Money is one of the top stressors for long-term couples.
And it’s a topic that makes many couples uncomfortable, whether they’ve just started dating or have been in a long-term relationship or married for years. For couples who understand the importance of getting their money matters out in the open but aren’t sure where to begin, starting a money date night tradition may be the answer.
Long gone are the days when only one partner (usually the man) held the money strings. These days in many relationships, both partners work and contribute financially to shared expenses. They both have stakes in their household’s financial situation, and their individual money habits can positively or adversely impact the other’s—especially if there isn’t an open line of communication.
The financial decisions you make as part of your partnership on expenses like the roof over your head, medical care, putting food on the table, your children’s school and college and your future retirement plans can have a big effect on your values and goals as individuals, as well as partners.
At times in my practice, money has been a sensitive issue with the couples I advise. Because money is often associated with one’s ability to take care of their family or their career success, it often informs each person’s attitude about their relationship, their life and even their social standing.
If one questions a partner about their money habits without a lot of sensitivity, they may become defensive, aggressive or even outright hostile. As with any crucial conversation, it’s important to strategize and plan discussions in collaboration with your partner.
Why is talking about money so important?
If you’re on the fence about initiating regular conversations with your partner about money, an online survey by Ramsey Solutions found that couples who rated their marriage as “great” talk daily or weekly with their spouse about money. And those who didn’t rated their marriage as just “okay” or even “in crises.”1
How to get started with money date nights
To facilitate better money conversations, consider planning regular money date nights:
Schedule a certain day and time to get together, say the third Sunday of each month.
Choose a place where you won’t get disturbed, switch off your mobile phones and minimize other distractions.
Your date night can take place over dinner at a restaurant, on the beach or during a picnic in the park.
If it’s your first official money date, picking a neutral location can make the experience more relaxing.
The purpose of your money date should obviously not be to harass each other or push each other’s buttons. For better and for worse, you’re in it together and two heads are better than one when it comes to making financial decisions. You should approach every money date with a “better together” attitude.
What financial topics should be on the agenda for your money date night?
My husband I pick a money-related date night “theme” and review one aspect of our financial life. We always making sure to end the date with something fun like a cocktail or dessert—or both! Here is a list of suggested topics to get you started:Seattle Dominatrix
Do a high level review of your ongoing bills and expenses
Discuss your collective or individual debts such as credit cards, mortgages and car loans, taking a look at the current interest rates and remaining balance
Look at your sources of anticipated income including salary, bonuses, commissions, property rents or an inheritance
Talk about big goals you’re dreaming of, like buying a second home, funding college for your kids or grand kids, working less or retirement
While it’s obvious that the dollars and cents of your shared life should be discussed, what’s even more important is to talk about during these get-togethers are the emotions your money situation brings to the surface.
Five emotion-based topics to include on your money date night agenda
Talking about money can be awkward in the beginning, even if you’ve been together for a long time. Actually, even if you’re having regular dates nights like I am, there are still times that things get awkward between us! But if you can agree ahead of time that the goal of talking is to become more connected to one another, it can make the discussion go a little smoother.
Listed below are five suggested topics that are oriented more towards the non-monetary side of your financial relationship:
#1 Your childhood experiences with money
What did you learn about money growing up? Did your parents openly talk about money, or was the subject taboo? What is your first memory about money?
In more traditional families, the finances were often monitored and controlled by the father figure and weren’t shared with the mother or children. On the other hand, in many families, children are openly encouraged to talk about money. Maybe as a kid someone helped plan a garage sale or sold lemonade.
Having a deeper understanding about each of your backgrounds and money-handling experiences can shed some light on why each of you make the financial decisions that you do today.
#2 What are your most important life values, and how do those relate to your money?
Exploring each other’s most important life values even if they don’t directly relate to money can serve as an important foundation for making better financial decisions together.
Is one of your values being able to work a flexible job to spend more time with your kids? Avoiding debt at all costs? Exploring the world to open your eyes to other cultures? Living modestly to avoid materialism and give back to others?
Discovering what really makes your partner tick will bring you closer together and give you the motivation that’s often lacking to make better financial decisions.
#3 How do those values translate to more quantifiable and specific money goals?
Once you’ve explored each of your most important values and whether those do or don’t align, it’s time to turn those values into shared short- and long-term goals.
Ask questions like these: How much should we have set aside for an emergency fund? What’s most important to save for in the coming five years? is it buying an investment property? Funding the kids’ 529s or taking a big vacation to celebrate a milestone? When do you think you’d like to work less or retire?
And perhaps most important, discuss the steps can you take together to honor each other’s core values and accomplish your financial goals while living the kind of lifestyle you’d like to have today.
#4 Are there perceivable money problems?
If one of the partners in a relationship is feeling resentful about money-related issues or decisions made by the other, it can cause a lot of strife. Whereas openly airing them can reduce conflict and bring a couple closer together.
Do you experience any ongoing stress about money? Are there some expenses you find unnecessary that we might eliminate or reduce? Is there debts that can be more quickly eliminated with frugality, better money management, asking for a raise or looking for a better job?
#5 What are the good things that are happening in our financial life?
Sharing progress fills us with gratitude and encourages us to strive harder. Talk together about what you’re most proud of when it comes to your finances.
Are you consistently reducing your debt? Did you recently get a promotion or a raise? Have you signed a lucrative contract? Has the value of the property inflated? Even celebrating small wins like reducing the number of times each of you is eating lunch out each week can go a long way towards building a sense of togetherness.
They may not qualify as romantic, but money date nights might lead to more romance!
Studies have shown that money-related worries are the leading cause of stress. The chart below from the American Psychological Association’s annual Stress in AmericaTM survey 2 shows that 65% of respondents are worried about money and 65% are worried about the economy.
Dealing with this kind of stress together versus individually can bring couples closer and alleviate resentment. By scheduling regular money date nights, you’ll be able to build a strong partnership to get through the good (money) times and bad. And what’s better than that?
1 Cruz, Rachel. (Sept. 27, 2021). Money and Marriage: 7 Tips for a Healthy Relationship.
2 American Psychological Association. (March 2022). APA’s Stress in AmericaTM Survey report.