Is it possible to love without doing the math? Experience shows that putting financial issues on the table, although scary, adds authenticity to life together.
The relationship that each member of the couple maintains with money hangs over them from the first date. One insists on inviting the other, but the latter perhaps prefers that they pay half so as not to feel indebted; the former, on the other hand, considers it a contempt not to accept the invitation and is offended.
Something similar happens when making decisions about the resources to be used for leisure time. She who has spent part of her savings enrolling in a master”s degree prefers to spend just enough he – a supporter of “getting the most out of life” wants to spend the summer in Hawaii.
It is curious how two people who are thinking of starting a relationship can explain important details of their sexual lives, inquire about their wishes for fatherhood or their professional ambitions, but, instead, maintain a fearful silence regarding their expectations regarding money and money distribution of goods in the couple.
WHY DO YOU HAVE TO TALK ABOUT MONEY?
“When I”m in love, I don”t think about money,” said a young man proudly. “Money cannot spoil the union of two people who really love each other,” said a thirty year old woman two weeks before her wedding. And it is that the myths of romantic love continue to nest in our brain, as part of an ancient legacy.
The idea that when there is love things work out spontaneously activates the fear of being misunderstood if money issues are addressed. The mere fact of thinking about the vile metal is interpreted as a sign of selfishness and casts doubts about the intentions with which someone approaches the couple.
But a few months of coexistence are enough to see that things are not so easy or automatic. Now it turns out that he took it for granted that part of his salary would be dedicated to savings and that she does not want to skimp on resources to finish fixing the house. He always thought they would keep separate accounts; she feels that if the economies are not united it is that he is afraid of commitment or, worse still, he does not love her!
The serious thing is not that two people have divergent priorities or visions, but the different meanings that each person gives to money, something neutral in itself. Claiming your own wishes can be understood as “you want to impose yourself on me”; Disagreeing with a proposal could be interpreted as “you underestimate me, what is mine is not important to you”. And you cannot talk about money without also talking about reciprocity, power, your own fears, what will happen if we separate.
It is preferable to speak clearly about money, because nothing can undermine the relationship as much as what is not said or taken for granted. When you act like money doesn”t matter, you run the risk of misunderstandings or offenses piling up to a point from which there is no return.
WHY IS IT DIFFICULT TO TALK ABOUT MONEY?
The first exchanges take place in the family itself: there we learn to give and receive in a particular and specific way. The relationship that our parents had with money, the way of earning it, managing it, spending it, losing it, the priority given to it marked the family dynamics of that time and left a mark that, in some way, conditions us.
They may have conveyed to us that you have to work hard to earn a good salary; that it is not necessary to show off wealth or to help those most in need. Perhaps the mother wanted a divorce but could not due to lack of resources and has transmitted to her daughter the idea that you have to be self-sufficient at all costs. Another son could always happily agree to what he wanted and, as an adult, his tendency inclines him to spend what he has at all times.
When two people come together, so do their personal stories and their conditioning factors. It is not a matter of one convincing the other that their vision is better, nor that – for fear of losing the relationship – one member of the couple forgets himself or herself and fully accepts the other”s model.
On the contrary, it is about recognizing the origins and dedicating effort to building a common and own model, with the best of each one, taking advantage of the experiences and resources that were useful to previous generations.
It is good to answer questions like: Why do I have so much difficulty changing my habits? Where is it written that the model developed by my family is better than yours? What prevents me from imagining that I can act differently? The answers may be different and it will even be possible to recognize a certain feeling of disloyalty towards one”s own family. But all of this is part of the process of building a successful partner.
It is not enough to be in love, we must verify that we are compatible and match our differences to create our own reality, in the image of each one and of both at the same time.
HOW TO MANAGE MONEY AS A COUPLE?
In the past, gender roles were very marked – one was dedicated to earning money and the other to taking care of the house and children there was no other option but to operate with a single economy.
As women have entered the world of work, more than one salary has been required, divorce rates have skyrocketed and the family structure has become more complex, another multiform model has emerged. Let”s see some examples:
“UNITED IN LOVE AND MONEY”
Everything is put in common to use it in a uniform and equitable way. It derives from a reformed vision of the myth that associates love with the full fusion between two people. The difficulties to be addressed then have to do with:
- The need to distinguish between personal expenses and common expenses.
- The management of wealth if a member is very wayward or very tight-fisted.
- Find a balance when the level of expenses for each is very different.
- Discuss often if economic priorities are not very well established.
- The system could mask a desire for control since you have access to the smallest details of the other”s expenses.
“NOT WITHOUT MY PERSONAL ACCOUNT”
Each member of the couple maintains their personal account and both enter the same amount each month in a common account. All expenses of the couple are paid in half. It derives from the desire to achieve full equality. In this model, everyone feels free and autonomous to assume personal expenses according to their priorities. Difficulties arise if:
- The level of income is very different and there is no agreement on the standard of living that you want to lead.
- The one who charges less does not find it fair to distribute the expenses equitably.
- When acquiring important assets such as a house the one who contributes more does not find it fair that the property is established equitably.
“WE ACCEPT THE DIFFERENCES”
It is a variation of the previous model. It represents an attempt to solve the discomfort generated when the income level of each member of the couple is very unequal.
The income in the common account is made based on a pro rata previously established by the spouses.
“I VALUE YOUR WORK AT HOME”
It derives from an attempt to improve the merger model when one of the two does not carry out any remunerated activity. Even when the contribution in the form of work at home and the educational work of the children may be recognized as very valuable by the other, whoever is in this situation may harbor feelings of inferiority or dependency.
For this reason, a certain amount is established that, who takes care of the home, will manage autonomously, being able, in addition, to use the excess amount if any for personal expenses.
There are therefore many formulas and the one adopted many times will have to be reformed. The final version, however, cannot be reached if the emotions of the other are not listened to and accepted with respect and affection, such as:
- Support, especially in the case of men, that the couple earn more.
- Work, although you would prefer to take care of the house and the children, because you do not want to depend economically on the other.
- Finding less attractive a woman who does not work outside the home.
- Thinking that it will be necessary to stay together, even if the couple fails, because the separation is not economically viable.
- Feeling that if you do not earn the same as the couple, you are accumulating a debt that cannot be paid.
- That one of the two families helps financially and the other does not.
- That a family contributes money but the other member of the couple seems to feel towards them more hostility than gratitude.
Many people feel things like this and, since talking about money is so difficult, each one continues to think of himself as different and tends to experience misunderstanding and anguish alone. But it is preferable to break down that wall of silence in the couple.
It does not compromise feelings by putting the issue on the table, clarifying how important it can be to one and listening to what the other has to say. Doing so allows you to consider problems and address them more effectively. Doing so also represents an act of loving self-giving that is only possible when someone opens their privacy to the other.
HOW TO TALK ABOUT MONEY WITH LOVE?
Clarifying financial issues allows for the construction of a more fertile and mature intimacy, with fewer taboos and more involvement.
Talking about money is also romantic because it means opening intimacy to the other, it reveals how we are; It involves showing your own fears and is connected with the deepest values and desires of each one. And, above all, because it implies talking about the expectations that are had regarding the relationship and denotes that you want to listen to the couple, get to know them and build something in common.
If the starting point of the conversation is not clear, you can start by:
- Provenance. Talk about your parents: how they organized on financial issues, what difficulties they faced, what strategies were useful to them, what events marked them.
- The conditioning factors. Remember how and what money was spent on at home. Were any of them broken? Was there an obsession to save? Did they flaunt what they had?
- The priorities. See how your partner was spending money before meeting you, talk about what you dream of having. If you were very tight on money, what things could you do without and what not?
- The organization. Talk openly about how you would like to organize yourself in terms of money, current accounts, expenses, properties.
- What if we split up? Commenting on this eventuality is not “calling for bad weather.” On the contrary, having spoken it from the beginning makes it easier to make more temperate decisions, if necessary.
Finally, these five tips will help the couple maintain a positive vision and communicate more efficiently:
- Learn to appreciate what you have instead of being uselessly bitter about everything that is not within your reach.
- Scrupulously respect the agreements on how to use the money that you have reached and avoid “underhand” strategies.
- If you do not just see it clearly, speak it bluntly again.
- Understand what are the messages regarding the money that your partner received in childhood. Speak, negotiate and undo misunderstandings from the same respectful attitude towards its conditions that you ask for yourself.
- Realize how your partner contributes so that you can enjoy what you have. Learn to be grateful for what she brings you.
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