One of the most significant stressors in any couple’s relationship is money. Money can be a driving force for serious conflict in a relationship or marriage, and is among the top three most common contributors to divorce. My work with individuals and couples has shed light on the deeply personal relationship people have with money, and the importance of understanding that relationship before making a decision about joint bank accounts and sharing assets.

As a therapist who works with couples in various stages of life, I have learned how often couples do not discuss their financial situation, lifestyle expectations, and general spending habits prior to living together, getting married, and sharing their bank accounts. The stress and anxiety that often accompanies the discussion about finances often contributes to avoidance of the topic, making the situation worse for couples in the long term.

What Should We Discuss Before We Combine?

Prior to thinking about combining finances, it is important to discuss expectations related to lifestyle, spending, saving, and if applicable, saving for a family. Determine your answers to these questions and share them with your partner as a first step towards financial success in your relationship.

  1. Understand your own relationship with money: As an individual, how have you made financial decisions? What are you spending habits? Do you save? How do you decide how much to save/month? Does money motivate you or stress you out?
  2. Think about what your models taught you: What did you witness growing up? Did your parent(s) spend? Save? Could they afford their lifestyle or was money a major stressor? Think about how this impacted you and how it has impacted your life to date.
  3. Determine your expectations in your relationship: In your relationship, do you expect your partner to contribute equally? Do you think expenses should be shared, based on an income ratio, or split up in a particular way? What are your beliefs about the roles within the relationship, and how does that impact your spending?
  4. Think about your spending plan: Determine a spending/saving plan that works for your, and then bring that to your partner. How different do your plans look? Do you have some similar goals? Do you understand each other’s expectations?

The Next Steps…

In part 2 of our money series, we will look at how to communicate more effectively about money and how to choose the best option for co-mingling assets (join account, separate accounts with some joint expenses, etc.). As you explore the answers to some of the questions listed above, pay attention to the emotions that come up. It is important to understand how you feel about money and the choices you make with it in order to understand how to effectively communicate about it with your partner.

If you feel that you want to learn more about your relationship with money individually, or would like to discuss finances with your partner in a comfortable and safe setting, please feel free to contact me at 312-729-5089. I offer free 15-minute consultations so that you can learn more about how I can help.