Money can be an emotionally charged topic of conversation for many that can put a strain on a marriage. When couples avoid communicating about money, they are usually attempting to avoid relationship discord and conflict. However, the avoidance only delays underlying tension that will surface at some point, wreaking havoc on the relationship.
Due to financial overwhelm, feelings of incompetence, or discomfort, many couples will avoid bringing money up until they can no longer ignore the conversation. It is imperative that couples discuss money early in a relationship so that they can make healthy financial decisions towards their future goals.
Opening up these dialogues will help couples to prevent three common outcomes of money talk avoidance:
1. Increased Conflict & Anxiety
When you aren’t talking about money, you and your partner are more likely to make assumptions about the other’s financial habits or situation. It’s not unusual for couples, after years of marriage, to surprisingly learn how little or how much their partner has in savings or how much debt they have. These discoveries often come when the couple is looking to buy a home, are going through a transition, or find themselves in a financial emergency.
Making assumptions based on your own expectations can create conflict and anxiety in response to feeling blindsided (i.e., feeling stunned that your partner has minimal savings despite their high-paying job). Couples can feel shocked to discover that they aren’t eligible for the home of the dreams or for a loan because of a partner’s credit score.
Life transitions or emergencies, which can add an element of relationship stress on their own, will shine a light on unaddressed financial concerns. It’s what couples do next once this information is revealed that can make or break the trajectory of healthily discussing and managing money matters moving forward. Repairing from these surprise disclosures is key in bouncing forward rather than continuing the avoidance of money talk, which will only increase anxiety and conflict over time. These moments can provide opportunities for couples to strengthen their communication, align their expectations, and to create clear, actionable steps moving forward towards financial health.
2. Relationship Disconnection & Mistrust
When couples continue to avoid communicating about money, the conflict will likely manifest in other areas of the relationship so as to not have to deal with underlying unresolved tension around money concerns. This ongoing pattern of conflict often leads to disconnection and distrust in the relationship.
When couples believe that they can’t talk about money without a fight, they are prone to concealing money habits or attempting to “figure things out” on their own if they are in a financial pickle. Distrust is compounded when one or both partners believe that they can not talk to one another openly and vulnerably about money. This often leads to turning away rather than towards your partner to problem-solve together.
The cycle of avoidance is fed by mistrust, which makes it more and more difficult to be supportive and to receive support. Getting stuck in this pattern widens the gap of disconnection and blocks the chance to work on money growth areas (i.e., impulsive spending) as a team.
Opening up a healthy dialogue requires that couples attempt to understand one another’s money habits and concerns around money. When both partners are listening to understand rather than listening to “be right,” they have a pathway to compromise, increased trust, and connection. The ultimate goal is to work towards making financial decisions from a “We” perspective vs. “You-or-Me.”
3. Planning For The Future Is Impossible
It’s also nearly impossible to plan for the future with intention when you aren’t talking about money regularly. It’s imperative to know where your finances stand as a couple so that you can work towards your future goals with a plan. Many couples make the mistake of shelving these conversations for “another day” and find themselves in greater distress later down the line.
Dialogues around money go beyond just budgets and should extend to making sure you are both aligned on your future financial goals. These conversations can help you get clarity on your current financial situation as a whole while providing a clear pathway for planning to hit your goals. It’s important to clarify where you are, where you are going, and how you are going to get there when it comes to money. Openly discussing your money behaviors and day-to-day decisions will help you to identify if they work towards your long-term future goals.
Essentially, the avoidance of discussing money contributes heavily to stress and marital dissatisfaction. Developing tools to manage and discuss money as a couple coincides with healthy communication skills, and it takes practice! I
f you are stuck in avoiding the topic of money in your relationship, seeking a financial therapist or couples therapist is a great first action step to easing the angst around the subject of money.
Talking about money can and should be a healthy facet of your relationship that helps to maintain connectedness as a couple.