We're not very good at talking about money. Perhaps that's a terribly sweeping generalisation. But it often strikes me that even though, as a society, it feels as though we have become much more open about our lives - money can remain a touchy subject in our relationships. Our approach to finances is often shaped by our upbringing and personal history, in the same way that our approach to relationships is shaped by these factors. If we have conflicting approaches to financial management, it can lead to anxiety, frustration, resentment, anger, mistrust and fear. Being able to communicate about money is an important part of a healthy relationship. We shouldn’t be scared to ask questions about things like joint bank accounts, savings, salaries, retirement goals. And if it feels too early to be having this conversation, then at least be aware of any ‘red flags’ that might mean that you are financially incompatible.
Here are some tips for thinking about your relationships and money, and whether you are financially compatible:
Pay attention to your own feelings about money, ambition, spending and saving. And consider your partner’s approach to the same concepts. Do you compliment each other well? Or can you foresee roadblocks or points of conflict? If it’s the latter, it’s worth addressing this upfront.
Understand the roots of your own individual relationship with money. Are you a compulsive saver or spender, or something in between? What worries or fears do you have about money, and where do these stem from? This will help you to understand if your fears and worries are rational and based on what’s happening in the present moment. Or if perhaps you’re noticing a spiral of negative thinking, based on your own previous experiences. When we understood the roots of our relationship with money, it helps us to understand what we need in order to feel secure and comfortable.
Avoid the temptation to ignore your feelings. Financial insecurities or inequalities can quickly lead to difficult, complex feelings. You might be struggling with jealousy, resentment, frustration, anger or fear. It can be tempting to suppress these feelings, in the hope that they will disappear. But often this just leads them to fester. They might make themselves known in other ways, in outbursts of anger, in panic attacks, in difficulty sleeping.
Figure out your ‘default’ relationship patterns. Under times of stress – including financial pressures – we revert to our default patterns of behaviour. This might lead us into people-pleasing, where we put everyone else’s needs first. Or we might find ourselves shutting down, pushing other people away. And before we know it, we are ‘stuck’ in these unhealthy patterns and it makes it harder for us to cope and voice what we need. If you understand your ‘default’ behaviours, it makes it easier to notice when this is happening.
Communication is key. There’s sometimes an assumption that if we are in a healthy, committed relationship, we will be so attuned to our partner that we will know exactly what they are thinking and feeling. But the reality is that none of us are mind-readers, and we shouldn’t expect this of each other. If you're thinking about broaching this topic with your partner, it's important to discuss it with as much honesty as possible. Be open to understanding each other’s spending styles. And if there isn’t an unlimited pool of cash (and let’s face it, not many of us are in this situation) then figure out your dealbreakers. Together. What’s important to you, what can you live without.
I spoke to VeryWellMind all about financial compatibility, click here to view the full article. I also spoke to Dara&Co all about how we cope in a relationship when one of us has achieved career success while the other one is struggling, click here to view the full article
Keen to explore more? In counselling we can take a deeper look at how you feel about yourself, how you behave, and your coping strategies. Click here to contact me, or click here to book a 30-minute introductory call.