by Terri Orbuch PhD
Money is more worrisome to newlyweds as a source of conflict than any other topic or concern. In second or third marriages or serious relationships, however, partners are so gun-shy about sharing bank accounts and expenses that a majority of them simply don’t.
That’s one of the surprising findings from my landmark study of hundreds of married and divorced individuals, which has been ongoing for more than 25 years.
You can find love again after a serious relationship or marriage has ended. And when you do, here are some ways to keep money from straining your new love partnership.
1. Acquire a new money vocabulary.
Examine your past–how your parents dealt with money, what money meant to you growing up, and how you dealt with money in your former relationship. Look for patterns in how you think and talk about money. For example, “I can’t catch up,” or “I’m afraid I won’t have enough,” or “I can’t stick to a budget.” Try to change your typical money vocabulary into more positive action statements. So, “I can’t catch up” becomes “It’s time to get control over my finances.”
2. Think like the opposite sex.
One of the reasons money is a source of conflict in marriage is that men and women view and interact with money differently. Studies show that women tend to see money as a sign of security. They like to save for emergencies and they become worried when financial problems arise. Men, on the other hand, take more risks with money and see money issues as a threat to their self-esteem. Try to understand the role of money in your partner’s life so you can meet differences with compassion rather than anger.X
3. Keep money matters simple the second time around.
In my study, almost 6 out of 10 divorced singles (57%) who are now in healthy new relationships don’t share living expenses with their partner. Many recognized that shared bank accounts and expenses weren’t worth the trouble, so they keep these separate in their new partnership. They discover that with kids and property from previous marriages, money matters can become unnecessarily complicated in second marriages.
4. Toss out assumptions; ask questions instead.
Don’t assume your partner wants to split everything 50/50, even if he or she did this in a previous relationship. And don’t assume that you understand how your partner feels about money. Instead, have a dialogue with each other and talk about what money represents. Listen carefully to your partner’s answers to see if there are deeper, older issues going on that have been unresolved.
5. Share financial knowledge and decisions.
Money is such a hot-button topic that 49% of those who divorce and remarry in my study still worry that money will become a monster issue in their new relationship. Even if you keep your money in separate accounts, studies show that couples have less tension when they each weigh in on big financial decisions. It is also essential that you know about each other’s assets, debts, retirement plans, and large purchases. Secrecy or lying about money, incidentally, is perceived as a betrayal of trust–similar, emotionally, to an affair.
6. Get off to a new money start.
My research shows that in the early years of a relationship, money is the number one source of conflict. You’ve learned a lot from the mistakes and missteps in your previous marriage. In addition to all the other new, healthy behaviors you intend to try this time around, make money honesty and money openness one of them. Talk often about each other’s money so that it becomes routine. Come to agreements about spending. Set ground rules and expectations that will help you avoid conflict about money later on.
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