Whether you’re dating, about to get married, newly married or married for years, effective communication is arguably the glue that keeps the two of you together and is often the best indicator of the relationship’s status.
That said, how well do you communicate about emotional issues with your significant other? Are you able to talk about a lack of intimacy, lack of equality, or unrealistic expectations? While these are all plausible reasons for a failed relationship, one of the most common reason for divorce (excluding infidelity) is money - or the lack of.
A lack of money will heighten frustration in both individuals but also incompatibility in the financial department can easily lead to a strained relationship. For example, imagine a marriage where one is a saver, conscious of future expenses and desires, while the other is a spender blowing money fast. Eventually, someone’s going to snap.
So if we place such importance on money as an individual and in a relationship then why is it harder to discuss than emotional needs?
Think about it...Money is a tangible asset that can be measured, it’s objective in that you either have it or you don’t, yet many couples find it difficult to talk about it. Now consider this...if you can’t talk about more tangible matters, how do you fare in discussing intangible matters such as emotions which are subjective and harder to measure, understand and define.
The problem is we live in a society where it’s not about what money is but how it defines you. The Nigerian (and most African countries’) culture breeds an environment where your money determines your value therefore disclosing to your partner that “money no dey”, equates to relinquishing your self worth too. Additionally, we’ve been conditioned to see men as being providers therefore we’ve tied their value as a boyfriend/ fiancé/ husband/ father to their ability to provide.
To have open discussions about money, you need to understand what it means to you and your partner (which requires honesty). It’s a hard conversation to have so I’ve outlined 4 quick tips on how to talk about money:
1. Treat it as a business meeting
Remove the emotions attached with money and approach the discussion as a purely practical matter. Speak about the facts (e.g. “Modupe, I earn ₦200,000 a month of which 50% goes towards our rent, petrol and food. That leaves me with ₦100,000 which is insufficient for a round trip to Ghana”).
2. Have a regular financial date
You may currently have a romantic date planned every weekend or fortnight but do you place as much importance on your finance? Challenge yourself to have a financial date as often as your romantic ones to keep up to date on your finances. Remember the more you talk about it the easier it gets. (Stay tuned for our next article on how to plan a financial date).
3. Create a practical plan
Draw up a realistic plan that you can both agree to. Whether this is a weekly budget or a limit on the price of your gifts, this will help to reduce the expectation gap and avoid disappointment. You’ll find that it keeps you working towards a common goal where you’re thinking of your partnerships as ‘we’ and ‘us’ rather than ‘me’ and ‘you’.
4. Hypothetical scenarios
If all else fails and you (a) Haven’t summoned the courage to have a frank and open discussion or (b) Don’t feel comfortable with your partner just yet then create hypothetical situations to give you an idea of how your partner views money. A few questions to ask include:
- If you had N1 million today how would you spend it?
- What percentage of your monthly income do you spend on yourself?
- Do you have a spending limit? And would you impose this on your wife/husband?
Speaking generally will remove the pressure of revealing specific numbers but it will also give you great insight on your partner’s relationship with money which is paramount in building a future together.
Granted, not everyone you’re dating needs to know your financial status. Sometimes disclosing this too freely may lead to theft, dependency, feelings of inadequacy or jealousy. On the opposite end of the spectrum, not having these conversations could lead to a marriage whereby you’re taking on huge financial debts of your partner or reckless mismanagement of funds. So if you’re in a committed relationship or you’re fed up of not meeting financially-driven expectations then there’s no better moment than now to talk about money.
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