How to Talk About Money with Your Partner
Joint bank account, or separate accounts? How much to spend and how much to save? What about significant earning disparities between the two of us? Which financial decisions do we need to talk about together before taking action, and what’s fine to do without checking with each other first, and --
Slow your roll, babycakes.
Yes, we need to be able to have these conversations if we’re going to co-create a life story with someone. But starting with these conversations gets a resounding, “Nah.” Why?
When we’re talking about money with our partners, we’re not actually talking about money.
Not exclusively. We’re talking about deep dreams, big fears, and core values around who we want to be and how we want to show up in the world. When we build real empathy around that piece first, we set ourselves up for more intimate, connecting, successful conversations about the actual numbers.
So before you talk about your Roth or that sweet Google spreadsheet you made for house downpayment projections, talk about feelings, dreams, values, and fears. Try this:
First, get honest with yourself.
What was your experience with money growing up? What stories did you hear about money? What feelings come up for you when you think about money? What does money represent for you? Money can mean anything to you. Is it about being a nurturing parent? Or about liberated self-expression? Or about feeling physically safe?
Dig deep and get specific. Take notes, because you’re going to share this with your partner.
Get honest with each other.
Share what came up for you in step one. Nobody gets to be “right” during this conversation. Nobody gets to be “wrong”, either.
No one’s experience of money is superior, or correct, or shame-worthy.
This is a chance to get to know your person on a different level. If you haven’t had this conversation before, you might feel really uncomfortable. That’s fine. If you feel uncomfortable, name that discomfort and talk about where it’s coming from.
Listen to your partner as if you don’t already know everything about them (you don’t.)
Rinse and repeat, and bring the empathy you’ve built into future conversations about your finances. Circle back to this conversation as many times as you need (but if you don’t feel like you’re getting any closer after a couple of months, find someone to help facilitate the conversation.)
If you feel squirmy about trying to initiate this conversation with your partner, send them this article and use it as a resource to start the conversation together. You’ve got this! Lean into the discomfort -- energizing and intimate money conversations are on the other side of it.
Alice is a relationship coach and communication educator who works with couples and singles, online and locally in California. She helps people get clarity around the kind of relationship they want, and then learn the tools and skills to create it. You can find her online at her website or Instagram.