Relationships are both one of the most amazing things in the world and the most frustrating. As nearly any older person in a successful relationship will say ‘relationships take work, and if you’re not willing to enjoy the good times and work through the bad, then get out early.’ A happy and long-lasting commitment to another person is a serious balance of each other’s needs and mutual respect for one another, but, for various reasons, relationships don’t always work out for everyone.
Though there are plenty of big, stressful hurdles such as figuring out whose family to spend each holiday with or compromising on different life goals, the biggest factor in most relationships is finances. Determining when is the right time to start sharing costs of certain purchases, combining savings accounts, or making major financial decisions together can be a real challenge. Unfortunately, it is one of the biggest factors contributing to the end of serious romantic relationships.
Finances are a very real part of every adult life whether we like it or not. Figuring out a balance of working through finances with your significant other while not allowing it to take over your relationship is not easy, but there are ways to make it happen.
Talk it Out
Perhaps the most important aspect of not letting finances control your relationship is to actually address the issue. Making time to talk about how you both feel about sharing certain financial responsibilities can alleviate a lot of the potential confusion and frustration surrounding money in a relationship. Regular check-ins — whether they be every month to pay bills together or every six months to see how things are going — are also valuable in keeping a healthy line of communication open.
As you and your partner have these discussions, it is essential not to play the blame game. Take ownership of your part in financial stressors, whether that is your need to control the money or your feelings that money shouldn’t be tightly regulated. Taking time to empathize with your partner and calmly work through difficulties can be what saves the day. It isn’t about winning, it’s about compromise.
Regardless of whether or not you currently have financial issues in your relationship, starting the conversation early is valuable. This is especially true if your relationship is serious enough to lead to marriage. Financial goals, both long- and short-term, are important subjects that should be discussed even before getting engaged and contribute to long-term relationship success.
Starting the conversation about finances and figuring out how each other feels about certain financial situations is a strong first step. However, there is more framework to put into place to prevent financial stress from creeping into your relationship. It has to do with setting boundaries and deciding to take a step to plan together.
As part of the financial conversations you are having somewhat regularly with your partner, discuss your firm monetary boundaries. If you are not ready to open a joint checking account or are unwilling to take on additional debt with your partner, say so, and stick to your guns. This doesn’t mean you’ll never be at that point, just that you aren’t right now. Avoid getting into financial situations you’re not comfortable with as this will lead down an unhealthy path.
When you are ready to make some financial commitments together, set boundaries and expectations with that too. For instance, if you and your partner decide to start saving for a home together, set a rough amount each person should save every month based on their income and other financial commitments. Make a plan together and adjust as necessary to make things work.
Make Space for Fun Purchases
There are certainly times during any long-term relationship where you are going to have to buckle down and give up certain fun purchases to meet an important financial goal. For instance, saving for a home may require forgoing the girls’ trip to Mexico for a year or two until that financial goal is met. But that certainly doesn’t mean that all money needs to be directed into financial goals.
One healthy trick to working through finances together is to set a rule on how much money can be spent on fun things without checking in. This can be a set amount each month that each person can spend on whatever they want, no questions asked. Or it can be a purchase amount limit; for example, anything under $100 can be purchased without talking about it, but more expensive items should be discussed.
A couple’s finances are one of the most tricky things about keeping a relationship happy and healthy. To keep finances from taking over and sinking your relationship, have regular planned conversations about money and set firm boundaries. As you work through different financial scenarios and goals, it is important to remember and respect the other person’s needs and set a reasonable budget that allows both of you to have fun things as well.
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