During February, everyone's mind turns to hearts and flowers (and chocolate!) as we celebrate Valentine's Day. My son recently mentioned a new title for the holiday, "Single's Awareness Day." Singles may wish they had someone to share the flowers and chocolate with, but they do have one advantage over couples in the area of money management. Singles don't have to argue with a partner over how to spend their money.
According to studies at the University of Denver, the major predictor of divorce and marital unhappiness is not disappointment over finances, lack of sexual attraction, or lack of love. It is the way couples manage conflict. And conflicts about money are common, even with partners who love each other dearly. So, learning to prevent money conflicts and handle them well when they do occur can help to keep the love alive -- not only on Valentine's Day, but every day of the year.
One thing couples can do to reduce money conflicts is to understand each other's values. Valuing something means that you think it is worthwhile, important or a high priority. Values are not right or wrong, but partners' values will not always be the same. So, spend some time talking together about what is most important to each of you. Discuss ways that you can set some common goals and work together to reach them.
Another thing couples can do to reduce money conflicts is to improve how they handle their differences. Try scheduling a regular time weekly or monthly to discuss your finances. Make sure that both partners are aware of all the income and expenses, even if only one handles the actual recordkeeping and bill-paying. Agree on a set amount that each person can spend before consulting the other or set a monthly "allowance" for each person to spend as he or she chooses. When problems arise, identify the issue together, brainstorm alternatives, discuss the pros and cons of each alternative, and agree on a solution that both partners can live with. The best approach is "the two of you" against the "problem," rather than the problem coming between the two of you!
Finally, couples who wish to improve their communication about money might consider taking a money management class together. Our new "Managing Your Money" series is a perfect way for partners to begin to take control of their finances and learn to work out their money problems. The series is offered regularly throughout the Northern Shenandoah Valley. By learning together about personal finances, you'll reduce the chance of money conflicts putting a strain on your relationship.
For more information, refer to our website at http://offices.ext.vt.edu/shenandoah/ or call us at 540-459-6140.