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Are people really so different from one another when it comes to money?
Yes, they are. How they are different can be very hard to see when you’re in love and love is new, and can be very painful to discover after you’ve made a commitment. But to get an idea of some potential sore points, consider how you’ve handled your own money as a single person. Have you sometimes spent money that you needed for other expenses and obligations? Put off saving for the future? Occasionally let your bills pile up? These things may not strike you as significant, but when a second person, a fiancé or a spouse, has a stake in your finances and you have a stake in his or hers, undisciplined habits, thoughtless spending, or even incompatible views on how to manage money can strike at the core of the safety and security you want to feel in a relationship.
How can my boy/girlfriend’s and my different attitudes toward money potentially be damaging to our relationship?
Start to pay attention and you’ll see. Every day, probably without realizing it, you observe how your girlfriend behaves with and reacts to money. You witness the big things, like how she handles her debts, and the little things, like whether she is generous or cautious when leaving a tip. Believe us when we say, if some of the things you’ve noticed irk you now, they will irk you more over time. In the early stages of love, people tend to overlook what they don’t like about each other’s management of money; the subject seems at once both too petty and too important for discussion. So most people don’t mention it at all. If you find yourself in this situation, you are giving money the ultimate power: the power of silence.
What are the most common problems couples face concerning money?
Most couples think they have problems with money for one or more of the following reasons: one partner spends too much while the other spends too little; one partner doesn’t care enough about money while the other cares too much; or one partner has too much money, and therefore too much power, while the other has too little. Sound familiar?
In our experience, however, the problems couples face have little to do with money itself. They have more to do with how partners feel about money. Si most of us have been taught to view money as a kind of report card, signaling how well we’re doing relative to others, we tend to measure our self-worth by our earning potential, the size and location of our houses, the clothes we wear, the cars we drive, the schools we send our children to, our bank balances, and so on—and not by our thoughts, feelings, and deeds. We value the financial results of our actions more highly than we value the actions themselves or their effect on other people. This is especially true if we have come to believe, as so many of us have, that money is synonymous with security—that money and money alone will provide for us and keep us safe. When our perceptions and priorities are thus skewed and we put money before people, that is when we encounter problems in relation ships. Talking about money is an antidote. It lays bare some of these underlying issues, and that’s how problems can be prevented or solved.