Spring is here and love is in the air. Or, it is as long as you aren’t arguing over money with your special someone. Couples consistently report finances as the leading cause of stress in their relationship. Here are a few tips to avoid conflict over finances with your long-term partner or spouse:
- Be transparent. Be honest with each other about your financial status. As you enter a committed relationship, each partner should learn about the status of the other person’s debts, income and assets. Any surprises down the road may feel like dishonesty and lead to conflict.
- Discuss future plans often. The closer you are with your partner, the more you’ll want to know about his or her future plans. Kids, planned career changes, world travel, hobbies, retirement expectations – all of these will depend upon money and shared resources. So, discuss these plans and create the financial roadmap to go with them. Remember that people in a long-term marriage may be caught unaware if they haven’t talked about the future and find out their spouse’s priorities have changed over time.
- Know your comfort levels. As you discuss your future plans, bring up hypotheticals: How much debt is too much? What level of spending versus savings is acceptable? How much would you spend on a car, home or vacation? You may be surprised to learn that your assumptions about these things fall outside your partner’s comfort zone.
- Divide responsibilities; combine forces. Try to divide financial tasks such as paying certain bills, updating a budget, contributing to savings and making appointments with tax and financial advisors. Then periodically trade responsibilities over time. Even if one person tends to be better at numbers, it’s best to have both members participating. By having a hand in budgeting, planning and spending decisions, you will be constantly reminded how what you are doing financially contributes to the strength of your relationship.
- Learn to love compromise. No two people have the same priorities or personalities, so differences of opinion are going to happen. One person may want to spend, while the other wants to save. Vacation may be on your spouse’s mind, while you want to put money aside for a new car. By acknowledging these differences of opinion will happen, you’ll be less frustrated when they do. Treat any problems as opportunities to negotiate and compromise. Instead of looking at the outcome as “I didn’t get everything I wanted to do,” think of it as “I sacrificed some of what I wanted out of love for my partner and he/she did the same for me.”