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Making it clear that money matters in your relationship doesn’t have to be uncomfortable.

In fact, it is realistic.

In marriage, we share a home, memories, and decisions about all kinds of things, including money. While popular media often shows the darker side of the relationship between love and money, most couples that have been married for a while would quickly share that money is an important factor in any marriage.

Money, and how it is used, is one of those things that, even when talked about proactively and often, can lead to heated conversations and disagreements.

In fact, money is widely reported to be the most common argument among married couples.

Despite the money concerns couples face, most of us don’t set aside time to regularly talk about our financial plans, goals, and values with our spouse. While it can be a bit uncomfortable at first, talking about money early and often can be a really good thing to do in a relationship. 

Additionally, setting some ground rules can help make it a more positive experience for both of you. So, what are some of the things that couples should consider doing?

1.  Set a Spending Limit

One of the easiest ways to start an argument is for one spouse to make a big purchase without telling the other. Our definitions of the phrase “big purchase” might differ between individual spouses and/or by household budgets.

Work with your husband or wife to come up with a spending limit that allows you both to maintain some freedom and also to talk about the big (and important) purchases before they happen.

2.  Review Your Future Financial Expectations and Goals

My husband and I have been married for eight years, and only last year, when we went to a financial planner together, did I realize that our expectations about how to pay for our daughter’s education and what we wanted in retirement were more than a little different.

I was shocked that we hadn’t talked about it in more concrete terms until we were with a stranger.  When talking to my girlfriends about it, I realized that we weren’t alone.  We all need to take the time with our spouses to talk these things through in order to make our own expectations clear.

3.  Talk and Track

Be proactive about setting aside a time and place to continue talking to your spouse each month. This can help you avoid emotional conversations when one of you may not be at your best.

It will also give you the time to prepare. While there may still be disagreements and emotions, since you are talking about it regularly, you will have the time to revisit more challenging issues.

4.  Create Ground Rules For Your Money Conversations

In order to feel free to admit to our transgressions, avoid the surprises, and share openly, make sure that you are not creating a police state in your home.

Build some ground rules that respect the needs and humanity of your spouse. We all do things that we know we shouldn’t. Let’s just admit it, forgive, and move on.

5.  Make sure to take time to be grateful for what you have together

A lot of the previous steps are about focusing on things that we want for the future.  Make sure to also take the time to regularly share what you are happy to have today.

How has an open conversation about money helped your relationship?