When I was about 11, I decided I needed a bra. My friends were starting to wear them and the social pressure to join in was intense. But still, I couldn’t bring myself to just come straight out and ask for a "bra." Instead, I would just spell the word out, as in: "Mom, can we go B.R.A. shopping?" Her response: "You can have one when you’re mature enough to say the word." I didn’t get a bra that year. But what does all that have to do with knowing how to talk about money before marriage? Well, stay with me here. The same can be said about getting married and having the money talk. Both conversations are awkward and maybe a little embarrassing to initiate, but having the maturity and confidence to have those talks are in of themselves signs your ready to take the next step. OK, so this metaphor is a bit stretched, but you get what I’m sayin’.
While talking about money is rarely fun, it’s also really important to the health and success of your future marriage, as Anita Chlipala, licensed marriage and family therapist, explained to Elite Daily. "Money is a frequent topic that couples fight about, and so it is important to determine where you are both aligned and where you have differences," she says. And since getting married is only going to raise those stakes and intensify those differences if they aren’t addressed, here is how the experts say you should approach the money talk before you walk down the aisle.
1Get to know how your partner feels about money.
Just because the conversation topic may feel a bit awkward, that doesn’t mean it has to start from a negative place. Instead Chlipala suggested starting with an open mind by asking your partner questions that will help you better understand their attitudes towards money. "Talk about what money means to you," Chlipala said. “Understand your partner’s perspective,” she added. “I wouldn’t skip this step because it will make compromise much more difficult. If you’re a saver and your partner is a spender, you may have different values or different upbringings or experiences that contributed to the way that you are with money. These deeper meanings need to be discussed and understood."
2Understand your differences when it comes to finances.
Once you have a clear picture of how your partner feels about money, you can start constructively, discovering your "differences in values,” as Chlipala described it, when it comes to money. “[If] one needs more financial security and the other wants to live more in the moment,” Chlipala said, then these differences could lead to major conflict if they aren’t addressed. "Couples get stuck in the same fights because they don’t accept that their partner is different — they usually think their partner is wrong," she added. “Values are values, and one is not better than the other, they’re just different." This respectful tone and mindset will help lay the groundwork for finding the compromise that works best for you both.
3Find the system that works best for both of you.
Now that you both have a better understanding about how each of you feel about finances, the next step is to find a compromise that you are both comfortable with so you don’t end up fighting about money all the time. What that will look like depends entirely on your dynamic as a couple, as dating and relationship coach Frank Kermit explained to Elite Daily. "In more serious relationships, some couples base their spending habits based on individual earnings," he said. "Other couples pool their resources together, and pay from the pool for the necessary expenses, and allow each person a small amount for personal purchases, whereas larger amounts are best discussed beforehand."
Whatever system the two you decide on, it’s also important to remember that things may change over time and it’s good to check in regularly and refine things. Tonya Rapley, founder of My Fab Finance, recommended scheduling times for follow up money talks. "Check in with each other to ensure that your romantic and financial goals are still aligned," she advised. That will not only help head off arguments but by setting time aside specifically to talk about money related issues, but will saves you from the awkwardness of bringing it repeatedly.
Ultimately, the takeaway here is that when it comes to dealing with finances, and getting on the same page before your finances become legally bound at the altar, is a good offense.
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