Money talks, can it pillow talk?
In the realm of romance, talking about money gets a bad rap. It dominates our everyday decision making, and yet it often still feels like the awkward elephant in the room. Financial intimacy, then, almost sounds like an oxymoron. How can something so decidedly unsexy have anything to do with getting intimate? Taylor Kovar, CFP and CEO of The Money Couple, says it’s all about one magic word: communication.
“In the context of relationships, achieving financial intimacy means being able to discuss money matters without judgment, fear, or hidden agendas. It's about aligning financial goals, being transparent about debts and assets, and jointly navigating the financial challenges and milestones that life throws your way.”
Money, of course, is never just about money; it’s tied up with our emotions, our mental health, and our ideas about morality, too. And while society is still contending with the correlation between work ethic and moral righteousness, your relationship is probably suffering if you’re unable (or unwilling) to tell the truth about your finances.
To be clear, financial intimacy isn’t about disclosing confidential information on a first date or opening up a shared bank account. But if you’re in a committed partnership, Kovar says, open dialogue about your financial values, goals, and vulnerabilities is key. That said, here are some of the most common barriers to achieving financial intimacy – and how to confront them:
If you or your partner have inherited ideas about money that rely on secrecy and discretion, it can be incredibly hard to speak openly about money sans shame. Normalizing this kind of dialogue starts with the recognition that financial health is just as important as other aspects of wellness, like physical and mental health.
Past financial traumas
“Previous financial mistakes or traumas can lead to feelings of shame or fear of judgment,” says Kovar. But here’s the thing: everyone has a financial past. If you want to pursue a healthy financial future together, you have to approach each other with compassion.
Understanding money personalities
You probably have a whole Rolodex of experiences, goals, values, etcetera, that drive your financial decisions. Obviously, this is incredibly helpful context for your would-be partner. Oh, and don’t worry if your money “personalities” don’t exactly match up, Kovar says: “Embracing each other's financial strengths and finding a middle ground can enhance financial intimacy.”
Mismatched financial values
The saver-versus-spender dilemma is a tale as old as time. And yet – it still frequently causes friction in relationships. When your goals are contradictory, or at the very least, different, the path forward can mostly be summed up in a single word: compromise.
Lack of financial literacy
Robust financial education is an aspirational – if rare – piece of the intimacy puzzle, and it’s totally normal to be more or less informed than your partner on certain issues. But it’s never too late to learn, Kovar says. “Investing in joint financial education or counseling can level the playing field and foster informed decision-making.”