When it comes to money and relationships, there's good news and bad news. While a majority of couples say they discuss their finances on a weekly basis, money is still a top cause for arguments. In other words, a simple money talk can quickly turn south.
"There are really a lot of emotions behind financial decisions," says marriage and family counselor Rachel Sussman. "When couples start to talk about it, the arguments become more about the style and not the substance. It's important to talk about finances but it's how couples do it that brings the problems into it."
But that's no excuse to stop talking. I tapped Sussman for advice on the most important money conversations to have, all while keeping your cool.
What Are Our Goals?
First, she says recognize you may be with your financial opposite. Studies show savers are attracted to spenders and vice versa. Rather than have that as a source of conflict, she says find common goals and learn how to maximize each of your strengths to manage your money best.
"It's really common for a couple to come together with different spending philosophies, but it's more important to try to have empathy," Sussman says. "If you understand where your partner is coming from, then you can find a solution."
What's Yours, Mine and Ours?
Next, no matter if you view your finances as yours, mine or ours, if one person suspects they're providing more than the other, it could lead to problems down the road. Sussman says, as a relationship gets serious, when a couple is considering moving in together, they should have a conversation about merging bank accounts. She says it's not the option for everyone, however. If your financial independence is important to you, or one of your is working on improving your credit, that could be a reason to maintain separate accounts.
Now, if you're in a relationship where you're contributing far more than the other person, one way to avoid resentment is to identify and appreciate the non-monetary value the other person bring to the table. Maybe it's childcare, or going back to school part-time in order to earn more money.
Who Will Be CFO?
Sharing finances, no doubt, means assigning a CFO. But rather than feel burdened by this role - or conversely resent being out of the loop - Sussman says each of you should strive to feel empowered by the system you create. That means discussing all big financial decisions as a team and sharing all accounts, passwords and pins - not only to keep each other accountable but just in case one of you has to step in and manage everything in the event of injury or illness.
Curbing Bad Behavior
It's also important to discuss when someone's bad behavior goes too far. Irresponsible or abusive spending can be detrimental to any relationship.
"Spending addictions are prevalent in our society today, the person that is just spending every penny they make and then some. We know from research that people who have spending addictions are addicted to the dopamine," says Sussman. "I've seen when one person needs to have all the control over the finances and they'll dole out the money to the other partner. I think that can be really unhealthy. Help is out there and you should get some help if that describes you."
Talk Through the Conflict
Finally, don't shy away from these issues even if you suspect it'll start a fight. Research shows that couples that argue are more satisfied with their relationships than those who avoid conflict. The trick, Sussman says, is choosing the right moment. It's best to schedule time with your spouse as you would a business meeting: keep it to an hour, have an agenda, and make sure to use language that keeps your talk constructive, not destructive.
Sussman says these are ways to have an effective dialogue, starting with "I" statements without blaming, without shaming. She says once you've mastered communicating that way, money talks are easy and you can use that model in every other area of your relationship.
What are some money issues you're dealing with in your relationship? Connect with me on Twitter @Farnoosh, and use the hashtag #FinFit.