5 Steps to Building Financial Intimacy This Valentine’s Day


Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and with it, so too come the big questions. Should you celebrate Valentine’s Day? And if so, how should you spend it and how much money should you spend?

Regardless of whether you agree with your partner about whether or how to celebrate Valentine’s Day, it can often trigger a range of emotions depending on the nature of your relationship – not just with your partner, but even more so – with money.

Take, for example, the simple exercise of exchanging gifts on the day. How do you feel if your partner spends less on your gift than you do on theirs? Do you feel foolish? Cheated? Angry?

Conversely, what emotions are triggered if your partner struggles to stick to a budget, while you tend to be frugal or not inclined to use money as a way of expressing your love?

Although we attach a great deal of emotion to money, we rarely tend to openly discuss these emotions with our partners. After all, talking about money has long been taboo, ultimately because it makes us vulnerable and opens us up to the risk of judgement, criticism and ridicule. Don’t believe me? Try it on your friends and family. They will rather tell you how much they weigh than the amount they have in the bank.

So it’s no surprise that so few of us openly discuss financial matters with anyone. While keeping your finances private from your friends and family may not be a big deal, what happens to the quality of our romantic relationships when we don’t talk about financial matters with our significant other?

In short: it can spell trouble.

Research by Relationships Australia found that arguments over money are the leading predictor in relationship breakdown, with 70% of couples reporting that money causes tension in their relationship. Perhaps then it comes as no surprise that research by CreditCards.com found that nearly 1 in 2 adults are keeping money secrets from their partner.

But it’s not all bad news. On the flip side, when we feel financially safe in a relationship, it can allow us to truly open up and can bring about a greater level of intimacy and satisfaction in a relationship.

With that in mind, here are 5 simple steps you can take to get on the same page with your significant other and reduce the risk of money tearing you apart.

Step 1. Get to know each other’s money stories

How we manage our money as adults is heavily influenced by our childhood. Yet we often forget that each of us has our own money story and our own money issues that we developed well before we entered the relationship.

So start by getting to know each other from a place of compassion and curiosity: What was life like growing up? What was your earliest memory about money? What habits or beliefs did you form over the years as a result of your upbringing?

Step 2. Share your fears and concerns about money

Money is a core survival issue because it is so closely tied to our ability to have food and shelter. This means that we all hold a deeply rooted sense of fear and anxiety about money, which can easily be triggered by even seemingly insignificant events.

By talking openly with each other about your deepest fears about money, you can begin to understand how you trigger each other’s anxiety and learn how you can avoid doing it in the future.

Step 3. Find common ground

Some of the biggest arguments and frustrations about money tend to occur when both people are not equally committed to the same goals and so they prioritise their spending in different ways.

A great exercise to do together as a couple is to each write down all the things you value most in life and then sit down and compare notes. Take notice of what values you have in common and circle them. Once you have identified those, try to set one common lifestyle goal that you can work toward, that aligns with both of your values.

Step 4. Set some ground rules

Now that you have an appreciation for each other’s financial priorities, fears and habits, it is time to use that information to agree on how you will handle money as a couple. This is where it can be helpful to agree on things like banking structure (joint or separate bank accounts?), how you will share financial responsibilities, whether there is a spending limit above which you will agree to consult each other, and so on.

Step 5. Deal with money issues as they arise

And last but not least. Keep the channels of communication open. All too often people tend to bottle up their feelings in order to avoid confrontation. This can lead to a build-up of feelings of anger and resentment, which we can then take out on our partner.

Instead, make time to regularly talk about money. Express what it is that is worrying you the most and why, and what it is you need in order to feel more at ease. Be respectful of one another, try not to interrupt and avoid placing blame, yelling and name-calling. If you catch the conversation getting heated – call a time out and revisit the conversation once you have both calmed down.

Natasha Janssens is an award-winning finance expert, founder of Women With Cents and the author of Wonder Woman’s Guide To Money: The Busy Woman’s Guide To Money Management And Wealth Building.

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