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“Not all relationships require financial intimacy to function, but financial intimacy does require a deep connectedness to exist.” (Timmons).

Money is a complicated topic. It’s also a main contributor to divorce. So, the early and more often couples discuss this dicey topic, the better. Discussions around money can quickly spiral out of control and become circular arguments with no end in sight. How couples navigate this conversation has as much to do with how they were each raised around money as it does with how they are currently living their lives. The likelihood that you will end up with someone whose family experiences with money are similar to yours is slim to none. Yet, it is important to remember that these experiences help shape how they perceive the role of money in their life and the degree to which they are – or are not – financially astute and responsible (Timmons).

It should come as no surprise that most couples would rather ignore the subject and pretend that money issues don’t need to be addressed (or have teeth extracted!) – and think if we “tap our red shoes three times, the problems will magically disappear” (they won’t). The only guarantee that comes with ignoring financial problems is that they will grow in size and become bigger problems –both in the short– and long–term. Some couples believe – erroneously – that talking about them only creates a larger vacuum of problems, circular conversations, and “road that leads to nowhere” – fast. But that’s the opposite of what really happens.

Yet, despite couples that are hesitant to disclose, there are ways to build greater financial intimacy even if, in the moment, it doesn’t feel that way. Taking the steps, even small ones in the beginning, will encourage greater intimacy, promote a unified relationship, and create hope for the future – together – over time . However, having these conversations is easier said than done – at least in the beginning. In theory, it might work fine, but in actual practice it feels painful, like you are crawling out of your skin.

But, despite the obstacles, with the right ingredients – effort, intention, willingness, support, safety, commitment, time, and the mindset by both parties that talking about their financial relationship is vital to keeping their relationship healthy – success is possible. Both partners must agree to be on board and make an investment in both their present and their financial future. This investment is fueled by their commitment as a couple and a belief that having these difficult and uncomfortable conversations will, over time, strengthen their relationship and resolve.

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7 Steps To Greater Financial Intimacy.

1.) Embrace the calm time. Use this time to your advantage. When things are calm and no strife exists, have an open discussion about the messages you received from your parents about money growing up. This helps each person understand themselves and their partner better. It also provides a frame of reference when challenging times occur or there is a difference in opinion. From that, you will more than likely have greater acceptance of each other’s viewpoints.

2.) Have a consistent financial date night. What would this look like? Much like couples who create date nights to spend time together, have fun, and reconnect a financial date night does the same (minus the fun sometimes!) It demonstrates a couple’s commitment to staying on a financial track, discussing and assessing what their goals are, and any financial obligations on the horizon. The commitment to a date night reinforces a team approach to their financial goals, presently and in the future. This helps keep the couple on task, assign money-related tasks, and discuss both short-term and long-term financial decisions. It also allows the couple to see their progress – or lack thereof – toward their financial goals.

3.) Acknowledge the business side of marriage. Before you say, “I do,” couples need to have an open and frank conversation about income, debt, and spending. Despite it being a difficult goal, it really is mandatory. This will affect the marriage as a whole in many ways, both expected and unexpected. Having this conversation allows for better preparation for your future together (Kerns).

4.) Build a Unified Vision of Your Financial Future. People generally do better when they have short and long term goals. It keeps them on task, moving toward something. Goals provide purpose and something to look forward to, whether the goal is financial, leisure, education, or recreational – it’s all the same. Having goals together as a couple is no different. Couples do their best work when they have shared goals, dreams, and visions. Establishing a unified vision of your financial future opens up the opportunity to talk about what your values are, where you are, where you want to be, and how, as a couple, you will get there. 

5.) Goal setting. Put your goals in writing. This makes it more tangible. It also promotes the accountability factor (which we all need from time to time!) We can all have lofty goals and dreams and talk about what we would like; putting our goals on paper makes it that much more real. This can be part of your financial date night; if not, decide how often you will review your goals. Having a written version helps this process; you can check your progress and see what is and isn’t working. This allows the couple to reassess and make any necessary changes. Choose your goal, state it simply and refer to it regularly. Talk about it. Often. This provides the clarity that couples need to make sure they are still both on the same page. 

Because many arguments come from a disparity in goals, writing down both individual and couple goals will strengthen the financial intimacy with the couple. For example, perhaps one individual is a saver and the other is a spender. You can find that balance by getting your communal goals in writing.

6.) Be Non-Judgmental. “To be successful, initiate the conversation from a place of acceptance and non-judgment.” Take responsibility for your own role in the situation — did you avoid looking at the bills, for example? — and admit to your own mistakes. It’s never a bad idea to say, “I love you,” in a conversation like this. 

7.) Create Transparency. Despite the progress we have made as a society, we lag in equal amounts in terms of attitudes and actions with money and transparency. Yet transparency is vital to both the growth and stability of the partnership. Its value and importance holds true regardless of whether the couple keeps their money separate or combines them. 

As time moves on, couples find that in order to grow and change with the times, they will need to continue to reevaluate their situation. But having a strong foundation from which to build from will start them off in a healthy direction!

This blog was originally posted on IRIS.xyz

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