5 Questions That Just Might Save Your Relationship

5 Questions That Just Might Save Your Relationship

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5 Questions to Save Your Relationship

Put two people together whose feelings have evolved to the state of commitment of some sort, throw in the subject of money, and you could have the makings of a bonfire.  All you need is for someone to light a match.

That’s how powerful, and volatile, money can be in relationships!

And that power comes from the fact that too few of us deal with money as “just numbers.”  Instead, money is loaded with emotion for reasons we don’t even understand.  Because we don’t understand where those emotions come from and how to get them under control, we overreact to everything that touches money.  We hide from it, we push it away, we spend it, we worship it, we hoard it … we do everything but respect it and use it strategically.

I recently wrote a playbook called “How and When to Talk to Your Partner about Money … Without it Leading to Breakup, Fights or Divorce!”  It doesn’t go into great depth about the psychology and emotional charge of money.  Instead, it gives you something you can put into use right away:  the tools to create a healthy conversation about money with your partner and, in those cases where things heat up a bit, what you need to defuse arguments before they escalate into fights.

(And know that those fights are said to be the Number One reason why relationships deteriorate into breakups or divorce.  Just so you know, the National Center for Health Statistics says marriages are most fragile during the first five years, and 20 percent of them don’t make it past that milestone.  Since money is a major sticking point for couples, it makes my playbook that much more valuable.)

So, wherever you are in your relationship, here’s a gentle exercise that could get the two of you to have your first door-opening conversations to financial intimacy, if you haven’t had one before.

Just for the record, some people can talk about money freely and easily.  But they are not in the majority.  And the chance of both people in a relationship being one of those is pretty slim … if not zero.  The truth is, a Money Magazine survey in 2010 said that 84% of couples report the major tension in their relationships to be caused by money.

So here’s how to start a little honest communication, in hopes of keeping your relationship from becoming a statistic.

Your Ice-Breaker Exercise – First print out two copies of page 9 of this playbook.  Then each take a copy of that page and go into separate rooms or areas.  Spend about 15-20 minutes answering the five questions on the page, writing two or three lines for each.

Don’t over-think the answers; your first ones are almost always the best ones.  Just be honest, and don’t write what you think your partner would want you to say.

Once back together again, in a quiet and comfortable place, take turns sharing what you wrote about Question 1.  Allow conversation to grow around it if possible.  If not, go on to Question 2.  This one should be easier to discuss.  Do the same for Questions 3, 4 and 5.

This exercise may feel like jumping into the deep end of the pool before learning how to swim.  And for some people it is.  Whether or not you are able to discuss your answers to each question, you will have a true gauge of how easy or hard the subject “money talk” is in your relationship.

And a seed will be planted for both of you of some of the emotional pitfalls that could lie ahead for you as a couple if you don’t address them.  (Click here for the rest of the play-by-play downloadable book “How and When to Talk to Your Partner about Money … Without it Leading to Breakup, Fights or Divorce!”)

Remember, loving relationships are built on trust.  This little exercise just dealt with some of the basic emotions around money.  But in order to “live happily ever after,” you have to be able to trust each other with information that we were raised to believe was taboo … or at least real sensitive:  your money.  But those walls really do have to come down.

This could get sticky.  But be sure to do it anyway!

Leave us a comment below.  And be sure to share this post with anyone you think it could help out when it comes to money talk …

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Bio: Sharon O’Day lost everything at age 53: her home, her business, everything. But how could that be? She’s an expert in global finance and marketing with an MBA from the Wharton School. She has worked with governments, corporations, and individuals … yes, she was the secret “weapon,” if you will, behind many individuals in high places. Yet she did! Since then, with her finances completely turned around, Sharon has gone on to interview countless women. She’s done extensive research to understand how that could have happened, especially with her strong knowledge of numbers and finance.

The surprising answers are shared in her posts, articles and an upcoming book. Today her mission is to show as many women as possible how to become financially free for the long term, through her coaching programs. She has developed a step-by-step plan to get past all the obstacles that keep women broke and scared … and from reaching the financial peace of mind they so deserve … if they’re willing to do what it takes!

  • What a fabulous resource, Sharon! I’m pondering the questions right now…

    • SharonODay

      Let me know if it unearths anything surprising to you, Sue.  You’ve done so much “digging” over the past year or two … and think you already have a pretty solid grasp on who you are …  😉

  • Denny Hagel

    Sharon, the statistics you share are staggering… and FINALLY through your eBook there is a tool available to help couples remove the risk of conflict surrounding the topic of money. My husband and I are in the “long-time married” group and have owned and operated our own businesses since we were first married so you can imagine my surprise (and delight) when while working through the process you provide in your eBook we discovered we had a slightly different view of our retirement years and what that meant financially. As a result we have been able to talk through our desires and reach a common goal!  Thanks Sharon, I highly recommend everyone, regardless of their relationship status, read your eBook!

    • SharonODay

      That’s great, Denny, that you and your husband identified something that diverged in your thinking about retirement.  (And I know how open and comfortable you are in talking about money.)  Thanks for letting me know! 

  • Hi Sharon…loving relationships certainly are built on trust and as per the statistics you mention, the inability to communicate about money and financial difficulties certainly do erode the trust foundation! Thank you for sharing your article and E-book! …Hughie 🙂

    • SharonODay

      Hughie, I was just reading in the Wall Street Journal about a new book by Dan Ariely called “The (Honest) Truth About Dishonesty.”  Very revealing in terms of “why we lie,” and I can’t wait to read Ariely’s book.  I guess we have to really battle human nature to keep deserving that critical trust in our relationships!

  • What a resource!  Thanks, as always, for being so generous with your readers.

    • SharonODay

      Thanks, Amity.  As you know, I feel the issue of money in the lives of women (and their partners) is so important, I want to share as much as I can.

  • Thank you Sharon for being the leader in getting us to talk about money in our relationships. It’s never too late to break the chains that bind us from our past. After all, it’s up to us baby-boomers to set the stage and teach the generation that follows.

    • SharonODay

      Oh, Carla, I wish I felt optimistic that the baby boomers were teaching the generation that follows the right things!  So much changed after our “demographic cohort” moved through life … through adolescence, young adulthood, parenting, careers and now heading towards or into retirement.    Not all of it has made ours a stronger nation.  But you’re right, it’s never too late!  😉

  • It’s through your posts that I’ve been able to make the connection between emotion and money which I’ve never done before. So helpful because men and women do deal with finances differently as I’m sure my husband would testify! Great tips to open up discussions. Thanks Sharon!

    • SharonODay

      I’m thrilled, Carolyn, if my writings have opened a new window onto money!  As my little video on the right sidebar says, “It’s not about how MUCH money.  It’s about what money MEANS to you and what it DOES for you.”  😉

  • Angela

    I absolutely love it Sharon.  Wow.  Money is so emotional and many people don’t know how to handle it.  Great tips on talking about money in a relationship.  I will be using your advice and combing through your site for other great tips!  I truly love what you are doing here! 

    • SharonODay

      Peruse away, Angela!  Here’s hoping you find other tips that help you take back any power you might have given away inadvertently around money …

  • One of the contributing factors to my divorce years ago was money, and you are so correct! Learning how to talk about it it key. It is such an emotion raiser!

    • SharonODay

      What’s interesting, Anita, is that money is only an “emotion raiser” because we were taught to see it that way.  Ultimately, it simply reflects our actions and behaviors … and has no innate power or emotion of its own.  (It just takes us a bunch of decades to figure that out!)

  • Almost every argument I ever had in a relationship revolved around money somehow. I know I’ll certainly talk about it differently next time around. 

    • SharonODay

      The best part, Helena, is that there is always another “next time around” … 😉

  • Money can be a very sticky subject!  Glad you are addressing it and offering a solution for couples.

    • SharonODay

      Sherry, because we perceive certain topics to be “sticky,” we avoid them more than ever.  The good news is that we all survive the experience of becoming more open about money!  😉

  • I love how you encourage couples to talk about this very important topic of money! After 18 years of marriage, I find that it can definitely be a touchy subject still. I appreciate your very helpful tools! Thank you Sharon!

    • SharonODay

      Scarlett, I think over time — even after 18 years of marriage — since we’re all growing and peeling back those layers of the subconscious “onion,” new things come up that require us to KEEP TALKING about money (and everything else!)

  • Lisa Carter

    Great article Sharon!  Thanks for sharing this, it is actually quite timely:)

    • SharonODay

      Glad it’s timely for you, Lisa!

  • Thank you for writing this important article. It’s so valuable to have this resource. Sweeping the topic of money under the rug is definitely a poor choice in a relationship. Thanks, Sharon!

    • SharonODay

      Lisa, somehow it never STAYS under the rug!  An unresolved issue, whether related to money or some other touchy subject, will eventually squeeze its way back out!

  • Something that I think is interesting is how differently the subject of money is treated from one family to another. I think that the hidden rules and expectations around it that we don’t realize we have can be part of the problem. I look forward to reading your new playbook. 

    • SharonODay

      Amy, we’re each born into a family that is rife with myths, traditions and vows … and because that family is part of our original survival, we will do whatever is necessary to not be cast out.  So most will identify with and absorb many of the same myths, traditions and vows … unless and until they decide to challenge them at a later date.  Often that’s part of growing up … and finding what’s truly best for YOU, the individual.

  • This is so important.  We bring our own fears and baggage with us when there is stress and tension.  We also assume the way other people will react.  I have been through this in my own family.  Thank God that my husband is so much better than I could have ever imagined!

    • SharonODay

      You’re a lucky woman, Sally!  But be sure to stay grounded yourself; we can enjoy and relish in someone else’s strength, but have to ultimately hold that strength ourselves.

  • Nice ideas Sharon! It is so important to have good communication about what is going on with your money and his in a marriage.
    Too many women assume and get into trouble trusting their partner.
    Be willing to be responsible from the beginning!

    • SharonODay

      “Assuming” is where lots of problems are born.  So much easier to clear the air, know what’s what, and then decide who will handle what and how.  The key is the clear foundation and regular updating …

  • Thank you Sharon for sharing solutions for relationships. Money is an emotional subject and this is why so many issues arise, when dealt in a wrong way. Great advice as always and great blog! 🙂

    • SharonODay

      Money issues are enough of a challenge for individuals, Solvita.  So when you bring them into a relationship, they can multiply unless you face them openly and honestly.  By doing so, couples CAN get to your favorite place of “positive calm!”  😉

  • this is great.. so many couples break up in their marriage over money 🙁

  • this is great.. so many couples break up in their marriage over money 🙁

    • SharonODay

      The statistics are staggering, Barbara.  

  • I love your website and I enjoyed this article immensely.   I have seen money issues just rip through so many relationships including my own.  I’m so glad you are out there helping people to get control of their finances!

    • SharonODay

      Thanks, Michelle!  We’ve all had something around money sneak up on us in a relationship, whether a marriage or something before that.  The key is to learn from that experience and cross it off the list of potential stumbling blocks!

  • Sharon, thank you so much for sharing your tips with us! Yes, many couples break up over money. As always – great advice!

    • SharonODay

      You’re very welcome, Anastasiya.  I agree, I doubt any of us hasn’t seen the damage that money can do to a relationship if not handled openly and honestly.

  • Sondra

    Great job Sharon!! Money can be such a dirty little word in relationships. We give so much power to it don’t we? But with the right tools, couples can confidently come together and face money head on…together!

  • Sharon – Another great article!  I will post this on my fan page.  Thanks again!

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