Money talk

How to avoid letting money secrets come between you and your partner

01 November 2021 | Posted by Claro Money
Couple looking out at lake

New data reveals that 40% of us are keeping money-related secrets from our loved ones. But as with any kind of secret, if left to fester, they can lead to arguments and distrust. So how can you commit to being more open about your finances and asking for help if you need it? Here, we’ll address some of the ways to avoid letting money secrets come between you.

What are the most common financial secrets?

According to a survey by the Money and Pensions Service, the things we’re most likely to lie about in relationships are:

  • Hidden credit cards (37%)
  • Undisclosed loans (23%)
  • Secret savings accounts (21%)

Other secrets we might keep include concealing extra money (such as gifts or prize winnings) and underpaying how much something cost (for example, how much you paid for that new car).

Why do we keep secrets?

Is money the last taboo? Maybe. 

As Brits in particular, we avoid talking about finance at all costs. We find it more difficult to talk about money than we do mental health. But bottling up secrets from your loved ones is an easy way to damage your mental health – whether that’s from losing sleep due to anxiety or feeling like you’ve betrayed them.

Here are some of the reasons we avoid opening up about money:

  • Embarrassment
  • Lack of financial confidence or literacy
  • Fear of being judged
  • To avoid unwanted attention
  • A secret stash of money could be an escape route from an abusive partner
  • To protect anxious loved ones from the reality of the problem

How to open up about your finances

It’s no secret that communication is key to a healthy relationship. This study found that couples who reported disagreeing about finances once a week were 30% more likely to get divorced than those who disagreed about finances a few times a month. So the evidence is clear: it’s time to start talking.

Pick the right time and place

Find a time of day when both you and your partner have time to talk, and you know you won’t be disturbed. You don’t want to feel rushed while you’re talking about something important and potentially sensitive. It’s a good idea to avoid talking about it too late in the evening.

Be honest about how you feel

If you’re afraid of being judged for something you’ve done or you feel guilty about something you’ve recently purchased, tell your partner how you feel. People aren’t mind-readers, and they can usually handle the truth more than you think. It’s likely that they’ll find it easier to understand your situation if you’re truthful about it.

Ask for help

It’s easy to forget that as humans, we’re wired to want to help each other. Your partner is more likely to be sympathetic if you explain how the situation came about and involve them in helping you sort it.

Talk frequently

The more you discuss your finances together, the better the outcome is likely to be. Plus, it’s likely to get easier the more you talk about it. Practice makes perfect, after all. Before these talks, check out these 4 communication habits to avoid in your conversations going forward.

Set a joint budget

Agreeing on a joint budget can help you both understand where the money is being allocated – particularly if you share a bank account. But if you’re not comfortable opening a joint account, remember to take things at your own pace – there’s no financial finish line.

Ask them to hold you accountable

You might find it helpful for your partner to hold you accountable for responsible money management. For example, by reinforcing positive spending habits and addressing negative behaviours as and when they happen.

Don’t let money become the ruler of your relationship

Financial insecurity and infidelity can often stem from inequalities in a relationship. For example, if you’re the breadwinner or you earn significantly less than your partner. Of course, money can be difficult to talk about in times like these. But at the end of the day, it’s not something you should allow to have control over your relationship. Have a conversation about how you can both feel like active participants in your finances, regardless of your income.

Try these conversation-starters

If you’re stuck for an opener when speaking to your partner about money, why not take inspiration from these questions?

  1. What does money mean to you?
  2. What are our financial goals?
  3. How much debt are we comfortable having?
  4. What do we agree (and disagree) on when it comes to money?
  5. Is there anything that keeps you up at night regarding our financial situation?
  6. Where do we see ourselves in 10, 20, 30 years’ time?
  7. Is there anything you’d change about the way we manage our money?
  8. What would we do if we got into a sticky situation financially?
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