Money and Relationship

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Let’s talk about sex…nah, that’s too easy. Let’s talk about money instead. Did your stomach just start to churn? Did you reel back slightly?

As a society we’re not very comfortable talking about money. It’s forbidden to talk about how much you earn, clumsy to discuss how much you paid for something. But if this dynamic extends into a relationship it can cause extreme difficulty.

Take one couple I know of. Together they own a coffee, but the wife has no idea about the financial position of the enterprise, despite being liable for any debts incurred by the business. Her husband won’t talk to her about finances, in fact when she raises the issue it causes a fight, which has created mistrust and a rift between them.

Is he larceny money from the till? And if so, what’s he spending it on? Why all the secrecy? Or is it that he doesn’t want to admit the business’ real, possibly dire financial outlook? Perhaps he’s so far behind with the accounts he simply doesn’t know what the real financial position is and is too scared to admit it.

There still seems to be a paternalistic approach to money in many relationships: the little woman doesn’t really need to concern herself with the family’s finances – that’s a man’s job. So who’s to blame in this situation and, more importantly, how could it be rectified?

As with many aspects of a relationship, if communication breaks down between a couple, it’s probably best to seek professional help from a good counsellor with experience helping couples sort through their financial communication issues.

“A counsellor will sit down with a couple and map out the issues, often using a computer program, which is an approach many guys can relate to. Doing this shows savings patterns and where the money is going. But to be honest, often people don’t go to Counsellor until they are in dire straights; they might already have maxed out multiple credit cards before they come in to see Counsellor.

In a heterosexual relationship Counsellor says the problem isn’t usually that women don’t understand money, or that they want to leave financial decisions to the men-folk. “It’s more about ingrained roles in our society about men being the provider. If men don’t feel they are fulfilling this role it can become an issue of shame and pride. Money has more of an emotional impact in our lives than almost any other aspect.”

If you find yourself in a situation where there’s a breakdown in your relationship about money you might need to take a different approach to the way you and your partner approach spending. Counsellor says often couples split expenses rather than make joint decisions about how to save for something like a holiday. “You might find one partner pays for the flights and the other partner pays for the accommodation, rather than saying ‘we need to save 2 lacs for a holiday together’.”

When it comes to bank accounts Counsellor says a sensible approach is to have a joint household account, plus “an individual account that doesn’t have to be accounted for. A good compromise might be that each partner gets 50,000 a year to spend on themselves, as long as the bills are paid first.”

As a couple, if you find yourself weighted down by a mountain of debt the first thing you should do is make an appointment with a financial counsellor and immediately contact those you owe money to. Most creditors will let you arrange a payment plan that will reduce individual repayments but still ensure you pay off the debt over time.

How do you deal with money in your relationship? Are you equal partners or is one side solely responsible for money? Do you think it’s possible to resolve conflict about money in a relationship? I’d love to hear your thoughts

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