Money touches all aspects of our lives. It has the power to bring us great joy as well as ruin. The topic of money implicates the full spectrum of emotion, so it’s no wonder money causes more marital conflict than perhaps anything else. Learning to wisely manage money with a partner is something not taught to most of us, let alone modeled for us in a healthy way.
In my years of working with hundreds of couples, one observation stands out above the rest. What sinks most ships is not lack of income or wealth, but poor communication and management of finances. In other words, more important than how much money you have is how you relate to the money you do have. For couples, this means approaching your financial world on a united front.
Resolve together to live by the following principles for your finances, and you will set yourself up to flourish.
Transparency and honesty: At all times, be transparent and honest about finances. There are no secret accounts or spending habits.
You’re a team: As a couple, your lives and emotions are intertwined. The way you approach your finances should reflect this relational intimacy. You are a team and must work together to identify and achieve your shared goals.
No shame, no blame: Today you start fresh. Forgive yourself, forgive your teammate, and move on from past and future mistakes.
Ours, not yours and mine: View your wealth as “ours,” not “yours” and “mine.” You’re committing your lives to each other, and seeing your wealth as joint will foster unity both financially and relationally. Don’t keep score over who earns more or does more at home. While your roles may be different, you’re equal partners working towards the same goals.
Be willing to compromise: You may not always agree, but you can always compromise. Compromise breaks impasses and helps couples move forward to their shared goals.
Commit to communicate: Be open to talking about money, regardless of how difficult or uncomfortable it is. Commit to improving your communication with each other, and it will only get easier.
You’re running a marathon, not a sprint. You need endurance and perspective. Strive hard in the early years to build a solid foundation and develop a united front. For seasoned couples already years into your journey, take heart: you can course-correct mid-journey. You can, if you choose, buckle down and commit to growing into financial health together. If you can settle on shared goals and values, you’ll find common ground and motivation to spur you on.
Need more support?
Here are suggestions for ongoing accountability and support.
MERGE. This spring, we launched an online course specifically to help couples create a joint plan for their money and equip them to reach their shared goals.
Talk to other couples. Find people you can speak with openly and honestly and encourage each other in your journeys.
Hire a counselor. To really improve your relationship with money and communication with each other, invest in a professional therapist. Ask a friend for a recommendation or, if you’re in NYC, email us and we’ll send you a recommendation.
Hire an advisor. I recommend using the find-an-advisor tools through XY Planning Network and NAPFA. This will help address your practical needs around managing your money wisely and identify specific goals to work towards.