Nearly half of all participants (47 percent) in the January online poll by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling® responded that disagreements about money are most likely to cause the greatest stress in their relationships.
Disputes about money management can begin as early as the first date, but they become lethal to relationships when they go unaddressed. As the years go by, what could have started as a constructive conversation about finance becomes a heated battle over who is right. Observations become accusations, and trust becomes suspicion. Growing levels of mistrust can lead to financial infidelity, which registered on the survey as a top stress point for 25 percent of respondents.
The NFCC recommends couples press the pause button before things spiral out of control and have a constructive conversation about money.
“Most people have a different approach to money management than their spouse or partner,” said Bruce McClary, spokesperson for the NFCC. “Left unaddressed, those differences can lead to the end of the line for many couples. Understanding those differences means having honest discussions early in a relationship so the rules are mutually accepted and the financial goals are clear. No matter the differences or challenges, the best approach is to start communicating early.”
Financial counselors at the Village Financial Resource Center recommend the following guidelines for couples:
- Be honest with yourself and each other when it comes to financial matters. As financial challenges appear, work together to address them directly instead of ignoring problems and wishing they will resolve themselves.
- Establish money rules for the relationship and hold each other accountable. Discuss what will be jointly managed and set rules for making independent spending decisions.
- Don’t conceal debt or sources of income from each other. Financial infidelity should be taken as seriously as any other form of cheating. Adhere to a policy of financial transparency to strengthen trust in the relationship.
- Set a time and place where financial matters can be discussed on a regular basis, free of distractions.
- Keep the tone of the conversation casual, and remain open to what each other has to say.
- If a disagreement should go unresolved during a conversation, take a moment to find acceptable ways to compromise or consider revisiting the issue after a short time-out.
- If a financial mistake is made, couples should work together to find solutions without assigning blame. Be willing to accept a fair share of the responsibility for the problem and the solution.
- When tracking joint financial goals, understand changing circumstances require a degree of flexibility from both partners in a relationship.
- Understand a single financial setback impacting one person ultimately affects the entire relationship, no matter how large or small the issue.
Often, money issues may reveal deeper problems in the relationship that require outside intervention. Sometimes, it helps to seek advice from a relationship counselor if matters cannot be resolved through normal communication. The same is true for the financial side of the equation. Seeking advice from a Village financial counselor can help address challenges and restore financial health, making it easier to focus on other aspects of the relationship.
Call the Village Financial Resource Center at 1-800-450-4019 to make an appointment.