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Wednesday, September 16, 2015
Moving forward in financial oneness means getting real and valuing each other's perspectives.
As I said in my last post, 4 Reasons You Need Financial Intimacy, money and sex are actually pretty closely related to each other. Sexually speaking, differences such as drive levels, interest in exploration, best times of day and preference for different activities can all be places for misunderstanding and hurt. The truth is that most spouses are unevenly matched when it comes to sex. For example, in my recent sexual satisfaction survey, only 9% of individuals felt that their sex drive was about evenly matched with their spouse.
Although the factors that cause sexual strife are not the same as those involved in financial discord, such differences tend to be where the strife shows up. Regardless, just like with sex, differences over money are no reason to forgo financial intimacy.
Wherever your marriage is in the financial arena, it may be time to take a fresh look at this area together. And "together" is hugely important if you want to improve intimacy.
1) Come Clean
Intimacy, regardless of whether it is physical, emotional or financial, starts with being fully known. That means both of you getting real with where you are about money.
The starting point for this is to confess any secrets such as spending, hidden accounts or any deceptions. Whatever comes out, find room in your heart to forgive one another. Holding past mistakes over each other's heads will prevent you from moving closer together. As difficult as it might be to believe in the midst of what might feel like betrayal, grace is the best invitation to intimacy. On the other hand shame and guilt will drive you apart.
The next step is to be honest with each other about where you are financially. Share areas of concern and stress. Talk honestly about your different styles in handing money. Check your communication effectiveness where money is concerned. Are you okay with which of you does the bulk of the money management? Are both of you sufficiently involved?
As you talk, do your best to listen and not react defensively to each other's feelings. Acknowledge that many differences over money don't amount to right and wrong (the exception beings any secrets), but to a difference in perspectives.
2) Dream a Little
With all the cards on the table, talk about your hopes and dreams for the future. Then consider together what kind of financial framework will be required to reach those goals.
Is early retirement a goal? One spouse staying home with the kids? College plans for the kids? Travel? A first (or second) home? Vacations? All of these goals require that you have matching financial goals to attain them.
And to go along with the goals you need to...
3) Make a Plan
All financial planning revolves around making (and keeping) a budget. As Dave Ramsey says, "Give each dollar a name." For some people the budgeting process will feel like nails on a chalkboard. For some having a budget will alleviate a lot of stress and uncertainty over money.
The most important thing about the budgeting process is that you both have input and buy-in. Regardless of whether one partner is more involved with managing the money and bills, you need to be in complete agreement on the budget. If you need some help here, Dave Ramsey has some great tools for budgeting.
Here's a little personal story that might help the reluctant spouse with the idea of making and keeping a budget. We have been budgeting since very early in our marriage. But Jenni has not always had a strong conviction about keeping track of expenses. It was just another thing on her list to get done. During a communication workshop we had the opportunity to discuss our feelings over finances. As I shared my perspective, she came to understand that doing better in this area would actually significantly reduce my overall stress. She realized that it would actually be helping me personally and not just taking care of something on her list. It wasn't just about the budget per se, but about a way to help me out. It gave her the motivation to be more consistent.
4) Check in Regularly
Effective budgeting is something that requires monitoring. Sit down together at the end of each month, and maybe half way through, to gauge how it's going. Look for areas where spending is off plan (and there are always those areas). See where you need to modify your budget or spending or make other adjustments.
Track your progress toward saving goals as well. If you have investments, it's a good idea to review those regularly. This is an opportunity for the more involved spouse to bring the less-involved spouse up to speed with your financial situation.
These four steps are simple, but not necessarily easy. It will require diligence, honesty, and most of all, grace. Remember that your relationship and your desire for intimacy come before your bank balance or your ability to stay on-budget. Honor each other and value your differing perspectives.
Do you have some other ideas that would promote financial Intimacy in marriage? Leave a comment.
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