What I’ve Learned About Finances From my New Spouse

Financial compatibility is romantic

When I first met my husband over four years ago, I never realized how compatible we would be together. We have a history of crossing paths over the course of our lives; we are both nurses, we worked in the same building together for a couple years in the ‘90’s, we went to the same college (at different times), and we even attended the same concerts together, including our first concert ever. Yes, our first concert was the exact same concert. There’s many more similarities, those are only but a few.

However, the one of the best of our compatibilities is our ability to handle our finances well together.

That’s right, you heard me. We are compatible with how we communicate about money. And it’s soooo romantic.

If you think that’s sterile or cold, just think about how wonderful it would be not to worry about fighting with your partner about money; to sit down and have reasonable discussions when it comes to money, and to have a partner who has strengths where you have weaknesses, and vise versa.

Think about how much smoother your life would be if you didn’t have to deal with the stress when you approached money issues with your spouse.

That is me and my husband.

The financial compatibility frees us up to love each other, and that is romantic.

Actually, I have to give all the credit to my husband. He’s very easy-going, and open to talking about topics of conflict. His perspective is to come together as a couple and work through the problem. He isn’t pushy with his opinions or agendas, and he knows how to de-escalate a potential argument.

I really struck gold with him.

Because he has this personality, he has taught me so much about how to handle money as a couple. These are life lessons I’ve never experienced with any other person.

Here’s what I’ve learned from my husband about finances:

Be open about your current financial status

When I met my husband, he was in financial dire straits. He was still paying for his ex-wifes bills, and living in the basement of a friends house because he couldn’t afford to live anywhere else, while she lived in the richest part of town. He drove a beat-up, but endearing old white truck while his ex drove a BMW. He freely gave away his money to people in need, depriving himself of his earnings.

He was upfront about all of this with me, and I saw him not as fiscally irresponsible, but as a very giving man. I loved him despite that all of his paycheck was going everywhere else except to himself. But, I also knew that we would need to change some things together if we were going to be a couple.

Hiding your debt, spending habits, or your lack of savings is the wrong way to start off a relationship. If you are a couple, you must be open and honest about how you handle money. It’s easy to hide your own bad habits from yourself as a single person. But when you bring another person into your world, your fiscal responsibility must be out in the open for both of you to see. If this scares you, then it may be time to take a closer look how you’re dealing with your money.

Respect your partner’s opinions

I can’t say that my husband and I agree on how to manage our money. In fact, we differ greatly with our beliefs about money.

But, there’s no right or wrong when it comes to money. There’s only opinions of the person who handles it. I have my opinions, and so does my spouse. Even if his opinions are different about money than mine, I respect him for that. I don’t like it, but I respect it. And I work with it.

Your partner has a lifetime of experience, good or bad, with money. There are reasons (rational or otherwise), behind why and how he or she manages money. It’s important to understand the ‘why’ your spouse manages money. Even if you don’t agree with it. It’s also important to help your partner understand the reasons behind why you manage your money the way you do. This requires open, non-judgmental communication.

You are a team

My husband and I met when we were older and with more experience under our belts. We knew what it was like to have partners that worked against us instead of with us. We didn’t want that with each other. We wanted to support each other and work together to accomplish our goals.

Working together as a couple to get on the same page. Sit down with your partner and discuss your life dreams, goals, and what you want to accomplish. It could be buying a home, taking a dream trip, pursuing a career, having kids, and/or building a retirement. Listen to your partners dreams too. See where you both stand and where you align for your futures. Commit to being there for each other to build an interdependent life together.

Develop those couple goals

As I’ve mentioned, I have my own personal goals, and so does my husband. And we are a couple now, so our life together is in addition to our personal wants and needs. We sit with each other and clarify how we want our life to look like together. What do we want to accomplish together as a couple? What are our life goals and how can we support each other?

Right now, we are excavating our backyard to turn it into useable space, which is a challenge because our backyard is a weird L-shaped north-facing space that slopes downhill. We’re in the middle of building a deck, and have to be creative to make it look aesthetically pleasing. We have to be on the same page with this, because we are sinking a lot of money into it, and neither one of us should feel resentful about how we are building it.

We are really good at problem-solving together, because we listen to each other, and respect each other. We want to make ourselves and the other person happy, because we want to live happily together. So, even if it takes a couple go-arounds with sitting down and trouble-shooting the problems, we do this until we are both satisfied with the solution. This is how we achieve our goals. Then we dedicate a portion of our money to accomplishing those goals, because we’ve decided beforehand what we’re going to do.

Realize each others strengths and weakness and put them to use

I hate taxes. I hate doing taxes, I hate the whole process, and I don’t understand them at all. When I was single, I chose to give all my information to a CPA and let him do my taxes.

My husband loves doing the taxes. He’s really good at it, and he takes over everything during tax season. I love that he loves it, and my weakness is covered by his strength in this area. My husband doing our taxes is one of the most romantic things. Seriously. I appreciate that he has a strength in this area, it takes a huge burden off me.

On the other side, I’m a saver. I believe in emergency funds, having a huge side of savings, and building up my retirement fund. It’s what I do and I’m good at it. Through some time and effort, I’ve convinced my husband to take the reigns on building up a savings for us, and work on getting us to a point where we are (I am) feeling more comfortable with a cushion of money.

Each person has at least one thing that he or she excels at with money. Play to the other person’s strengths. Let them be excellent. You’d be surprised how much you can achieve with this way of being.

Timing is everything

I’m the worst with timing. I try very hard to be better, but sometimes I suck. I get an urge to solve something, and stick by my own agenda. I don’t wait, I blurt it out at the wrong time, and then it turns into an issue.

That’s the wrong way to handle it.

Timing a situation is important. You want both of you to be in a good frame of mind when you sit together to discuss any financial conflicts.

Springing something on your partner at the wrong time only makes things worse.

My husband is excellent at timing. He intuitively knows when to approach me with something that’s going to be an issue. He’s gentle about it, and catches me at the right time, every time. I think this is one of the main reasons we do so well together.

Sometimes you have to agree to disagree

We do not agree with everything when it comes to money. Not even close. But I’ve learned that our different money styles doesn’t mean we have to stay at odds with each other. I do not like some of the ways he works with money. I’m sure he feels the same way about me. But, although I don’t like some of his habits, I know that’s his belief system and it won’t change. It’s ingrained in him.

However, you can have bottom lines. Mine is that he does not put us in credit card debt with his habits. We have agreed to disagree with the minute details of how we handle money on a daily basis, as long as we are accomplishing our goals together.

We have separate bank accounts for our personal spending, and a joint account for our house bills. This seems to work the best for us, so we can deal with our individual money using our ingrained habits and belief systems and without worry.

Your relationship is more important than money

Money is only a tool to get the things you need in life. It’s a necessity, but it shouldn’t be the magic unicorn that controls your relationship. It is both of your responsibilites to become the master of your money, to be fiscally responsible for each other, and to work as a couple to manage your finances well together.

Each couple is going to be different, This is my personal example. Do what you need to do in your relationship to be content with your partner when it comes to finances.

If you start just a little at a time on changing your mindset together, then you and your partner are on the right path to being that couple who can achieve your financial goals.

Cha-Ching Money Blog helps you manage your personal finances by giving you tips on changing your money mindset and lifestyle. Sign up for our newsletter for ongoing tips, stories and ideas on how to make your money work for you.

Advocate for Women / Editor of The Virago

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