The issue of money causes more fights among couples than sex, children or even illicit affairs. Therefore, “money” is a critical conversation in a relationship. Even when it comes to dating, people often judge one another by who picks up the check or whether or not the bill is split. How a person or couple handles money is a metaphor for their value system. One does not go out on a date, shake hands, and immediately ask how much money the other person makes. However, as you spend time together and enter into a relationship, you begin talking about your attitudes and styles of handling money.

Here are some ways to keep money from getting in the way of your relationships:

1. Talk about your attitude toward money as part of getting to know each other, and moving a relationship along.

2. Talk about your history. Why you like to save or spend money, and how you handle your money. Even if you disagree, hang in there and consider the conversation part of the process of developing intimacy.

3. Talk about the big ticket items and mutual financial goals (i.e. vacations, buying a home, raising children, giving to grandchildren, philanthropy, etc.).

4. No deep dark secrets. Failure to talk about your finances and your money attitudes is also a failure of effective financial planning. And that’s one of the biggest reasons why couples can get into financial trouble.

5. Decide if you want joint or individual accounts and/or both. How you decide to bank is a reflection of your own ability to trust and bond or your need for independence. These are both practical and metaphorical issues that tell you about your own and your partner’s psychological makeup. Do you play close the vest, watch every penny, or are you expansive and like to take the check or to give generously? Most probably how you handle your finances is in some way a reflection of how you handle your life.

6. Make sure that you’re still aware of each other’s desires and even splurge items. Respect and plan for these. Try doing this in more than one setting. These are big issues and people tend to have big feelings about them

7. What about later in life (once the kids are gone or when you start thinking of retirement)? In today’s world there are actually two major strands when it comes to handling money in the second half of your life. If you’ve been married or in a long term partnership, how you planned for retirement will impact you.

8. If you have been divorced or widowed, you may have to decide about how to combine or not combine assets such as property, two or more houses and where children, grown or otherwise fit in.

9. Use a financial advisor and if you run into trouble consult a therapist as well. She can help you iron out why your conflicts exist and how to compromise.

10. Finally, don’t let financial fear prevent you from making creative life changes. In these uncertain financial times, there are often more options for change than you may think of at first. Be courageous, consider change and make your decisions with care.

Previously Published in 2008