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The last taboo? How money could make or break your relationship

Talking about money is still a major taboo for many UK couples. 

Here Corinne Sweet, author of Stop Fighting About Money:  How Money Can Make Or Break Your Relationship, gives her top tips for making sure money issues don’t ruin your relationship.

Why is it difficult to talk about money?

I have seen clients who are happier to talk about sex, housework, even death, than money:  talking about ‘filthy lucre’ can bring up huge feelings, and test a relationship to its core.

Why?  It seems issues to do with dependency, trust, intimacy, class, cultural and religious beliefs, are all touched on by money.  We each have our own ‘take’ on what money is for, and best used, and couples often fail to voice these values when they get together. 

They make assumptions and then get disappointed.  Couples tend to think if they love someone they will agree with them about money.  Not so. 

Different views and values can lead to strife, and so secrecy and duplicity, can start creeping in.  This can lead to arguments, bitterness and can start dissolving love and trust. 

We also have our own ‘money patterns’ and ‘money baggage’ and we want our partners to agree with us.  When we find out they think differently, it can be a real shock.

Do you have a money secret?

According to a new survey by the Money Advice Service, an amazing 13% of married UK adults say they even have a secret ‘stash of cash’, and escape fund, which they hide from their partner.  They might also have ‘secret debt’ (18%). 

The problem with hiding this kind of information is that it undermines the fabric of the relationship.  Far better to get things out in the open from the beginning, and work out a money modus you can both work with.

Top tips for talking about money

The biggest challenge is establishing transparency in the relationship, about money, right from the start.  True happiness and lasting love depends on us building trust, and a sense of mutual purpose.  If we are tucking away money, so we can escape, it creates a gap.  Secrecy can eat away at the relationship infrastructure.

So, from the start of a new relationship, try to:

  • Voice your views about money (write a letter to each other, even), stating what you think money is for;
  • Be as honest as you can be about debt, wealth, expenditure (at least with yourself);
  • Establish some ground rules for when you go out, or spend – who pays for what.  How is it split?  According to income?  According to who wants what?  Taking it in turns?
  • Break the taboo about talking about money – make it sexy.  It’s fine to say ‘shall I pay this time, and you next time?’ or ‘shall we split the bill?’
  • If you don’t like how your partner has behaved with money, voice it, without attacking them, ‘could you tell me about…?’ or ‘I would prefer it if….’ (Not, ‘you’re terrible with money because…);
  • Don’t assume, just because you love someone, or fancy them, that they think the same way you do about money;
  • Also, don’t make money into a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ subject:  how we feel about money is very subjective and emotional, so be respectful of someone else’s views and try to understand them.

Make your relationship grow

If you have a secret stash – ask yourself, ‘why?’  It might be you know, deep down, that your partner is not a long term relationship. 

If you found out your partner has a secret stash, how would you feel?  Cheated upon?  Relieved? Intrigued?  Could you tell them how you feel about it, calmly?

Most importantly, if your relationship is moving on to the next level, and you are considering living together, having a child, working together, travelling, buying a house, you really need to have a serious conversation then about money.

Try and keep the sessions short, focused, sober and more about information/value sharing, than talking too much about who did what, when.

If you want your relationship to grow and continue, getting clear about money with each other will be crucial.

If you need to talk with a third party there to help ‘umpire’ a discussion, then do so.  The clearer you get about money between you, the happier you will be.  Keep your money agreements under review, as they will help you build a solid foundation for your relationship.

This guest post is from Corinne Sweet and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of the Money Advice Service.

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