Handling Money in a Relationship

Money, like politics, is a very polarizing subject. Ask five people how they handle money and you’ll get five different answers. It seems that everyone has an opinion about how best to handle money in a relationship.

My wife and I are no different. Before we met, she was never interested in money other than spending it. (I hope she doesn’t get mad at me!)

Then there’s me. As a kid, I always knew how much money I had on any given day. Once a week it seemed, I’d empty out my piggy bank onto the floor and amaze myself with the shiny coins that would come tumbling out. I would count each and every penny, put them into neat little stacks, and take pictures of my creation. Sometimes I would even go get dad and try to impress him with my savings.

Fast forward to today. My interest in money and personal finance has continued to develop and my wife has become somewhat more interested in our financial situation. She’s mostly concerned that the bills are paid and that we have a little left over for the fun stuff. She has even started to brag that her credit score is better than mine!

The Problem

Disagreements over money are a common cause of tension in a marriage and often lead to divorce. What many couples fail to realize is that men and women are different. Women tend to be more conservative with money and lean towards savings and security, while men take more risks and aren’t quick to discuss or admit financial problems when they come up.

We’ve all heard that opposites attract. We’re drawn to those who possess the qualities we lack. This means that often, one person in a relationship is interested in finances while the other isn’t. The problem comes when the one who manages the finances neglects the wishes and needs of the other.

How Do We Get Around This?

In a word: Communication. Realize that marriage is an equal partnership in which both parties should be able to voice their desires. The money manager needs to consider the input of his or her partner, and the partner should in turn be involved in financial decisions and take an active interest in the couple’s finances.

It’s important to communicate often about our needs and wants. To do this, you need to tell your partner what your goals are. Then you need to listen when they’re talking to you. Once you’ve heard each other out and are clear about what the other wants, it’s time to compromise. In a relationship you’re never going to get everything you want. At times you’ll need to give up what you want. This unselfish behavior, if practiced and perfected, will make a relationship thrive.

What if you can’t get your partner to participate in the family’s finances? Lecturing or criticizing will only make him or her more reclusive. Try to understand the reasons behind the disinterest. Above all, being patient with your partner is the best thing you can do.

Who Handles Our Finances?

In our marriage, money isn’t something we argue over. We have disagreements once in a while about what we each think is the best use for our money, but we don’t let our differences get between us. What I’ve found is that we’re both moving toward the center – I’m learning to live a little and she’s getting her save on.

Because of my interest in finances and a thrifty lifestyle, I’m the one who manages money in our relationship. But most importantly, my wife is okay with this. Because we communicate and compromise often, our opposite qualities come together in a way that makes us stronger than before.

Who handles the money in your relationship?

Photo by thesilverpurse.com

14 thoughts on “Handling Money in a Relationship

  1. I used to stack coins too when I was little. My husband and I are the opposite when it comes to money stereotypes. I am more willing to take risks while he tends to be a lot more conservative with his money.

    • It’s interesting that you and your husband are opposite from the stereotype. I think a lot of our philosophies about how we deal with money come from our upbringing – basically, what we were taught growing up and what we observed our parents doing (or not doing!). We’re also influenced by our anatomy – males tend to be more aggressive while females are more protective. These are generalizations of course, and they obviously don’t apply to you guys!

  2. Money can definitely cause problems in a relationship. In some cases those problems aren’t discussed by instead create tension and resentment. That was what happened in my last long term relationship. She was more of a spender and I was more of a saver. I felt that I needed to keep spending lots of money on her to keep her happy, but that conflicted with my own goals.

    • It’s sad that money can come between two people in a relationship. If couples don’t discuss finances at all, they won’t know what goals each partner has. There is potential for tension in a relationship when couples disagree about how money should be spent. But I think the key is compromise; if couples are unwilling to do this they’re putting the relationship at risk.

  3. Ryan,
    You hit the nail on the head. Communication is the key. And by that I mean really listening to what is important to each person and finding a middle ground. I’m the CFO in my family, but it’s not like I make the decisions in a vacuum. We talk about our goals and what we need to do to achieve them. And she reminds me not to be a tightwad all the time, lol.

    • Haha, my wife reminds me of the same thing! She calls me a “stick in the mud” because I’m pretty reserved not only with money, but with life in general. We compliment each other well though.

  4. Like you, I’ve always been VERY careful with money. I never spent money on anything I didn’t desperately need, all the way through college. Meanwhile, my husband is very impulsive and will spend just about everything he has if given the opportunity. Thus, we decided that I should handle the finances, and it’s been working really well. I’ve been able to pay down a lot of our debt, put some money in savings, and still leave enough for my husband to splurge from time to time. 🙂

    • Hi, Sarah! It’s great that you and your husband have found what works for you. Your situation sounds a lot like ours. We have some debt we’re focused on now, but we make room for retirement savings AND fun money. This fun money is only a small portion of our income, but it’s still something we think is important to set aside each month. What is life without a little fun and spontaneity, right?

  5. I handle the money in my relationship. I try to get my husband involved but really he has no interest. He is good with money though, definitely not a spender so I can’t complain there. But sometimes it’s a little frustrating that I can’t get him involved in setting financial goals with me. I don’t nag him, I just run everything by him.

    • It can be frustrating trying to get a spouse involved in the finances if they have no interest. Some people just have no interest in setting goals and having good financial health. As long as the money comes in each month they’re satisfied. That’s good that you run your ideas by him so you guys can be on the same page. Just continue to be patient with him and let him know you appreciate it each time he makes an effort. Maybe he will surprise you 🙂

  6. We’ve got a lot in common. I’m the more “inquisitive” one with money, so I handle the finances in our family. But my wife and I have an equal voice in all “large” purchases. We never really police each other, and we talk often about our goals. I keep her updated on how we’re doing and how much we’re making … or so she thinks 😉 – I had to ruin it!

    • Haha inquisitive is a good way to put it! It sounds like you guys have found a system that works for you, and that’s great. I know some couples who have a limit, say $100, and anytime they buy something beyond that amount they have to discuss it first with the other. Of course, I’m almost always talking about money, so I discuss even the mundane topics with my wife (“So I got this CD case for 50 cents at a yard sale today.”) LOL!!

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