Many people find it hard to talk about money ………..and for a number of reasons. Here are just 5
It’s not a romantic topic At the start of a relationship money talk is often avoided because it is not a romantic topic, it spoils the emotional atmosphere. In the early stages of a relationship we want to bring only the best parts of ourselves to it, and talking about money is not seen in a good light.
It’s mercenary to ask about it It can be misinterpreted as wanting to find out how much a person is worth before deciding if they are wealthy enough to be with, or that one person is looking for a free ride and will move on soon, or one person is being mercenary, judgements such as those are made if you show an interest in how much somebody has.
It’s risky! Having different attitudes may cause conflict Also, from the families in which they were raised, people have different ideas about how money should be used, so in the interest of avoiding difficult conversations or even argument and potential conflict they avoid talking about money altogether.
It becomes a taboo topic If something is a bit difficult, it’s often best not to talk about it, but when something can’t be talked about it becomes a taboo. The situation can arise where one partner has got into financial difficulties with their own or the family funds and can’t say so. (See Shame Blame and Hurt below.)
We are not confident about it In western culture we are not good at training children to think about the use and abuse of money. We teach them to add up coins and to give the correct change, some learn to make a balance sheet, keep accounts, but we don’t educate them in the meanings of money and wealth, or provide them with good structures for managing money. This leaves a lack of confidence with the topic, we like to avoid areas where we lack confidence. Another taboo develops, something that has to be kept silent
5 reasons why we need to talk about it anyway
Avoiding it makes it worse It becomes something we can’t talk about when we need to.
Opening the Taboo At the start of a relationship we do not usually talk about money for reasons already mentioned, so it becomes a hidden taboo topic without a language in which we can express it. Who pays for dinner is not as far as it goes, who pays for dinner is often a signal for how paying for things might go in the future, or possible resentments. We really need to talk, the same as we need to talk to each other about sex, dreams and aspirations, future hopes,
Power imbalance If you find out later that one person is wealthier than you thought, or less wealthy there may be difficult and strong feelings of being cheated, betrayed even. This is because of the power meanings we ascribe to money. Talking about money taps into deeper issues of the power relationship, so getting it to be a familiar topic, easy to talk about is really quite important, as is learning each other’s family traditions and beliefs over the place and importance of money.
Choices and decisions Money governs where and how we can live, what we can eat, our education, career choices. Many of the decisions and choices we make are decided by the state of our finances, what we can afford. Money is the source of much of our power in the Western world, and in human relationships the balance of power is affected by financial matters, who earns what or who owns how much, along with the other things, gender, physical size, loudness of voice and so on
Shame blame and hurt Talking about money can be a source of shame, blame and hurt, where money has been used destructively or irresponsibly. I am thinking here of the gambler who loses everything, the business venture that fails leading to bankruptcy, money that has been acquired dishonestly or through criminal activity. Whole families can carry the shame of such tragedies for more than one generation. And inheritance can raise all sorts of difficulties.
4 things people can do to make it easier
Practice talking and get used to it overcomes the taboo It is very difficult to talk when there is shame, blame and hurt, but being open and talking about it is the only way to get past it. Keep talking about it to get it out in the open and familiar. Specially important when funds are limited.
Lighten up A lot of people have very little to spare and have to manage many commitments and go without in some areas. If they can use humor to help them through hardship it makes a huge difference. Many others will be in the same boat.
Have clear guidelines for distribution of funds It really helps if people have clarified how their money is used. Each partner has their own private money, an agreed proportion of each part
ner’s earnings goes into the household accounts, savings accounts, holiday spending, big expenditure is budgeted for together.
Plan carefully and be practical When harder times come, plans for savings, maybe reducing share of the household commitment, whatever is needed to keep a balance of cash in balance with earnings. Talk about how the shift in financial balance shifts the power balance in the relationship, make it all open and explicit and keep talking.