It’s a widely held belief that one of the biggest things couples fight about is money. And it makes sense; finances are essentially the silent ruler of everything we do. Our financial situation dictates how we spend our time, what we eat, how we dress, and how we live our lives. Money can be a cause of stress, and it’s only natural that we take out our stress on the ones who are closest to us.
My husband and I have only been married for a little over a year, but before that, we dated for seven years, and lived together for six. So it’s safe to say that our lives have been merged for the better part of a decade. Of course, we fight like any other couple does — but I feel confident enough to say that we rarely, if ever, fight about money. Part of this is because we both have healthy financial habits, and because we’ve been extremely open about our finances since the early days of our relationship. Additionally, there are some quiet rules that we follow — almost without ever deliberately agreeing to them. These rules enable us to discuss money openly and trust one another implicitly.
Here are the seven rules that we follow that allow us to keep money out of our arguments.
1. Respect one another’s purchases.
My husband works in communications and marketing, and he’s also a freelance photographer. I’m a writer and actor/director. When he has to purchase a new lens for his camera (which, hello, is expensive), or I need to replace my laptop that has become old and sluggish, we don’t challenge one another with condescending questions like, “Do you really need that?” I know that if he’s making a camera purchase, it’s because he really needs it. The same goes for our hobbies, interests, and various clothing purchases.
2. Trust each other to be responsible.
When we moved into our most recent apartment, we chose to divide and conquer when signing up for online billing of utilities. This means that I hold the login for our electric bill, while he has the gas bill. The money all comes from the same place, but we chose to split up the work of registering and maintaining accounts. I don’t feel like I have to nag about bills, or vice versa. And even if one of us forgets to pay something (we’re only human, it happens to the best of us), it doesn’t turn into a source of contention.
3. Learn to love pro/con lists.
It’s unrealistic to think that you’ll always agree with your partner. And when it comes to big life choices, sometimes you might not see eye-to-eye, and that’s okay. I’m a big fan of the pro/con list, à la Rory Gilmore. Whenever my husband and I are trying to make a big decision together, we always sit down and make a written list where we weigh out the pros and cons. It helps to facilitate a productive and calm conversation, and it keeps us focused on the issue at hand. Plus, seeing everything written down sometimes leads us to a shared decision much more quickly than if we were just talking.
4. Be transparent about everything.
The fact that my husband and I have been open since Day One about our finances has definitely set the foundation for our healthy outlook on money. There is literally no point in hiding any debt from your partner, especially if you foresee building a future with that person. We have always been honest with one another about our loans, getting help from our parents, and how much we’re spending.
5. Grocery shop together whenever possible.
My husband and I are literally the best team when we’re at the grocery store, and we’re definitely not on our A-game without one another. When he’s not there, I’ll somehow come up with a way to justify purchasing six different cartons of La Croix or something. That’s not to say that I can’t function by myself at the grocery store, but we definitely make better decisions when we’re together. It’s helpful to have another person work with you to stay on a budget, and I always find that it’s easier to talk through conundrums when I’m not just talking to myself.
6. Don’t ask permission.
This can be tricky, but it is key. We never ask one another, “Is it okay if I buy X?” Instead, we simply communicate. We keep each other in the loop, and always share information when we make big purchases. The reason for this is simple — no one in a relationship should ever feel like the other person has more power over them, especially when it comes to finances. You shouldn’t feel like you need permission from your partner in order to buy something that you want, especially when you’ve worked for it.
7. Determine what’s truly valuable.
When it comes to gifts, my husband and I value experiences over material items. I’d much rather we plan a day trip to the coast for our anniversary than him spend money on a sparkly piece of jewelry. It’s important that each person in a relationship understands what the other one values, and vice versa, so when you do decide to splurge, your money is put towards what you truly care about.
De is a New Yorker turned Bostonian and a lover of all things theatrical. In addition to writing, she is an actress/singer/dancer/teacher and owner of the fluffiest cat imaginable. She is on Twitter.
Image via Unsplash