We all go through ebbs and flows of our relationships. One aspect that many couples grapple with is about money. During a recent interview, we had the chance to chat with renowned relationship expert Dr. Terri Orbuch, Ph.D. Better known as The Love Doctor®, shared some advice on how to best deal with money issues to best support the financial needs of your family. With insight to modern problems and financial issues, check out Dr. Terri Orbuch's tips and money strategies for every couple.
Momtrends: What are some of the money issues that couples argue about?
Dr. Terri Orbuch: Seven out of ten couples report that money is a source of tension in their relationship. There are numerous specific money issues that couples disagree about/argue about. For example: (1) How much should they save for future or long-term goals/projects/items (house, children education, vacations, emergencies), (2) How should they save or put away savings (coupons like Valpak, regular checking/savings account, money market, stocks, risk vs. stable saving), (3) What is the best way to have money accounts (joint, separate, joint and separate, business, etc.), (4) What kinds of items should they primarily spend the majority of “their” money on - themselves, the house, the kids or on recreation?, (5) What is the threshold amount that if one partner wants to buy something, he/she needs to consult the other, (6) How much is “too much” for individual spending?
Momtrends: How can couples get on the same page about money?
Dr. Terri Orbuch: Disagreements about money are inevitable in romantic relationships. And, too often, disagreements about finances have little to do with the money itself and more to do with other issues within the relationship. Most of the time – it isn’t changing your partner to think or do like you, but instead:
Stay alert to baggage disguised as finances, agree on some ground rules (agree on some spending rules or limits), talk regularly about money (have a discussion about money at least every quarter about short- and long-term money goals), respect differences between you and your partner, and resolve the money conflict constructively.
Momtrends: What are some ways for families to organize and plan for their financial needs?
Dr. Terri Orbuch: I think the most important thing is that families want to remember that seeking advice from others (financial advisor, couple therapist, articles, or books) is a great way to get information so that they can organize and plan for their financial needs. Families/couples differ in the plan that will work best for them.
Couples can pick from a number of possibilities. For instance, regularly taking advantage of coupons – like Valpak – allows couples to save money and pocket those savings for the long-term.
Families also can track spending (as a family) for one full month and then assess what they need to change as a family/couple at the end of the month. For other couples, the best way to stay financially “honest” is to stick to a budget that is set at the beginning of the month or year. For other couples, they can agree on a threshold amount (like $100, $200, $500) that they can spend without needing to report or consult one another. Above that, they need to discuss it before the item is purchased.
Momtrends: How can money issues lead to unhealthy relationships over time?
Dr. Terri Orbuch: If couples don’t resolve their money conflicts well, it can eat away at the happiness in their relationship.
Also, if a partner doesn’t feel like he/she can discuss money or financial issues with the other partner, that can lead to secrets, lying, and not trusting the other partner – all things that again, lead to unhappiness in a relationship.
When a partner: (1) trusts the other partner, (2) feels like he/she can communicate or talk to the other partner about money, and (3) feels like he/she can resolve conflict constructively (even if they still differ), this can lead to happiness and stability of a relationship.
Momtrends: Should money ever be separated in a relationship (accounts, etc.)?
Dr. Terri Orbuch: I think it is totally an option, depending on the couple and relationship. It depends on partner expectations, the view of money for each partner, and how partners communicate with one another.
Some couples: a) have only a joint account, b) have two separate accounts, c) have a joint and two separate accounts, or d) have a joint and one separate account.
There are many options and couples need to communicate their expectations about accounts to each other, and the reasons for and against separate accounts (and the meaning or approach to money).
Whether accounts are separate or joint do not impact on the health and happiness of the relationship (only if there is a lack of communication about what and why is being done, and only if there are money secrets or secrets accounts not disclosed to the other partner).
Dr. Terri Orbuch (also known as The Love Doctor®) is a trusted relationship expert, author, professor and therapist. She is the director of a landmark study called “The Early Years of Marriage Project,” funded by the National Institutes of Health, and author of five books including “5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great” (Random House).
Momtrends was not paid for this post.