Be a Partner, Not a ParentOctober 6, 2015
Money. It is the greatest combatant in a relationship — an equalizer and a destroyer. Whether you combine your earnings, have joint checking/saving accounts, or you split everything equally, you probably have a personal system to which you both agreed. And if you’re a part of a couple, via a legally-bound contract or co-habitation agreement, you are most likely sharing financial responsibilities. Whatever that looks like for you, it takes both of your energies, if not both of your salaries, and things work more smoothly and efficiently, generally, if one person is the unofficial leader bear; however, it can become dangerous to a relationship if the leader bear becomes more parent than partner.
This has been a bit of an issue in our household. While Mr. Saver is simply more interested in budgeting and number-crunching, he sometimes feels overwhelmed and gets frustrated at my lack of active participation. On the other hand, though, I sometimes feel as though Mr. Saver becomes patronizing towards me and our finances, and by the end of the day, we’re both harboring negative feelings about our system and the roles we each play.
How can we both work toward being financial partners rather than continuing a leader/follower relationship?
As previously mentioned, budgeting does run more smoothly if only one person is captaining the budget, but that does not mean the other half of the couple is totally inactive or disconnected.
Try a monthly budget date.
Pick a recurring day, and sit down together and talk about your goals and the upcoming/following month’s budget. Have a conversation. Talk about what’s working, discuss successes and failures, ideas and hopes. Stay involved with each other AND with your money. By continuously communicating what each of you wants, you’ll both be represented in the budget’s plan and outcomes.
Bonus points for making this a special date night. Get a babysitter if you have kids. Do something fun or relaxing, so you’re in a situation where you’re both calm and happy.
Keep communication open and flowing.
Summed up: Your finances should be transparent (even — and especially — if you aren’t married). As long as you’re both being honest and communicative, money talks can be relatively painless. As Living on a Dime says,
A couple should sit down together and go through bills and finances so they both understand their financial condition. Then they both can see, in writing, what money is coming in and where it is going out. This way no one feels like one spouse or the other has more control and it eliminates many unpleasant emotions.
I hate this idea for our household, but maybe it’d work for you. Think Freaky Friday, if you will. For one week, let the leader bear step back and the follower step up. Once the shoe is on the other foot, you might find a new respect or understanding for each other’s opinions or feelings.
A different look at the budget might help you find a better way to do things, or you might find you both like working together toward a singular goal. It’s possible you’ll both hate it, and go back to normal, but at least you’ll know!
It’s not about math. It’s about maturity.
This is especially true for those of you who are unmarried and living together. Finances are messy, and they aren’t always easily split down the middle fairly and evenly, cent-for-cent. One of you probably makes more money than the other, and maybe one of you does more chores or plays more video games or uses more water in the shower.
Anne Nicolai, an editor who is well acquainted with this concept, explained that when she shared expenses while living with a significant other, “The less I worried about the numbers, the better the relationship felt for me,” Nicolai said. “If you must keep score, play golf.” Girl knows what’s up.
Ultimately, your relationship shouldn’t be focused on the nickels and dimes, but in order to have a successful financial future together, there has to be some flexibility, a smidge of give-and-take. Both of you should be involved in some capacity, and despite the role either of you is playing — leader bear or slightly more passive participant — you should both be open, honest, and flexible! Neither one of you wants to be the parent of the budget or of your partner.