include practical goals—such as paying off debt or opening a 529 plan for your kid—and BIG goals that excite you, like a major trip or a new house. Nothing is off the table during this part of the discussion. Dream together and get inspired!
Is Money Challenging Your Relationship?
If you need help discussing finances or other aspects of your relationship—without blame or shame—contact The Marriage Restoration Project today to speak with an experienced marriage counselor.