What made you want to read this article after scanning the title? Was it the titillating mention of money and sex together? Was it the fairy tale idea that relationships can and should be happily ever after?
Possibly you were intrigued just because these terms usually don’t come together. When it comes to relationships, money and sex have many things in common.
As many of you know, they are two of the top reasons couples fight and break up. Money and sex surround us in advertising, social media and culture. We want more of both, but at the same time, we don’t talk openly about them. Even though it’s on everyone’s minds, to talk openly about money or sex in public would risk rejection, shaming or embarrassment.
Unfortunately, this is a problem if we carry this taboo into our intimate relationship. Different needs and desires clash when it comes to what we want for our bank account and in the bedroom. We must learn and practice how to communicate when it feels awkward or risky. Not talking about our thoughts, fears and dreams is like a leaky roof. By the time we realize our roof is leaking, there’s a lot of damage and the cost of repair is going to be a lot higher than it would be if we’d maintained the roof in the first place. With this being Financial Literacy Month, having some tools to communicate about money issues will help strengthen and support your intimate relationship.
So, how do we go about initiating an uncomfortable conversation with a partner about money or sex?
It’s all about the necessity of being vulnerable, which is something most of us never learned how to do.
Brené Brown, social work researcher and author said “Our inability to be vulnerable makes us weak”.
Unless we can be our true selves with a partner, we will lie, avoid and hide from ourselves and each other. ‘Financial infidelity’ describes the little and big lies we tell ourselves and a partner about money, such as cost of items. We may say, “I got this on sale”, or hide purchases, cover up debt, etc. At best, it erodes intimacy and honesty between partners. In serious cases, it can compromise the financial wellbeing of relationship. In order to have the ‘happily ever after’ we dream of, we must become accept discomfort in difficult conversations. (And by conversation, I mean face-to-face, not via text or e-mail, which doesn’t provide any non-verbal cues). You might start by finding out how your spending styles differ and having a discussion about where your values around money come from. Often expectations and values around money are instilled by the family we grew up in. Discuss what money represents to you, what you want it to do for your lives and see where you can come together to work as a team towards your mutual goals. Where you differ, explore possible compromises. You may decide to get a neutral third party involved (such as a certified financial planner or therapist) to help you work on problems you can’t resolve on your own.
For people who are single, dating, or in a new relationship, consider having some hard conversations about money (and sex) early on. This sets the stage for open communication. Learning about attitudes or experience with budgeting, prenuptial agreements, and separate bank accounts can be enlightening. Knowing about what debts a partner is bringing to a relationship can be critical later on. Would you rather be aware or naïve about a partner’s gambling habit, expectations for vacations or other luxuries, or if money was a factor in a previous breakup? The only way you can find out (and also gauge a person’s willingness to discuss honestly and openly) is to ask. At the same time, you need to be prepared to answer these questions for yourself.
If you want to learn more on this topic, please contact us to receive early notice about the “Money, Sex … and Happily Ever After” workshop that will be held in spring 2018.
“Love takes courage. Be brave. Let yourself be seen”.
~ Brené Brown
MSW, Registered Social Worker
Kathleen Pratt, BA, BSW, RSW has more than 25 years of experience as a professional social worker. Kathleen’s passion is working with groups, and she has developed a wide variety of groups for adults. Her hallmark “Rebuilding When Your Relationship Ends” program has guided more than 100 people from across the region to heal and move forward with their lives after separation. Kathleen offers other workshops and groups focused on personal and relationship growth; many in response to requests of graduates from the Rebuilding Group