Money Matters And Premarital Counseling
Financial disagreements is one of the three most common reasons for discord between partners, with sex and parenting being the other two. As a couples therapist, I often see money as a major source of conflict among married and unmarried couples. It is common for partners to have opposing views on money, spending and saving. Our attitudes and ideas about money are shaped by the beliefs and values instilled in us by our families-of-origin and the experiences we had with money or the lack of it while growing up.
It takes a couple in distress, an average of 6 years before they reach out for marital counseling and therapy. However, couples that participate in some form of premarital counseling experience a 30% decline in the risk for marital separation and divorce over the next 5 years along with increased levels of marital satisfaction. In the premarital counseling program at The Tri-Valley Center for Relationship Therapy, money is an area that I focus on greatly and help couples learn and understand each other’s financial perspectives, goals, needs and struggles.
For couples planning on getting married or moving in together, the following tips might be helpful in initiating conversations related to finances and begin to create safety around the issue of money.
Discuss your Debt-
Ongoing full disclosure about each other’s financial situation is the first step towards creating safety and trust around money. Couples that are contemplating getting married or moving in together can greatly benefit from disclosures related to personal debt, loans, financial responsibilities and the overall health of their finances. Depending on where you live, the tax laws and other circumstances, partners might be responsible for each other’s debt which makes it even more important to engage in full disclosure.
Separate or Joint-
Another important issue to discuss is whether the partners will have separate, joint or both separate and joint bank accounts. If the decision is to have separate bank accounts, partners should consider if they will have access to each other’s accounts and knowledge of balances etc. Not disclosing about an existing bank account or opening up an account without your partner’s knowledge can greatly damage the trust in the relationship.
Spending & Saving-
Couples can negotiate limits on spending that are mutually agreeable. Some couples like to have a rule in place about checking with each other before making expensive purchases. This gets a little tricky for couples that have separate bank accounts, if the partners don’t have access to each other’s accounts. Creating a culture of transparency and openness about finances can go a long way in strengthening the relationship. Coming up with a savings plan for your next big financial goal such as buying a house or retirement as well as for dealing with emergencies can enhance financial stability and safety.
Budgets & Bills-
It is best to be on the same page about setting a budget and scheduling bills. I suggest dedicating a few hours one evening, preferably at the end or the beginning of each month, to discuss the budget and bills for the month. It is helpful to recap the budget of the previous month, analyze the ratio of the spending and saving and come up with a plan of action for the following month.
Work as a Team-
Putting each other first, having each other’s back and working together as a team is the most important tip for dealing with any issue in a relationship, including money. Mutually creating a sense of stability & transparency about your financial situation, working towards common financial goals and being mindful of how your money habits impact your partner and the relationship are good strategies for putting up a united front.
Written by: Nagma V. Clark, Ph.D., L.P.C.C. specializing in sex therapy, couples therapy & marriage counseling, premarital counseling, individual relationship therapy & LGBTQQI couples counseling at Tri-Valley Relationship Therapy, Inc. in the East Bay, in Dublin & Oakland.
Tri-Valley Relationship Therapy, Inc. offers a premarital counseling program to couples that are contemplating a major life or relationship decision such as moving in, getting married, planning a pregnancy or exploring adoption. Couples learn to identify potential seeds for future conflict and skills to nip them in the bud.
Call 925-400-3541 or email email@example.com to schedule a free 30 minute phone consult or fill out the contact form and you will be contacted within 12-24 hours.