As a family, relationship, and couples therapist in North Carolina, I can say with confidence that the two most difficult topics for couples to discuss are sex and money. Also, they are two of the most important topics to talk about!

Usurpingly, money matters can be a challenging and even contentious topic within relationships. From shared expenses to personal spending habits, discussing finances with your partner can lead to conflicts and stress. In this blog post, I offer some considerations from a couple’s therapist’s perspective on how to talk about finances with your partner and build a stronger, more harmonious financial foundation in your relationship.

Talking About Finances With Your Partner is Hard!

We’ve all got a money story, whether we realize it or not. And at the risk of sounding like our friend Freud, that money story usually starts in childhood. We learn and hold unconscious and conscious values and feelings surrounding work, earning, money, values, and self-worth. As such, it is no surprise that financial discussions in a relationship can be fraught with challenges, including:

1. Emotional Baggage: Money can carry some serious emotional weight. Past experiences, money trauma, financial insecurities, or contrasting money mindsets can trigger intense feelings of anxiety, shame, or guilt. These emotions can make financial discussions feel impossible.

2. Communication Styles: No matter the topic, each individual brings their unique communication style to the table. And this can present challenges in really hearing the other person, especially if communication styles are different. Some may prefer a assertive approach, while others may be more passive, passive-aggressive, aggressive, or avoidant. These differences can lead to misunderstandings and misinterpretations.

3. Money as the tip of the iceberg: I WANT YOU TO WANT TO DO THE DISHES, GARY! (The Break Up, anyone?) Financial discussions can often unveil underlying or additional challenges, power dynamics, or competing values in a relationship. Perhaps one partner was raised to believe it is their duty to be the higher earner, and/or “provider.” Maybe both partners were raised to believe that about themselves. Maybe one person feels like they do everything around here, and money is just another example where they feel the relationship is unbalanced and they feel unsupported or underappreciated. Perhaps one partner believes strongly in separate bank accounts, whereas the other believes in shared or joint accounts. Maybe one partner feels judged or controlled when comments are made about how they choose to spend money. Underlying feelings or inequality, resentment, anger, frustration, shame, guilt, or annoyance can absolutely play a role in the avoidance many couples experience in delving into their own, and their relationship’s, “money stuff.”

Tips for Successfully Navigating Financial Conversations from a Couples Therapist in North Carolina

However, an individual or couple’s therapist in North Carolina can really help to work through and process these key emotions, and allow for additional space to work through both the practical, and deeper level, financial considerations. Although therapy looks a little different for everyone, a therapist in North Carolina can help you, and your partner to:

1. Create a Safer Space for Open Dialogue: The first step in addressing financial issues with your partner is to establish a safer, non-judgmental space for open dialogue. This can be in couples therapy, or can be created on your own with the right supports and guidelines. Choose a time when you’re both calm and focused to initiate the conversation. Acknowledge that both of you have your own money baggage, and this is an opportunity to understand each other better. Use curiosity and open-ended questions to truly hear, and understand, the other. Compromise is much easier when we are able to allow for compassion, understanding, and empathy for the other.

2. Set Clear Goals and Priorities: Sit down together and discuss your financial goals and priorities. What are your short-term and long-term objectives? Which are priority, right now? Maybe priority it is buying a house in 1-2 years, but you also want to get the ball rolling on a proper retirement account and plan? Perhaps you are considering having children, and want to feel confident and prepared to begin that journey. Maybe you simply want to have X dollars in your household savings account by the end of 2024. All of that is perfect! By identifying these goals, you can align your financial decisions and make choices that support your shared vision. This can help reduce conflicts over spending.

3. Collaborate on a Budget: Develop a budget together that reflects and honors your individual values, with a consideration of individual and combined income, expenses, and savings goals. If it is important to each of you, be sure to include and consider what is value-aligned in terms of personal spending to honor individual autonomy. Regularly revisit your budget, together, to track your progress and make necessary adjustments. And make it fun! Nothing like a good monthly “Budgets and Bakery” date day to keep the intentionality in your relationship, and in your money-talk!

Couples Therapy In North Carolina – Here to Help with Money Talk and More!

In addition to these tips, seeking professional help can be a game-changer for couples struggling with financial issues. Couples therapy offers a neutral and constructive environment where a trained therapist in North Carolina can guide you through these tricky financial discussions, helping you to better understand each other’s perspectives, and arrive at values-driven common ground.

Our couples therapists in North Carolina would love to help, and we have immediate availability, including evenings and weekends! Reach out to us and self-schedule your free 20-minute consult with a couple’s therapist in North Carolina today!

Our team of compassionate and experienced therapists is here to support you in building a brighter financial future for your relationship. Don’t hesitate to take the first step towards financial harmony today!

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Dr. Bate leads several therapy groups, which may be accepting clients. As a PSYPACT provider, Dr. Bate can service clients in over 30 states and jurisdictions. Authority to Practice Interjurisdictional Telepsychology (APIT) under the PSYPACT* Commission E. Passport issued 2/11/21 Mobility Number # 6459. Specialty areas: Queer and/or gender diverse folx, couples/relationships, and families. Trauma, PTSD, grief, bereavement, loss. Substance use/substance misuse, addictions. Relationship stressors and communication issues. Student-athlete stress. Court-ordered therapy and sex offender treatment. Mental health evaluations in the context of high-conflict divorce. Criminal and Civil Forensic Assessment. Email: [email protected] to schedule your free consult or request an appointment here. I help people who feel stuck, numb, or who are gripped by grief, loss, and unresolved trauma experience deeper, more fulfilling relationships and life outcomes. I assist people and families working through addiction find a path towards wellness. I work with individuals who may feel lost, scared, or alone to better understand their gender identity, sexual, relational, and romantic orientations. I also help intimate partners and families understand each other and communicate more effectively, including about matters of identity.

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