Get Real: How Are Finances Affecting Your Love Life?

Couple with coin jar
Love, Self

YourTango Experts explain how your attitude toward money has a big influence on your relationships.

We know the importance of discussing sex before we hop into bed. But money? Oh, no. talking about money with a potential life partner can feel much more embarrassing—and threatening—than a rundown of our sexual history. "What's your net worth?" seems a far more personal question than "How many people have you slept with?"

Yet an unstated dialogue about money starts on the very first coffee date: "Will he pay for my coffee? What does it mean if he does? If he doesn't pay, does that mean he is cheap, or maybe he's feminist?"

Or, from the guy's point of view: "Should I pay? What if she makes more than I do? Will she be insulted if I insist on paying? Will she be insulted if I don't? If she expects me to pay, will every date be like this?" The cash register can pose a much more intimate exchange than the kiss and hug at the end, or even the roll in the hay.

Unfortunately most of us have a dysfunctional relationship with money. A good practice is to pretend money is a person and then to pick words to describe your relationship with it. Many clients pick words like fearful, controlling, withholding, punishing, absent, cold. Wow! For something that has so much influence over the decisions in our life, those are negative words. 4 Ways To Avoid Fighting About Money

Dating, particularly if the intent is marriage, is as much a financial negotiation as it is a sexual one. Unless you make specific arrangements beforehand (think "prenup"), when you marry, the two of you will be financially as well as legally joined. If you find yourself avoiding financial discussions, ask yourself "Why?"

In order to get comfortable with money and lessen the control it has in your life, it's important to begin to build a healthy, respectful relationship with it. Money and financial matters are a powerful consciousness-raising tool, the content of which will "kick up" our unseen vulnerabilities such as fear of failure/success, fear of scarcity, and grief about childhood hurts and losses.

All this "stuff" tends to scare us so we steer away from it, but the more we avoid, the more we get into trouble. This can mean big problems for us individually and for our relationships. Many relationships end over financial problems that are solvable. For example, we might think the problem is only about not enough money, but the deeper problem involves our attitude and relationship to money. 25-Year Study: Unhappy Partners, Money, Power Don't Make Us Happy

The best way someone (individuals and couples) can "check in" to see if their current relationship with money is working for them is to attend to what is right in front of them.

To check in with your relationship with money and how healthy it is, as yourself these questions:

* Do you spend more money than you bring in?
* Do you find money talk "dirtier than sex"?
* Have you overdrawn your checking account more than 3 times in the last year?
* Do you delay paying your bills on time?
* Do you buy things you can't afford?
* Do you have enough money to live on, but find yourself in financial worry or trouble frequently?
* Do you feel more protective of your financial status than your sexuality?
* Are you embarrassed about what you have—or don't have?

If you answered yes to two or more of these questions, it's time to address the unconscious money commitments you and change your relationship to money in your life and doing that will change your life!

You can begin to change you relationship with money today by taking the following steps:

1. Know your Money Story. Answer this question: If money were a person, what words would you use to describe it and your relationship with it? What is your history with money? Money is neither good nor bad, it's just a tool. Money is our thoughts and feelings about it and the story we have created about it. Our story can make it a positive tool or a destructive weapon.

2. Respect your money. Many people are overwhelmed when it comes to money, so they don't pay attention to it. They neglect it. Healthy relationships aren't built on neglect. They are build on respect and nurturing. Pay attention to your money. Notice how much is coming in, how much is going out and where you are spending it. Make conscious choices about how and where you use your money.

3. Be grateful for what you have. No matter how much money you have, there are always people who have more than you and people who have less than you. It's not a competition. Count your blessings and express gratitude for the resources you have.

4. Get comfortable with financial talk. There is nothing inherently dirty about money. Learn about how to assess your own financial status, make repairs if necessary, and be ready to explain your economic picture to serious partners. Expect and ask for the same in return.Once you have a healthy relationship with money, it no longer has any destructive power in your life. 5 Tips to Juggle Love and Money

Useful tools like the questions above or the Money Habitudes cards by Syble Solomon can help you (and your significant other) talk about money in constructive ways. These kind of conversations are intimacy builders and contribute to a deep sense of well-being.