So, are you the spender or the saver? Money and relationships may be one of the biggest tests for married and long-term couples because usually there’s one of each!
In this area, we confront our differences head-on. We all have values around money: how to spend it, save it, allocate it and communicate around it.
In this post, I’m going to reveal a new way to manage money in your relationship that will set you up for long-term peace and prosperity.
I’m not a financial planner. I’m a relationship expert. My partner and I have been practicing this for the last 8 years and all I can say is, it works for us!
Try it on for size and see if this new perspective might work for you.
I will be getting married in a few weeks, but my fiance, my boyfriend for 7 years, isn’t transparent when it comes to finances. We are both professionals and earning a decent salary, yet he hasn’t opened up on how our financial setup would be.
He’s the kind of guy who would buy toys or other hobbies whenever he has money, and he does not save much. I’m afraid he would do the same when we are married and not be responsible. On the other hand, I am very much transparent when it comes to my finances. I tell him my savings, my salary, my purchases. I am expecting him to do the same, but he doesn’t seem to open up.
Congratulations on your upcoming nuptials! I love that you’re asking this question before the big day because I think it’s critical to lay down your financial agreements before you say “I do.”
If you google top 5 topics married couples fight about, “money” is top 1 or 2 — consistently. I can see why. We all have different values when it comes to money, we attach different emotions and meanings to having it and spending it. It’s wrapped up in survival, which means we easily fall into a fear and scarcity “monkey brain” mindset.
When you’re dependent on your partner sharing your values around money, you’re walking a tightrope… a lot can go wrong. In this post, I’ll show you a different way to approach money and relationships.
Why “Money Is a Man’s Game” Is Bad for Your Relationship
You say “he hasn’t opened up on how your financial setup would be” and that makes my eyebrows go straight up. Why haven’t you initiated a plan yourself?!
The idea that money is a man’s game is so not in service to your happiness, your partner’s happiness, or your relationship! And I’m going to show you why.
Guess what happens when he’s in charge of money management?
You will have a different value system and you will inevitably try to control him and his spending to be more in line with your values. The last thing he wants is to be controlled. The last thing you want is to be controlling.
This dynamic is why money and relationships continue to be a stormy combo.
By Sharing Your Finances, You’re Feeding the Problem — Not the Solution
Right now you’re telling him about your finances hoping he’ll do the same in return.
You’ve fallen into the trap 99% of women fall into. You’re giving him the love you want in return. And when you don’t get it, you give even more.
The thing is, the more you tell him about your finances, the more he feels entitled to know. That’s how that works. He’s not a bad guy, you’re just speaking a different language.
When you give to a man (information, affection, compliments, time) he thinks you’re giving him that because he’s earned it. He doesn’t feel inspired to give equal parts love in return. He leans back and thinks “I don’t know what I did to deserve this but I guess it was pretty great and she loved it.” And he becomes passive, he receives.
He doesn’t give more because you’ve told him in his language that what he already gives is enough.
When a woman gives to a man over and over again without him actually earning it (“earning it” = meeting her needs and sacrificing for her) then he starts to feel entitled. And there’s already plenty of messages out there saying to men that “they are the money masters, they make the money, they spend the money, and they shouldn’t be beholden to anyone else, especially their wives.”
I repeat: He can be a total mensch and still fall into this trap because of the messages he’s getting from you and from our totally antiquated culture around money and relationships.
I’m about to show you how you can feed the solution but first let’s detour into…
Why He’s Secretive About His Finances
It’s so weird that he’s secretive about his finances, right? I mean, what is he hiding?
Let’s find out!
There’s an experience many men have where they share some information with their partner and it seems to be an invitation for their partner to judge their choices.
Can you think back to a time where he shared some enthusiasm around buying a new toy and you:
- Made a comment about how much it cost?
- Or maybe you made a face?
- Or maybe you brought up another thing he could’ve saved that money for?
When a man experiences this enough, feeling judged for his choices (just because they are different from hers), then he will start keeping the information to himself to avoid feeling judged and criticized. It only takes a few times of this to make an impression and create the habit of secrecy.
We all need acceptance and approval in our relationships but men need it from their partner even more than women do. Take your core need for acceptance and approval and multiply it by 10 and you’ll have a glimpse into man’s greatest sensitivity and the reason he’s hiding.
It is what we call in MarsVenus lingo, a primary need for men. As in, once they feel accepted, admired, and approved of then they feel loved and they automatically give a woman understanding, validation, and reassurance in return (3 of our top 5 primary needs). When you are meeting your partner’s primary needs then you are paving the way for you to get your primary needs met in return.
Until that happens, he’s keeping his cards close to his chest.
That’s why he’s secretive. That’s what he’s hiding. And here’s how to get a different result:
Money and Relationships: What to Do Differently to Get a Different Result
#1: Stop putting your energy into giving him your financial information, hoping he’ll give you some in return. We now know it doesn’t work like that. The more information you give him without receiving any in return, the more he feels like he’s earned it and nothing needs to change.
#2: School your reactions. As he gradually opens up and shares about his financial choices — even little things like buying a new t-shirt — be very generous in your response. Smile, admire the t-shirt, relate to the fun feeling of rocking some new clothes, show him you approve. Make your relationship more important than the money he spends.
Know that his primary need is to feel admired, accepted, and approved of. Take this opportunity to love him in a way he receives it. You will be rewarded with his growing trust that he can be honest with you, transparent with you, and you will not judge him or seek to control him. This is how you slowly nurture and grow a relationship of honesty and transparency.
#3: When it comes to money management, we have to find a new approach that takes our differences and primary needs into consideration.
You want transparency and you also want security. You want to feel secure in life like you have enough money to get your needs met.
So, rather than try to control him and his spending (which we know only ends in less transparency and less control over finances), let’s change the rules of this antiquated system so you’re controlling the money directly.
Control the Paycheck, Not Your Partner
Have separate accounts.
You may need to implement this in an entirely unique way but for inspiration, I’ll tell you how I do it.
- Glade and I have a joint account for house payments, bills, food, and other staples.
When and if we have a child, we will put that financial investment into this account as well. Over the past decade, we’ve had different agreements. If he’s making more money than me, he might contribute more to this fund. If I’m making more money than him, then I’ll contribute more to this fund. This is the account we always make sure has enough money in it to cover our basic needs.
- If there is money beyond basic needs coming in then we invest it in one of our other accounts.
- We have our own checking accounts.
This money we spend on dates, clothes, gifts, vacations, hair appointments, kayaks, gardening gear, drones, and other fun stuff.
- Then we have our own separate savings accounts that we manage totally independently.
I don’t know how much he has in his and he doesn’t know how much I have in mine. These aren’t secrets, it’s just nobody’s business but our own.
- Glade and I also have our own separate business accounts.
I can invest in my business as I see fit, he can invest in his as he sees fit. We don’t get in each other’s way. If either of us needs more money for a business investment, then we might ask each other for a short loan and pay each other back within the agreed upon time.
You may not find this practical arrangement of money to be very romantic but I do.
I find it very romantic because I can give my partner approval, admiration, and acceptance instead of judging him or trying to control him. He feels loved and in exchange he’s transparent and meets my primary needs for reassurance, validation, and understanding, and I feel loved. That’s romantic to me.
NOTE: Many people are in a relationship where there is one provider and the other stays home and works to take care of the family. For much of history, women have taken that role. No matter who has it, I believe strongly that separate accounts are vital in this situation as well. The main provider needs to provide a certain agreed upon amount of money to the home-worker for their accounts so that each partner has the freedom and independence they need to thrive and not control each other.
It’s Your Turn to Take Charge (Here’s a Script)
You have every right to approach the subject of finances yourself and ask for the financial setup you want and need to thrive.
He wants to make you happy. He wants to fulfill your wishes. He thrives when he can successfully meet your needs.
Make it easy for him by laying out a thoughtful plan of separate accounts and either show him this blog post or explain to him how it’s in service to your mutual happiness and fulfillment.
You can use this script that includes some helpful “buffers” so that he doesn’t take it personally:
“I know we haven’t talked much about money in our relationship and how we want to move forward after our wedding. I’d like to explore the option of separate accounts and I’ve written up this plan for us. I’d like you to take a look and consider it and ask me any questions you might have about what I want.
It’s not that I don’t trust you with our money. It’s not about that at all. It’s that I need to be in control of my money so that I feel free and independent. Two values I know you can appreciate.
Let’s keep our money separate and keep the conversation around joint money and basic needs alive. It shouldn’t be taboo. It shouldn’t feel bad or dangerous. We are abundant. I love you and I’ll feel so secure and happy with separate accounts. Think about it, we can talk more about it later.” Smile and walk away.
He may have a reaction. He might take it personally. This is new and different and might rock his world a bit. Let him work through it alone and then come back and talk more about it later. Be gentle and be firm. These are your needs and this is how easy it is to meet them.
Be brave. A little prep work now could save you a lifetime of fighting.