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You are not supposed to admit that money is important in a relationship. Chemistry, attraction, and connection are words thrown around when it comes to finding a match. You see movies about love at first sight and read books where characters find their soulmate. It is rare to see a portrayal where a girl realises her boyfriend is a financial disaster and exits stage left before dangerous consequences ensue.
Financial gurus are about the only ones making money off the advice to run a credit check on your beau before you take the plunge. And as a woman you are made to feel like a gold-digger if you actually heed this advice. Sitting down and deciding if you have compatible spending habits with your man is utterly unromantic. Looking out for yourself is selfish and disloyal and taints your love, doesn't it?
Our attitudes toward money are deeply ingrained and difficult to change. It can be tough work to develop healthy spending and saving habits. As a woman, money is a way to have independence and autonomy. Combining your finances with a partner threatens that freedom and is an emotional minefield to navigate.
Do you have a joint bank account and split everything fifty-fifty? Does one partner pay more if they have a bigger income? How do assets get assigned and do you critique each other on expenditures of every size?
These questions and more bring up a lot of uncomfortable feelings. Money is not just a form of exchange that facilitates the acquisition of material things. Money has social connotations which bestow status. Successfully acquiring a lot of money means you are smart and savvy. Coming from a family with historical riches denotes a higher class. If you are young and female you are assumed to be frivolous and uneducated about all things financial.
Money can be seen as an achievement, a way to know you have made it in your profession. Not having as much money as someone else can make you look down on yourself. We spend money to make ourselves feel better. Fancy vacations, houses, and cars are designed to advertise our status and sense of worth to others.
Being honest with ourselves about how we view money is the first crucial step in working out whether or not we can successfully combine our funds with another. What does money mean to us and how much do we need to live the lifestyle we are aspiring to? How do we prefer to handle money and what kind of control are we willing to surrender to a mate?
What do you do if you wake up married to someone whose relationship to money is truly incompatible with your own? Do you look at each other and agree to disagree? Speaking to each other about money in a non-confrontational manner can be almost impossible if your core values do not align.
Having money conversations more frequently in our lives with people who are not our partners can be a bridge to building our confidence. Feeling comfortable speaking to money professionals, coworkers, or friends can translate to improved ease of communication with a spouse.
Know yourself and what your triggers are for getting upset. Broach tense topics at times you know that you and your partner are less likely to be primed for confrontation. It is possible to stand firm about your financial convictions without anger or tears, but it does require some patience.
Admitting that money is important to a marriage and knowing that it requires hard work and compromise by both parties can help to build a foundation for the future. But keep in mind that both parties need to feel secure and that their personal values are being respected.
Romance is a fine ideal but I say financial autonomy is even more precious and hard-won and should not be given up for love nor money.