What part does money play in a relationship? What if your partner has less – or more – money than you, or just likes to spend it differently?
Make things clear
“In the early stages of a relationship many couples avoid mentioning money, with each person afraid that the need to discuss finances might be perceived as a lack of trust or an indicator of doubts about prospects for the future,” says Parship Singles Coach Judith Veit. But when the going gets tough, money can become part of a power-struggle. Happily this wasn’t the case for Susanne and Peter, who met through Parship and settled into a steady relationship. They agreed that they needed a joint kitty to fund travel, though, for practical reasons, it was always Susanne who travelled to see Peter. They set up a special joint account. “It took a lot of pressure off our relationship,” reports Peter. “Our ‘love account’ works perfectly for us - we’ve been working that way for three years.”
Fair is fair
If one of you fancies a trip to the Seychelles while the other one prefers the idea of camping, there could be budgetary concerns at play. “If you have a significantly higher disposable income than your partner, you shouldn’t automatically feel you have to subsidise them,” suggests Judith Veit. “Traditional gender roles are still current and many men still have a problem with women who earn more than they do, though they rarely admit to that.” According to a Parship survey only 4% of men are wary about a relationship with a richer woman, but successful woman know that reality can be different. No matter whether it’s the man or the woman who is the bigger earner, it is important to discuss your own expectations and plans and to adjust them to your partner’s wishes. Generosity is not, of course, out of the question - the person with more money could perhaps pay for the larger items like the flights, though they shouldn’t keep reminding the other person how much it has cost. “If you give someone a birthday present, it’s not good form to say how much you paid for it,” reminds Judith Veit.
It’s the thought that counts
Thoughts are more powerful than banknotes or numbers on a bank statement. When it comes to money, a great deal depends on your attitude to it. If you fundamentally believe that you never have enough money, then you will always make an issue of it. Whether you are economical or extravagant, much depends on the way you were brought up to treat money. “It doesn’t make much sense to give someone a hard time about their financial behaviour,” suggests Parship Singles Coach Judith Veit, “Money is so deeply tied up with deep personal history that discussions won’t make a great deal of difference.” That being said, it is no good pretending not to notice. If you are moving in with another person, you should make yourself aware ahead of time of their attitude to money and reconcile it with your own.
If there is a disparity in financial status between the members of a couple, one of them can end up being the provider, while the other might feel guilty about being the recipient of generosity. “Rather than getting stuck in a groove on these matters, clarify the situation with yourself,” recommends Judith Veit. “What do you need more money for? Is it important to you? If you’re the kind of person who tends to work things out on a penny-by-penny basis, maybe take a different approach to the situation. For instance, you might especially like good food, and in the past have spent a lot of money in restaurants; but now you now have a partner who loves to cook for you, so why not spend the money you’ve ‘saved’ on eating out and treat the pair of you to a holiday, a big outing or something that your partner really needs. If, on the other hand, your partner likes to treat you to things, don’t feel embarrassed about it. You do them favours too … Maybe they have made a useful professional contact through you, for instance. Within reason, this kind of rationale can help to make things add up in your mind - and in your relationship.