Can't talk about money? Here's help.
4 September 19
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There can be some big barriers to talking freely about finances with a partner. Your situation – or a recent change in your situation, such as redundancy or pregnancy – may make it more difficult. And yet… all the more necessary.
Here are some of the biggest hurdles to opening up about financial matters. Do any sound familiar? Happily, there’s help to overcome them.
“My partner doesn’t want to.”
Opposites do attract, so you and your partner may have different attitudes or habits when it comes to money. It can be an emotional issue for some, bringing back concerns of control or bad experiences when growing up. This can put a strain on your relationship.
Money talk can be incredibly frustrating. One side thinks they’re being nagged, the other feels like their finances are under attack. You can reduce this frustration with these three tips:
- Make it easier for them. If your partner feels budgeting is too much work or is worried they won’t be able to stick to it, come up with a basic budget that covers all the main things, like your rent or mortgage, bills and food, etc. Then have a discussion about how you’ll spend the rest of your money.
- Use cash for personal spending. This way when it’s gone, it’s gone – and there’s no nagging involved.
- Avoid the blame game. Instead of throwing blame around, tell your partner that this conversation isn’t about who is good and bad with money, but how you can achieve your goals together.
Here are more tips on how to start a money conversation.
“I have to ask my partner for money.”
Both of you could be earning money separately for years. Then boom, a change of circumstances can happen, such as pregnancy or redundancy, which means that your personal money has been slashed or stopped altogether.
The power dynamic tends to shift. The person who is no longer earning money or who is suddenly earning less can end up feeling powerless and submissive if their partner assumes financial control. They may feel guilty or like they must justify every penny they spend.
It’s so important to communicate honestly about your financial expectations. A big change in circumstances is the perfect time to sit down and do a brand-new budget together, set some mutual financial goals – and then revisit this monthly. Our budgeting tool can help.
“I don’t want my partner to see my spending or debt.”
Having a debt problem can be an extremely stressful and isolating experience. Trying to deal with the situation on your own by keeping it secret will probably only make the stress feel that much worse. The sooner you have the conversation, the easier it will be.
Think about what your partner is going to want to know when you tell them. Get all your paperwork ready so they can see the whole situation – and that you are taking it seriously. Things your partner might ask you could be:
- Why are you in debt? What went wrong?
- How much debt are you in? What are the interest rates?
- Who do you owe money to?
- Are you being chased by creditors?
- What do you plan to do to sort the debt?
Find a time where you have no plans, no distractions (make sure the kids are out if you have them), so you have plenty of time to go through all the details.
You need to be really honest here. There’s no point hiding some things – come completely clean and get it all over in one conversation.
Hiding your debts can have wider implications – it might not just be impacting you but also your partner’s credit score could be affected too.
“My partner is hiding debt from me.”
If you think your partner might be hiding debt from you, it’s important to talk to them about it now. Signs that there might be problem debt are:
- Past debt
- Being anxious, withdrawn or depressed
- Secretive behaviour
- A change in spending habits
If you discover that your partner has been hiding debts, you have a right to be mad. In fact, it is normal and understandable to be annoyed. However, now isn’t the time to release that anger. Instead, you need to be practical. Ask your partner for all the facts and figures and find out the exact damage.
Ask your partner to contact the experts at MoneyTalks, who will be able to give free, personalised and impartial advice on tackling the debt – you could even do this together.
You will need to keep the lines of communication open to make sure this doesn’t happen again. If your partner is afraid of your reaction, they are more likely to hide things from you, and vice versa. Sit down with your partner and plan, as a team, how you will prevent debt becoming a problem in the future.
“My partner and I don’t earn the same.”
If there is a disparity in what you and your partner earn, it could cause issues over time as small and big financial decisions come up. Communicating your needs early and often is a great way to minimise frustration and hurt feelings and pride.
However, if the difference in your incomes is making it difficult to decide who takes responsibility for outgoings, and how you set financial goals, there are other ways to start talking about money. It’s a good idea to think about:
- Which bills are a priority and who is responsible for them – For example, if your partner has some high-interest credit you may want to agree to prioritise paying that off first before you consider spending on luxuries. Maybe you can help them by living cheaply with them for a few months.
- Goals for the short, medium and long term – For example, saving for a holiday or retirement. Deciding on goals, setting up a budget, and realistically saying what you will or can do can help you prioritise what is important.
- Talk about whether you should be managing your money jointly, or separately – Getting this right can avoid headaches and arguments over money.
- How you split bills and savings, etc. – For example, if one of you wants to share bills 50-50, but one earns a lot less than the other, maybe you need to reduce your outgoings by eating less expensive food or living somewhere less expensive.
If you’re in a new relationship, you may have existing financial commitments or an ex-partner with whom you shared finances, for example because you have children together. These can affect your new relationship. It’s really worth having a think about how you arrange your finances. This way you can keep any other financial commitments separate from the ones you share with your new partner.
“My partner has a gambling problem.”
If your partner is secretly gambling and has lost control of the situation, it can have a devastating impact on your finances and relationship.
You may have a sinking feeling that something is wrong but aren’t able to prove that your partner is hiding a gambling addiction. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Is your partner secretive around their finances?
- Is your partner cagey or defensive about money?
- Have they taken steps to hide bank statements?
- Is there money going out of accounts without explanation?
The horrible reality is that when a person has a gambling problem, it not only hurts their own finances, but it hurts their partner and the wider family too. Someone with a gambling problem may use any savings they or the family have, rack up credit card debts or even re-mortgage the family home.
The first thing to do if you think your partner is a problem gambler is to seek help. There is a lot of support out there. You don’t need to be sure they are an addict to call and get advice, and it can also help you think about whether your partner has a problem.
“My partner is controlling my money.”
Everyone has the right to financial independence, so if your partner is controlling your money, running up debts in your name, or stopping you from being financially independent or earning your own money, it’s financial abuse.
It’s more common than you think. Many adults are victims of financial abuse in a relationship, and this kind of abuse almost always overlaps with physical or emotional abuse, although it is possible to experience it on its own.
If you’re in this situation, talking about money might cause your partner to do or say things that put you at risk of mental or physical harm. It’s important to know that you don’t need to struggle on alone. Here’s more on what you can do about financial abuse.