Get Financially Intimate This Valentine's Day
Talking about money with loved ones can feel taboo. Here's how to break the ice and get financially intimate with your significant other.
You might share toothpaste, details about your childhood, and sleep in the same bed. But when it comes to having conversations about money, it might feel like there's a sea of silence between you and your partner. If openly talking about your finances is challenging, you're certainly in good company.
Research reveals that many people have an easier time talking about matters of politics, sex, death, race, mental illness than about money. In fact, across generations and among both men and women, household earnings, debt, and retirement savings were the most difficult topics to breach. Interestingly enough, it turns out that talking openly about money matters improves satisfaction in a marriage.
"Money affects so many parts of our lives," says Adam H. Kol, J.D., a couple's financial counselor and founder of AHK Coaching. "To not be financially intimate is to, unfortunately, risk becoming a statistic, as finances are a top cause of divorce. On the other hand, financial intimacy can make your finances and your relationship stronger."
Here are the kinds of money conversations you can have with your partner this Valentine's Day and how you can go about opening up:
Start with the Easy Stuff
Depending on what stage you're at in the relationship and how comfortable you are in general sharing your finances, start by talking about something seemingly harmless and see how they react. Maybe you could talk about a sale you spotted, a personal money goal you have, or even just a story around money.
Another tactic you could try is to focus on yourself. Talk about your finances — maybe a deal you snagged, a no-spend challenge you're doing, and then see how they respond. Do they seem open to continuing the conversation? Do they share something about their own finances? You can assess their response to see how comfortable they are talking about money and decide how deep you want to go from there.
Talk About Your Early Experiences Around Money
What you don't want to do is start with dry, boring topics like budgeting. Instead, start by getting to know each other's values, perspectives, mindsets around money first, says Kol. "Define your top goals and priorities. From that foundation, creating a spending plan will be easier and more productive."
An excellent place to start is by sharing the experiences you had around money growing up and also in your past relationships. How did your parents view and treat money? What were their early ideas about money, and how were they shaped? How did money play into their past relationships?
Early experiences and past relationships play a large role in shaping someone's money story, which is your unique narrative about money. It includes your beliefs, ideas, perceptions around money and how it can influence your behavior, emotions, and habits around your own finances. Sharing openly about these experiences will help build trust and also help you understand where the other person is coming from.
Discuss Your Hopes and Dreams
Your hopes and dreams, as well as your fears and worries, and how money can impact these aspects of your life can also help you deepen trust and come to a greater shared understanding about the other person's financial beliefs and behaviors.
On top of that, it helps you see where you and your partner's values are and what's most important to each of you. You can think of it as a steppingstone to helping you build a shared life together.
Get Into Financial Details — If It Feels Right
If you feel like it's safe to do, try delving into nitty-gritty financial details such as your credit score, debt, income, savings, retirement accounts, and what have you. Of course, you'll want to feel things out and see how the other person feels about sharing such private information.
There's a chance they might not feel comfortable about it, and that's perfectly okay. "And that doesn't have to be an issue, as long as they're willing to lean into it nonetheless," says Kol. "Intimate relationships call on us to move past our discomfort and do what needs to be done to work on ourselves, our relationship, our finances, or any other key facets of having the life we want and deserve."
Getting financially intimate with your partner will require some work, and you might run into some obstacles, but it will ultimately be worth it. You'll get to a place where you can be transparent around money and safely and freely discuss financial matters with your significant other. In turn, it can strengthen your partnership and help you move forward in the relationship.