Life-changing money advice for couples

Couples' money issues usually go much deeper than a budget spreadsheet, mortgage, or bank balance and often lay below the surface of a relationship.

February 12, 2021

Couples' money issues usually go much deeper than a budget spreadsheet, mortgage, or bank balance and often lay below the surface of a relationship.

Numerous surveys point to a major cause of divorce as being money issues, right behind infidelity. Financial problems and conflicts arise from not communicating feelings, emotions, and needs around money.

Money is a challenging topic to talk about because they are often emotional conversations, which are easier to avoid. Yet, communicating these issues is a critical component to having a healthy relationship and creating financial stability and intimacy.

It’s important to understand that while a couple has a relationship with each other, they also have their own unique relationship with money.  Before resolving financial disagreements a couple has, they first need a strong awareness of their own patterns, behaviours, and emotional triggers driving their financial decision-making.

Here are some of the strategies I work clients through, to create financial harmony and build intimacy.

1. Uncover What Money Means to You

Begin with some self-reflection of your meaning of money, which is probably unknown to you. Money has no meaning, other than the meaning we attach to it. Our meaning of money was formed in the early years of our life, based on our upbringing and childhood experiences. If we are to repair our money and financial challenges, we must first discover their origin.

Ask yourself:

‘What does money mean to you?’ – security, freedom, hard work, essential, not important, or important.

‘What was it like financially, growing up in your family?’ -was it positive, stressful, abundant, scarce, Was money talked about, or was it a topic to avoid? Were you and your siblings treated fair and equitable, or did you feel like you were treated differently when it came to money being spent on you. These experiences often impact your worthiness in adulthood.

If you want more insight and structure, you can take a Money Quiz, like ours http://quiz.womentalkingfinance.com.au/ to discover more about your money type and behavioural traits. There are 8 Money Types, developed by a pioneer in the field of financial psychology, Deborah Price.

2. Explore Each Other’s Money Story

Once you’ve spent time reflecting on your own meaning of money and childhood experiences, have this conversation with your partner. How well do you know your partner when it comes to money? What are the traits and characteristics of your in-laws, this will give you clues about what it was like for them financially, growing up.

There is a reason why we do what we do with money, so delve deeper to uncover what they are. Be curious and compassionate while identifying financial patterns and behaviours where you compliment and contrast each other.

3. Use a Healthy Framework for Talking About Money

We hear with our ears but we listen with our emotions. Be conscious and intentional to listen to your partner, instead of thinking about your response to what they’ve just shared.

When couples are coming from a place of stress, resentment, shame, or guilt they can’t be compassionate, loving, and empathetic. What space are you bringing to money conversations with your partner?

A healthy conversation framework could go like this:

“My observation is when we talk about anything money-related, this is what it feels like for me [describe how it is for you ie. I feel judged, it feels like my opinion doesn’t matter, I’m being treated like a child].”

“What I really need from you instead is [explain how you’d like to be treated and specifically how they can demonstrate this to you]”

“Could you please show up in this [specific instruction to them] way instead?”


Most of us didn’t have healthy role models (parents) who openly and healthily discussed money themselves. With money conversations having almost a ‘whiff-factor’ to them they’re not something many people are confident in having. We need to grow our muscles in this area and regular practice will improve this.

 4. Set Joint Financial Goals

Setting financial goals gives our money direction and purpose. Undertaking a goal setting exercise will help you discover if you’re on the same page and also consider your individual values.

Values are our fundamental beliefs that guide our actions and act as a compass for the direction we want our life to go. It’s important to learn if you are both moving in the same direction and working towards the same financial outcomes.

Talking about your financial and life goals create a deeper level of intimacy.


5. Appoint Roles in Managing Your Finances

Personal money management involves a few duties, so it’s only fair that they get divided up rather than falling on one person. There are roles you may naturally gravitate towards due an interest or talent. Here are a few to consider:

Storing and filing documentation, overseeing cashflow, paying bills, managing debt reduction, reviewing financial contracts, tracking financial results, implementing financial strategies and measuring the achievement of goals.

I often observe that there tends to be one person who takes on all these roles, with the other either left in the dark, feeling like they’re being parented, or lives blissfully in denial.

A vital role of adulting, is taking responsibility for your finances, however a common pattern I see as a financial coach, is outsourcing this responsibility to our other half. I myself was guilty of letting my husband manage our money when our children were born, which cost me greatly.


6. Regular Money Check-in

To cultivate more financial equity in a relationship schedule in money dates or financial check-ins on a regular basis. Block out 30to 60 minutes either fortnightly, monthly or quarterly, depending on your current level of financial intimacy. When establishing this time together, agree on the standards of behaviour and intentions at the outset, for a healthy level of accountability and expectation management.

7. Get Help If You Can’t Talk It Through

You don’t need to navigate these deep waters alone, money coaches, financial advisers, and therapists can guide you how to best communicate, work together and defuse conflicts in spending styles, money habits, or disagreements.


Once couples get over the hurdle of talking about money and are able to speak in an authentic way it strengthens the intimacy in a relationship.

Trust, intimacy, and safety are the key ingredients to a financially healthy relationship.


Karen Eley is a financial coach with more than 20 years’ experience as a financial adviser. Through her business, Women Talking Finance, she helps women to be confident and knowledgeable about all things finance. Karen translates complex financial concepts into simple digestible ideas.

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