How to Talk About Money with Your Partner: Strategies to Overcome Relationship Financial Stress

by | Mar 5, 2023

As a couples therapist in New York City, I’ve seen firsthand how crucial it is to balance a healthy relationship with effective financial management in one of the most expensive cities in America. These are key aspects of adult life, yet they often intersect in ways that lead to misunderstandings and disagreements. Financial stress in relationships, particularly in marriage, can be a significant source of conflict. It has the potential to strain even the strongest of relationships, especially when there are differences in marriage expectations around spending habits, savings goals, and budgeting strategies. In my practice, I emphasize the importance of understanding and navigating these financial waters together. It’s essential to find a harmonious balance between managing your finances and nurturing your relationship, as this is key to preventing and resolving marital money issues.

This guide is designed to help you understand the importance of financial management for a healthy relationship, especially when relationship financial issues are a concern or when financial stress is killing your marriage. Handling various financial struggles in marriage, making long-term plans, and establishing a solid financial foundation as a couple are essential for overcoming financial stress in relationships. After reading this article, you’ll have a better understanding of how to manage your finances as a couple, how to discuss finances with your partner, and how to lay a strong financial foundation for your future together.

Understanding Your Money Mindset

The set of beliefs and attitudes you hold about money is known as your money mindset. It is shaped by your upbringing, experiences, and cultural background. This mindset can significantly impact your relationship and finances. Often, differing money mindsets become a common cause of conflict over financial issues in relationships.

Identifying Your Money Mindset

You must first recognize your money mindset to understand it. Often our money mindset can stem back to the way we were raised and what we saw modeled for us regarding money in our family systems. Think about how you feel about money. Do you see money as a means of security or as a means of achieving your goals? Are you a spender or a saver? How you about finances with your partner starts with sharing your money mindset once you’ve determined it. This will help you both understand where each other is coming from and how your attitudes towards money may affect your financial decisions.

How Your Money Mindset Affects Relationship Financial Stress

Your relationship and finances can be significantly impacted by your money mindset. Financial stress in marriage often arises when finding a balance between spending and saving is challenging, for instance, if one partner is a spender and the other is a saver. However, understanding each other’s money mindset can help you work together towards a common financial goal. Understanding your partner’s perspective on money will help you hold more compassion for your partner, find ways to reconcile your differences, and realize your shared financial objectives.

Establishing Shared Financial Goals

Setting shared financial goals is an essential part of keeping your relationship and finances in harmony, especially when dealing with financial trouble in marriage. By establishing shared goals and financial expectations in a relationship, you and your partner can align your financial priorities and work together towards a common purpose. This can help you both feel more in control of your financial situation and less stressed about your money.

Understanding Each Other’s Financial Priorities

To set shared financial goals, it’s essential to have a clear understanding of each other’s financial priorities and aspirations. This can help you avoid potential conflicts about money and ensure that your financial goals are aligned. Sit down with your partner and discuss your short-term and long-term financial goals. Be honest and open about your financial situation and any concerns you may have.

Making Specific and Measurable Goals

When setting financial goals together, it’s crucial to be specific and measurable. Vague or general goals are hard to achieve and can leave you feeling discouraged. Instead, make sure your goals are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). For example, instead of saying, “We want to save more money,” you can set a goal to save $500 each month for the next six months. This gives you a clear target to work toward and helps you stay motivated.

Developing a Plan to Achieve Goals

After setting your financial goals, it’s crucial to develop a plan to achieve them. Break down your goals into smaller, manageable steps and assign responsibilities to each partner. This will help you stay accountable and track your progress towards your financial goals. For example, if your goal is to save for a down payment on a house, you may need to create a savings plan, cut back on unnecessary expenses, and increase your income. You can assign responsibilities for each of these steps to ensure that you’re both working together towards your goal.

Revisiting and Adjusting Goals

Remember to revisit and adjust your financial goals as needed over time. As your circumstances change, your financial priorities and goals may also change. Revisiting and adjusting your goals will help you stay on track and continue to work together towards a secure financial future. It’s also essential to celebrate your progress along the way. Recognizing your achievements can help you stay motivated and continue to work together towards your shared financial goals.

Creating a Budget Together

Creating a budget together is an important step in keeping your relationship and finances in harmony, particularly when financial stress is impacting your marriage. You can track your income and expenses, control your debt, and save money for your shared financial objectives by using a budget. Additionally, it reduces your financial stress and helps you avoid overspending. In a relationship, setting up a budget together is especially important because it guarantees that both partners have the same perspective on spending and saving.

Tips for Creating a Budget Together

When creating a budget together, it’s essential to be open and honest about your income and expenses. List your monthly income and expenses first. Then identify what your main priorities are for where your money goes as a couple. Determine where you can reduce spending, such as on entertainment or eating out. Include savings for unanticipated expenses, retirement, and any other common financial objectives.

To keep track of your spending and stay on track, use apps and tools for budgeting. You can track your accounts and expenses in real-time using the free budgeting tools that are provided by many banks and financial institutions. To keep track of your spending and receive tailored recommendations, you can also use free budgeting apps like Mint, YNAB, or Personal Capital.

Always remember to review and modify your budget together as necessary over time. Your financial priorities and goals may change as your circumstances do. Revisiting and adjusting your budget will help you stay on track and continue to work together towards your shared financial goals.

Communicating about Money to Reduce Financial Stress in Your Relationship

When it comes to managing finances as a couple, effective communication is essential. Money miscommunications and disagreements can lead to conflict and stress. Here are some pointers for effective money communication with your partner:

Starting the Conversation

Starting a money conversation can be difficult, but it is necessary to avoid misunderstandings and conflicts. Begin by scheduling a time to discuss your finances when both of you are relaxed and have enough time to have a meaningful conversation. Make your intentions clear and inform your partner that you want to collaborate on a common financial goal.

Active Listening

Active listening in relationships is an essential component of effective communication. It entails paying attention to what your partner is saying and attempting to comprehend their point of view. When your partner is speaking, avoid interrupting or becoming defensive. Instead, ask questions and try to understand things from their perspective. Active listening can aid in the development of a more solid relationship based on mutual trust and understanding.

Setting Boundaries

Setting financial boundaries can help you and your partner avoid disagreements and misunderstandings. If you decide to share expenses, for example, make sure you’re both clear on what expenses you’ll be sharing and what expenses you’ll be responsible for individually. Setting financial boundaries can help you avoid financial conflicts and build a stronger relationship based on shared financial goals.

Building a Strong Financial Foundation to Prevent Financial Issues in Marriage

Building a solid financial foundation is essential for maintaining a healthy relationship and reaching your financial goals. The Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AICPA & CIMA), a global organization for accounting and finance professionals, has studied and written about the impact of financial stress on relationships. They found that half of American couples with financial stress report a negative impact on intimacy, and that “financial infidelity” will end up to 40% of relationships. Even more alarming, they found that parents with children experience the highest rates of relationship distress from financial issues. On the other hand, couples who establish a solid financial foundation by setting shared financial goals, living within their means, and planning for the future are more likely to report higher levels of relationship satisfaction and financial stability.

Seeking Professional Help from a Financial Coach or Couples Therapist

Managing finances can be challenging, and it’s very common for couples to experience conflicts or financial stress in their relationship. If you’re struggling to manage your finances as a couple, seeking professional help from a couples therapist can be an effective way to improve your communication and ultimately your relationship and associations to money in your relationship.

A financial counselor or therapist can provide you with the tools and resources you need to achieve your financial goals and build a stronger relationship. Here are some potential benefits of working with a financial counselor or therapist:

  • Increased financial literacy: A financial counselor can help you and your partner develop a better understanding of financial concepts, such as budgeting, investing, and debt management, which is essential when addressing financial issues in marriage.
  • Improved communication: A couples therapist can help you and your partner improve your communication skills, , validate one another, and resolve conflicts related to money. The communication tools you will learn in couples therapy can be applied to any other triggering topics that might lead to disconnection, especially when marital money problems are present.
  • Goal setting: A financial counselor can help you and your partner set realistic financial goals and develop a plan to achieve them. This is particularly important in the context of marriage and money problems.
  • Objective advice: A financial counselor can provide objective advice and guidance based on their professional experience and training, which can be invaluable in navigating financial trouble in marriage.
  • Accountability: A financial counselor can help you and your partner stay accountable to your financial goals and provide ongoing support and encouragement, which is crucial when tackling financial stress in marriage.

It’s important to note that seeking professional help does not indicate weakness or failure. Rather, it shows a commitment to improving your financial relationship and achieving your financial goals as a couple.

Working with a financial counselor or therapist can provide a range of benefits for couples struggling with managing their finances. By increasing financial literacy, improving communication, setting realistic goals, receiving objective advice, and receiving ongoing support, couples can build a stronger, healthier financial relationship.

Final Thoughts on Talking About Money with Your Partner and Financial Stress in Relationships

Managing finances can be a challenging aspect of any relationship. However, by prioritizing communication, setting shared financial goals, and building a strong financial foundation, couples can achieve financial security and a healthier, happier relationship. From understanding your money mindset and creating a budget together, to how to talk about finances before marriage and how to discuss finances with your partner, I hope this guide has provided you with valuable insights and actionable steps to improve your financial relationship.

Remember, building a strong financial foundation requires ongoing effort and commitment. By working together as a team and prioritizing your shared financial goals, you can build a secure and fulfilling financial future as a couple. With the right mindset and tools, you can achieve financial stability and build a stronger, more resilient relationship. If you’re looking for personalized guidance and support in this journey, I encourage you to reach out for a free consultation to learn more about how we can help you find harmony in your relationship and finances.

Mara Hirschfeld, LMFT
Mara Hirschfeld, LMFT
I'm a licensed marriage and family therapist and the proud founder of Holding Hope MFT. I created Holding Hope as a space for individuals and couples to delve into their deepest selves, free from the fears of judgment or shame. Through my writing, I strive to cultivate a deeper understanding of mental health topics, breaking down barriers and fostering a more supportive and informed community.

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