Monthly Money Dates

Monthly money dates sure don’t sound very romantic. However, it’s said that money and sex are the two biggest reasons for divorce. Could it be just a coincidence they are also two of the most difficult topics for couples to discuss? Taking regular time to talk about a difficult topic can often break down walls within other relationship areas.  

Furthermore, a money date doesn’t have to last that long, probably at most 15 minutes. My suggestion for a money date has 3 parts: 

“Here’s what I made this month.”

“Here’s what I see for major expenditures next month.”

“How are we doing on our goals?”  

What You Contributed

First, telling what you made starts the conversation with recognition for your household contribution, no matter how big or small. If one partner stays home or is out of work, find a way to recognize other ways you contribute – whether it’s nurturing the kids or finding that next great job. 

Your Obligations

Second, talking about what’s coming up leaves little room for unpleasant surprises. While this may be the hardest part of the conversation, it’s placed here for a reason. Psychological studies show that thinking about how much we spend or have spent induces the same emotions that lead to depression. On the other hand, counting what we have induces the same emotions that lead to happiness and fulfillment. That’s why the spending question is sandwiched between the other two. 

Be Where You Are

Third, what goals are worth tracking? Like a dashboard or cockpit, try the following four indicators: Retirement accounts, savings levels, debt levels, and charitable giving. Rather than constantly comparing to an ideal number, find a way to recognize progress. No matter where you might see room for improvement, walk away with at least one thing you can both point to and be glad about.   

Whew! What Next?

If you follow this formula successfully, you might find you’re both more interested in working on that-other-part-of-your-relationship-that’s-hard-to-talk-about. (And hopefully, that date will last a lot longer than 15 minutes.?)

For more on the psychology of money and how to manage it, see our Recommended Resources page.

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When She Is Better Off Than He Is

Some couples find finances difficult to discuss when she is better off than he is. According to the website FiveThirtyEight, 40% of women now earn more than their husbands.

In the July/August 2019 issue of Psychology Today, Esther Perel, a New York psychotherapist, said that women’s liberation has freed them from dependence on men. “But it hasn’t prepared women for men’s dependence on them. Women often have a lot of resentment when they find themselves responsible in the way men have for generations.”

In an October 2013 blog post, “Why Wealthy Divorced Women Don’t Remarry and Men Do” dating coach Evan Marc Katz wondered whether women might rethink their expectations for the man’s financial contribution to the relationship. This makes sense especially when all other aspects of the relationship are equal. After all, many wealthy men remarry to women who are not as financially well off, and why? Companionship, compatibility, and physical attraction. If a wealthy man is happy to pick up the tab for trips and dinners, why aren’t wealthy women?

A Couple of Fictional Cases

A few years ago, I asked my licensed mental health counselor husband, Ken Donaldson (shameless plug, he’s also author of Marry Yourself First: Say “I Do” to a Life of Passion, Power, Purpose & Prosperity) a series of questions based on two fictional composite case studies. With over 30 years’ experience in couples counseling, he gave his thoughts in the Q&A section below.

Alan and Donna: Donna is a 53-year-old professor who became disabled after an accident. Her disability is not evident to most people, but at any moment she could be hospitalized. She received a large settlement from the accident. She is making a new life for herself and wants to live well while she can. Alan, her 55-year-old boyfriend, is a painter. He is a handsome romantic and kind to her. Alan does not know Donna’s financial situation. He does know he cannot always afford the restaurants where Donna wants to eat, though. Much of the time she picks up the tab. They both feel awkward about it.

Janet and Harold: Janet is a 52 year old retired author. Her books have sold enough copies that she can live comfortably without working. Her boyfriend, 58-year-old Harold, had an IT career before he was downsized. Since then he has not found a new job or career that seems to be a good fit. Janet loves Harold’s athleticism, his sense of humor and tenderness. They connect on many levels. The problem is, she wants to travel with him to places like Australia, Alaska, and Europe. Neither Harold nor Janet like the idea of Janet paying for the whole trip. Harold does not know Janet’s financial situation, but he does know she is better off than he is.

Q & A With Relationship Counselor Ken Donaldson, LMHC

Q: How does avoidance of the activities that both couples want to do affect their relationship?

A: This would only add to distance in the relationships. Although both people will benefit from doing separate activities that they enjoy, there is much to be lost by leaving the other out when it is motivated by fear and/or avoidance.

Q: How could each couple stay together in a healthy way?

A: Every healthy, harmonious and lasting relationship is built on the HOW factor: Honest, Open and Willing. Those are the cornerstones that prevent the termites of deceit, deception, distance and breakdown. I believe these cases both require a lot of extended processing and perhaps the assistance from both a marriage counselor and a financial expert would be extremely helpful.

Q: What kind of paradigm shift might they try, and how could such a shift be brought about through seeing a professional?

A: As mentioned above, a qualified marriage counselor, especially one who had experience with these types of cases, can only help. Openness, although not rocket science, is always the best policy in cases like this. If either or both can’t handle “the truth” it says something about the foundation of the relationship, which signals that it needs to be strengthened. Harville Hendrix, author of Getting the Love You Want, has some great dialoguing tools I use often with in couples counseling and in all conflict resolution (and intimacy building) situations.

Q: What is your opinion about the line between sharing financial information and keeping financial secrets?

A: It is a fine line at times, but it is also based on trust. Trust is probably the cornerstone of all cornerstones. It’s like poker: Sometimes you have to hold your cards for a long time before you show them (or fold them). But, when the time is right, right action is the only move. Avoidance leads to more avoidance, and openness leads to more openness. However, it is all based on the level of relationship they want. If they only want a level “7” then maybe total transparency is not needed. But if they want a “10” then, again, nothing will be better than open, honest and willing.

Couples and Money in February

Here on our blog and in our e-letter, February is Couples and Money month! What are you doing to grow financial intimacy with your partner? Check out our Resources page, or the award-winning monthly e-letter, “The View From The Porch.” (Sign up at the bottom of our Home page).

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