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How to Keep Money From Ruining Your Relationship

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Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD - Blogs
By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhDPsychologistAugust 26, 2015
From the WebMD Archives

Money may not buy love, but it can ruin it. Money issues are an important part of everyday life, so long-term relationships are riddled with financial questions. How much should you save? How “crazy” should you go when buying a new car or planning a vacation? Who decides the priorities for where to spend the household money? If these aren’t big issues at first, they will likely become not just big, but critical, in your lives together. And if you are not in sync with each other, you will feel increasing tension that could tear the relationship apart.

Because the consequences of neglecting money matters can be very serious, it’s very important that the two of you pay attention to them. As with so many other issues in relationships, clear communication and cooperative efforts are key. If your values related to money are very different, it could be a huge strain and even make a long-term relationship unsustainable.

So, it’s best to check your compatibility before you marry or decide to move in together. Talk about how you want to handle money. Consider not only how much you agree on various topics, but also on how well you negotiate these conversations. If managing money is not your thing, you may want to do some reading about it, or consult a financial planner. Some key questions to consider are:

  • If you have separate incomes, will you pool the money? If so, how much of it?
  • What are your priorities? (e.g. insurance, college funds, vacations, cars, housing)
  • How strong are your needs for financial security? How much will you plan to save versus spend?
  • How much will you set aside for a reserve fund and for retirement?
  • What is your risk tolerance for investing?
  • Who will pay the bills?
  • Who will take the lead in ongoing financial matters?

If you have concerns about your own or your partner’s abilities to manage finances, discuss them openly. There’s no need to be hurtful, but it’s wise to address them. And serious problems such as a history of bankruptcy or serious credit card debt should not be ignored. If your partner avoids or becomes angry as a way to keep from facing these kinds of discussions, pay attention. This is a sign of how they will likely manage serious issues – especially financial ones – in the future.

As you talk, it’s also important to keep in mind the old Yiddish proverb: “Man plans and God laughs.” Because life is filled with the unexpected, the ability to talk through issues is all that much more important. So, do your best to prepare financially as a team, but also accept that it’s guesswork. When life really hits, your ability to talk through money matters will determine whether you remain a happy team or find yourself in a ruined relationship.

Entries for the Relationships blog are for general educational purposes only. They may or may not be relevant for your particular situation; and they should not be relied upon as a substitute for individual professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need help for an emotional or behavioral problem, please seek the assistance of a psychologist or other qualified mental health professional.

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About the Author
Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD

Dr. Becker-Phelps is a licensed psychologist in NJ and NY, and is on staff at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Somerset. She is dedicated to helping people understand themselves and what they need to do to become emotionally and psychologically healthy. She accomplishes this through her work as a psychotherapist, speaker and writer. She is the author of Bouncing Back from Rejection and Insecure in Love.

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