Nothing spoils the fun of a new pair of jeans faster than your partner spying the brand name and asking “Did you keep the receipt?” Nothing ruins what should be the carefree enjoyment of a dinner out than worrying that your partner will choose the Surf and Turf instead of the endless Spaghetti plate. For many, it’s even hard to relax at home wondering if there’s money to cover the next month’s rent or mortgage.
All of these situations, and a million more like them, can lead to fear, judgment and resentment in a relationship. Why? Because generally speaking, the conversations that could go far in precluding these situations are so tough to have. Historically speaking, people would rather talk about just about anything before they talk about money. Our economic state isn’t helping matters any.
Why is money so hard to talk about? While it may look like just a bunch of numbers on a statement, money actually symbolizes so much more than just dollars and cents. Money means freedom, safety, security, success. To many, money even equals self-worth.
There has to be a constructive way to reign in this sprawling discussion and put a stop to the dark shadow of finance in one’s relationship. Maybe even some fun ways? Below are a few ideas:
Be sure to pick a neutral, calm moment in which to bring up the discussion of finance. Don’t pull the money conversation into other arguments or fights – that will only exacerbate the subject and make whatever it is you are actually arguing about an even weightier problem. Wait until the atmosphere is clear, then, if you can find a way, open the conversation with a positive spin, something along the lines of “I love you so much, and I’m so glad you’re my partner. I’m a little worried about finances. Since we’re such a good team, do you think we could talk about making a plan or a budget so I don’t have to worry so much?” It’s a good idea to offer up your own feelings about finances first – if you give a little, open up and let yourself be honest and even vulnerable, your partner is more likely to feel safe in opening up as well. Lay this type of even playing ground and it will be easier to discuss concerns in one another’s spending habits in a reasonable and productive manner.
Count Your Blessings
That sounds so schmaltzy, but it really helps! Find a place of joy with your partner, maybe just sit in your living room partaking in some sort of favorite indulgence, a nice bottle of wine, a favorite blend of tea, ice cream sundaes, whatever, and just start making a list together about why you are so blessed financially. It can be a mental list or, if you’re a geeky list-maker and organizer like me, a real hard copy on yellow legal paper that can be tacked up somewhere. Whatever is easiest for the both of you to refer to when things seem out of control. Anything can go on the list, from ‘we’ve got a beautiful apartment’ and ‘we have cable!’ to seemingly silly things like ‘we buy brand name mayonnaise’ or ‘our garbage disposal works!’ Talk about all the reasons you and your partner are lucky.
Do you have champagne tastes and caviar dreams? You’d be amazed at the fun and adventure of designing a cheap date night. Challenge yourselves; see which of you can come up with a better date night for under $20! Is there a museum in your ‘hood that you’ve been meaning to visit? Most museums have free nights, just figure out which night it is, hit a happy hour before-hand, boom, cheap date night. Use your $20 to put some gas in your car, pack a picnic and drive somewhere with a scenic overlook. In fact, there are so many ways to enjoy being together that don’t cost a nickel! These moments can put you into the mindset of abundance and joy, and might not be a bad time to have that conversation about money.
Dare to Dream
Turn a litigious discussion about money into a chance to future trip…set aside one night a month to review the month’s spending, but make it fun by choosing a long term goal for a future indulgence. Save a little money each month for that future indulgence, making it fun to save and less difficult to say no to more immediate indulgences. Better yet, match the amount you save for the future trip to Disneyland, or Paris, and put that in a ‘Just in Case’ fund. This will help quell those ‘what-Ifs’ and ‘how will I pay for that’s’ that sneak into your mind when money seems short.
Most importantly, do not Forget:
You are not your wallet. Your relationship is not your wallet. Unless you married for money (in which case, you likely aren’t having many open honest conversations like these to begin with), your partner’s wallet or paycheck is not what made you decide to spend your days with him or her. And vice versa. Always remember that love and life trump bills and credit scores, although it is a good idea, in order to enjoy love and life in the most harmonious way possible, to pay proper attention to those more logistic things. Balance and communication are key.