The key to a healthy and happy financial relationship is communication.
How often do you and your spouse talk about money? If it’s not often enough, it’s likely because one or both of you thinks it will lead to an argument. According to a Kansas State University researcher, arguing about money is a slippery slope toward divorce. In fact, it’s by far the top predictor. Naturally, couples like to sidestep these conversations, but in the long run, avoiding the topic does more harm than good.
Because couples tend to use harsher language during arguments about money, it often takes their relationship longer to recover. As the disagreements continue, the couple’s overall dissatisfaction increases. Eventually the time they spend recovering from arguments exceeds all else in the relationship. Cue the divorce lawyers.
Communication Equals Happiness and Creates Strength
The key to a healthy and happy financial relationship is communication. According to TD Bank’s Second Annual Love & Money Survey, couples are happier when they talk about money. Here’s the percentage of couples, and the frequency with which they discuss finances, who say they’re happy:
- 78% of couples who talk at least once a week about money
- 60% of couples who talk every few months
- 50% who talk even less frequently
Each person comes into a marriage with some degree of financial baggage. It’s important for both to acknowledge what they bring into the relationship. They need to openly share their assets and their debts. Many times one or both people are hesitant, thinking that it will create too much conflict. Ironically, the lack of conversation and the avoidance is what creates the conflict. Communication facilitates openness, education and the opportunity to create shared goals. There’s nothing better to strengthen a relationship.
Chat it up!
So, exactly how financially mum have you been? Do you know how much your spouse earns? Can you closely estimate the total amount of your revolving debt? Have you started to save for retirement? Do you have an emergency fund?
Don’t be discouraged. Regardless of how long you’ve been married, it’s never too late to start anew. First, set some ground rules for starting the conversation. One person talks at a time while the other listens with respect – and no assigning of blame. If things get heated, take a break. You’ll get to a place where talking about money comes more naturally, since you’ve been communicating about it more regularly.
Remember that money can be a complicated matter. Each person’s belief is a compilation of what their parents taught them, their own experiences, their fears, insecurities and goals. When you understand the other person’s perspective, it can help build a path to not only a healthier relationship, but a stronger financial future as well.