Money is funny. Your relationship with money affects your relationship with your significant other. This is because people approach money differently—a fact made clear in a workshop I conducted for a group of financial counselors.
As an exercise, I asked, “How do you handle your personal budgeting?” I put a line on the floor with one end representing those who develop and follow a comprehensive budget and the other end representing those who don’t create a budget at all. The middle was for those who develop a budget but don’t follow it. I asked the counselors to stand on the line based on their personal approach. They were scattered all over.
Even financial professionals differ widely in their personal budgeting habits because our approach to money is a reflection of our interests, strengths, and needs. Plus, people can be interested in the topic of money but not the activity of managing it. All of these factors come into play when couples make money-related decisions.
When discussing money with your partner, you will want to consider:
Risk tolerances. How much debt can you take on without having a panic attack? Do you need a year’s worth of savings in the bank to feel comfortable while your partner needs one paycheck? When you differ on these points, separate bank accounts can help meet your needs.
Placement on the “budgeting line.” Discuss where each of you would fall on my budgeting line. Your placement boils down to interests, strengths, and needs, so this can tell you a lot about your relationship beyond money.
Inclination for budgeting and focusing on money-related activities. Are either of you inclined to create a detailed budget and a financial plan for the future? If not, you might want to work with a financial counselor for objective, educated input.
The conflict that couples experience around money often relates to differences in interests, strengths, or needs—and how they interplay. If you fight about spending money on one thing versus another, it tends to reflect a difference in interests. If you argue about how much money to save, that generally reflects a difference in needs. If you fight about how to develop and track a budget, that could relate to strengths or needs or interests.
When following my rules for fighting fair, each of you is entitled to pursue your interests and get your needs met, and you’ll want to take advantage of each person’s strengths. So work together on budgeting with those factors in mind.