It’s that time of the year when love is in the air. But what we don’t often talk about is money and how it affects our relationships. It’s well known and documented how money can be a barrier in a healthy relationship and research shows that financial disagreements are the strongest disagreement type to predict divorce1. Why is that? Why does money seem to breed conflict between couples? Let’s dive into that topic this week as we talk about love and money.

When I first started dating my husband, it wasn’t long before I brought up the topic of money. In fact, it was on our second date! For me, the topic of money has been so commonplace in my life that I generally am comfortable talking about it, and it seemed like a very natural thing if this relationship was going to go anywhere that we talk about money. Oh, but little did I know that it made him feel very uncomfortable. Now I do admit that I probably started earlier than most on this conversation and I don’t necessarily recommend to all women to start talking about money on their second date!a young couple sitting on a park bench

We didn’t necessarily discuss the ins and outs of how we are going to manage our money, but instead, we talked about how money has affected our lives and some of our earliest money memories. During that conversation, I learned not only that my husband grew up with little to no money, but he remembers being so poor at times that he would go to bed hungry; he also remembers having to sleep in his car as a kid because they were homeless. He told me vivid memories of being without money.

One experience, in particular, was that he remembered on several occasions where he and his dad (it was just the two of them) would go to the grocery store with $5 for the whole week’s worth of groceries. He knew, even as a child, that he couldn’t ask for the extras. They would get the bare necessities that would stretch for a week until the next payday.

These money memories humbled me. I didn’t grow up wealthy by any means, but I was never homeless and we always had something to eat. These conversations not only taught me important money triggers to be mindful of as our relationship progressed, but most importantly, it taught me more about my husband and how he became the man he is today.

cash and small toy hearts forming the shape of one big heartThese were more than just stories; they were living memories and experiences that my now-husband was sharing with me early on in our relationship. It helped me understand him in a deeper and more empathetic way. It also gave me insight into what he valued in life. I vividly remember him telling me when we got married, “I will never be rich, but I will love you with all the love in my heart.” That statement has run true throughout our marriage.

During our time together, there have been times that I’ve been the breadwinner other times he has been. There have been times that we’ve had excess, and there have been other times that we’ve had barely enough. Honestly, as I look back, it’s less about the physical tangible money and more about the experiences and bonding that we’ve had together as we’ve had to work together to put food on the table, a roof over our heads, and the various other things in life.

As we’ve done this together, our love and respect for one another have grown and we’ve been able to learn from the past and use it to help shape our future.

Now, when we talk about money, I’m more acutely aware of the triggering events or patterns in our financial situation, and he is more open to sharing as we work through them together. I’ve found that by asking questions about his past with money and sharing my own experiences, we’ve been able to pave the future together better. It’s allowed us to gain a broader understanding and deeper perspective of one another and our now shared vision together.

Love and money are closely intertwined, but the key is the love for one another and using the money to help bring you closer together. It’s less about having more and more about being satisfied with what you do have. I hope you have a wonderful Valentine’s day and get to spend some quality time with the one you love and talk about your money history and your future together. I hope this brings you closer together as a couple.

1 Dew, J., Britt, S., & Huston, S. (2012, September 4). Examining the relationship between financial issues and divorce. Journal of Family Relations. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1741-3729.2012.00715.x

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