Money is a powerful dynamic in all of our lives. Not surprisingly it therefore often has a significant impact in our intimate relationships, particularly if we are not fully committed to our partners, but even if we are.
I recently completed a round of market research in preparation for an upcoming class about financial success for couples.
The market research consists of eight different questions. In most cases the questions were answered separately by each partner in a marriage.
The first three questions ask what the biggest challenges, fears and frustrations are for each respondent. This year, I looked for differences in the answers between men and women.
There were 28 respondents, all of whom were married. In most cases I was able to collect answers from both partners, but in some cases only one partner participated. Here is a summary of the results. These were not multiple choice questions, so the answers were written down, grouped and analyzed.
Dealing with differences was the number one reported challenge. This takes the form of different spending priorities, different tolerance thresholds for debt level or bank account balance amounts and how to manage money in general.
The second biggest challenge reported was Having enough money.
Women were more likely to report differences between partners as the biggest challenge (69% to 31%), while the ratio of having enough money was 64% men to 36% women. I believe this is an indication that men are more likely to see money as a general solution to their problems than women are.
The responses for the biggest fear about financial success in marriage had less variation than the answers to other questions.
Losing income or not having enough money to survive was the uncontested biggest fear reported by all participants. There was no gender difference in this response at an even 50/50 for both men and women.
The secondary fear was not having enough money in retirement.
When it comes to frustrations, there was more variety, but they often reflected similar themes to the challenges from question #1.
Agreeing on financial decisions was the number one reported frustration (66% women vs. 33% men), followed very closely by communication difficulties around money (37% women vs. 63% men) and thirdly not knowing how to manage money together (71% women vs. 29% men). Having consistent, sufficient income (50/50) was a close fourth.
Slaying the money fears in your marriage
How do these responses compare with your own experience?
If you are struggling with financial harmony in your relationship there are a couple of principles that might help.
Don’t wait to start having the money conversations.
It is human nature to avoid pain. If we’ve had difficulty in the past when we have broached the topic of finances with our partner, we are less likely to do so going forward.
If we’re waiting for the perfect moment to have a conversation with our partner about finances then we’re probably just avoiding what we fear will be the outcome.
Take a deep breath. Remind yourself of why you love your partner and were attracted to him or her in the first place. Be your best self and start the conversation. It’s not likely to be any easier in the future, so just do it.
Two are stronger than one
One of my older siblings told me years ago, “If you want something, buy it before you get married, because you won’t be able to after.”
Most people talk about money as a stress in their relationship. In reality, having two people working together is a financial boon for a number of reasons. A 2005 Ohio State University study quoted in this article found that after 10 years of marriage a couples net worth was $43,000 as opposed to $11,000 for a comparative single person.
When two people are working together, even in less than ideal circumstances, the financial benefits are real. Imagine what it can be when the money conversations are happening freely, despite the real financial challenges you may be facing in your relationship. When both of you are working together to reduce and eliminate debt, save and invest, your financial picture will brighten much faster than any one person doing it on their own.
If you feel like you and your partner can’t freely talk about your financial challenges, much less work together to solve them, take heart. It is possible. When you do it is like an emotional weight is lifted from your shoulders.
It doesn’t mean you won’t have money challenges. You will. But when you’re working together to solve them, they can actually serve to bring you closer together.
Download this FREE workbook, 7 Steps to Financial Success for Couples for a step by step process you can start today.