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Working Through Finances in a Relationship Without Throwing a Punch

This post is part of the one day blog event “The Spectrum of Personal Finance.” In this event, comic book nerd Brian of My Next Buck, will discuss 8 different emotions (taken from the Green Lantern comic series) and relate them to personal finance. Here at Poorer Than You we will be looking at Rage. To view the rest of the event look at the bottom of the page to see the other blogs hosting articles.

Unexpected charges on your cable bill, phone bill, or bank statement is enough to ruin your day. Put yourself in a relationship and an extra $50 can be the start of an argument leading to anger, hurt feelings and resentment.

Money and relationships are a combustible pair. There is a reason that people cite money differences as the greatest cause of their divorce. Each situation is different. Two people can be very compatible, yet differ in their spending and saving philosophies and everything can go south.

Whether you are in a new relationship or an old relationship, the topic of money is bound to come up several times. In the beginning, it may be about who is going to pay for dinner on a consistent basis, or if you two should go dutch.

As things progress, one of the two of you may want to go on a vacation. However, if the other can’t afford it, an argument may ensue. The problem only gets worse as partners start discussing living together. Things come up like:

  • Who should pay the greater share of the rent?
  • Should rent be split down the middle?
  • What about the utilities?
  • Why am I paying half the utilities if you’re going to take a 30 minute shower?
  • Should I have to pay half the grocery bill if you are going to buy expensive items?

It’s almost impossible to avoid all of these questions that relate to our relationships and finances. What you CAN do is tackle these issues head on. Here are some methods to make sure tempers don’t flare up when you approach financial questions:

  • Be Constructive – When talking to your partner about finances, be constructive. Try not to play the blame game. Use the situation as a means of furthering the relationship. “Each time you overdraft your checking account it’s the same cost as two or three drinks we each could have the next time we go out.”
  • Be Open – Be willing to listen to what your partner has to say. If you become defensive you may miss their concerns that may very well be legitimate. What they say may be the best for the relationship even if it may seem to be a personal assault on you. Furthermore, brainstorming creative ideas about how to spend your time together can be a healthy thing for the relationship. Some ideas that come out of these discussions could end up saving a lot of money.
  • Show Some Empathy – Each partner is going to bring a different perspective and past experiences into the conversation. Be willing to listen to what they say and try your best to see things from their shoes.
  • Be Clear – If you have legitimate complaints, don’t beat around the bush. Be tactful and clear. If it’s a cut or dry issue for you, make sure your partner knows how important it is to you.
  • Don’t Make Faces – When your significant other says they like to spend hundreds of dollars a year on comic books (like me), don’t make a face! Your body language is important when having these serious conversations. Try to be as serious and as compassionate as possible. It may be best to talk about money while sitting at a table as opposed to the couch, or while both of you are maneuvering around the kitchen while cooking dinner.
  • Be Willing to Renegotiate – Your financial situation will change over the course of a relationship and so will your partners. Be prepared to readdress some of these issues or prepare for new issues. Some things that may come up over the course of a relationship could be moving to a new location, or purchasing a pet.

How do approach these topics with your significant other to prevent both of you getting angry at one another? Are there methods you try to keep both of you calm?

For further reading of the Spectrum of Personal Finance Event, please see:

  • Fear at Bargaineering
  • Hope at Budgets are Sexy
  • Avarice at Consumerism Commentary
  • Willpower at Debt Free Adventure
  • Death at Free Money Finance
  • Compassion at Get Rich Slowly
  • Love at Mrs. Micah
  • Rage at Poorer Than You
  • To view a recap of the event, check out the Spectrum Roundup at My Next Buck

    10 responses to “Working Through Finances in a Relationship Without Throwing a Punch”

    1. Willpower! Going from Debt & Addiction to Automation & Success | Debt Free Adventure!

      [...] Rage at Poorer Than You [...]

    2. Tom

      I see problems starting right from the time couples start to plan their wedding. One person, often the bride, wants to throw an extravaganza and the other person wants to save for a down payment on a house. Big differences in how people spend and save money always lead to discord.

    3. Jesse

      I agree about the faces comment. My wife and I both make faces that normally wouldn’t mean anything but in a fight about money, they mean a lot and can elevate the tension. Our tone of voice also changes sometimes and being married for a while, I can tell exactly what her face is doing just by the tone of her voice.

    4. Mrs. Money

      I think this series is great! Thanks for all the tips. I think “be constructive” is the most beneficial.

    5. D Miller

      My girlfriend has given me that face several times whenever I purchase a new action figure. Hahaha.

    6. The Spectrum of Personal Finance: Round Up | My Next Buck

      [...] Poorer than You I go in depth into ways to discuss finances with your partner so that no one’s feelings get hurt. With so many marriages ending in divorce because of money, it’s important to find ways to communicate openly and effectively. [...]

    7. Ken

      Be constructive is a big one. It’s so easy to place blame and be condescending. I have to guard against this constantly. Good post!

    8. Rafall - Relationship Advice for All

      Indeed money problem can be disastrous in relationship. That’s why it is imperative for every couple to discuss about it in advance and agree on terms related to it such as will the husband trust the wife to manage their money or not, or how much the share of each in everyday expenses if every party keeps his/her own money.

    9. Melanie

      For me personally the most important factor is to be open and honest from the start as I agree totally with Rafall how money problems in a relationship can be disastrous.

      I believe it is key that one person manages the key finances in the relationship but as long as they keep the other informed of where they stand as a couple financially.

      If you stick to the rules you both agree then money will not come between you.

    10. Ally

      Good Post. I think the most important thing is to have an open line of communication with your partner. You won’t always see eye to eye so its important to know how your SO feels/views things. Here are some other tips: http://www.bettertopic.com/2012/08/19/are-you-and-your-partner-saving-effectively/