It’s not uncommon for some long-term relationships to experience a shift in dynamics, with one partner becoming financially complacent.
For example, if one partner starts to earn more money, the other partner may begin to financially rely on the breadwinner. Or, one partner might start taking charge of every aspect of the household’s finances.
While it’s not innately bad for one person in a relationship to earn a little more or prioritize paying the bills, Jessica Alderson — relationship expert and co-founder of So Syncd — said there should be a balanced dynamic in a relationship. If one person feels resentful or pressured to constantly provide, it can create an unbalanced power dynamic and lead to problems.
Fortunately, it’s possible to get back to a balanced dynamic. Here are some tips for avoiding financial complacency in a relationship.
Have an Honest Conversation
Rather than keep feelings bottled up inside, Alderson recommends anyone having issues with financial complacency in their relationship have an honest conversation with their partner.
Do not, however, make the conversation only about money. “This should be a holistic talk about your relationship,” Alderson said. “It’s about how you both contribute to your partnership and how you work together as a team.”
Use this conversation to express how you’re feeling and why you feel this way. Don’t forget to listen to your partner’s point of view, too. “They might surprise you and show you a different side of the story,” Alderson said.
Not sure what to talk about once it’s time to discuss money matters? Laura Wasser, family law expert and chief of divorce evolution at Divorce.com, recommends sharing financial goals, spending habits and worries with each other. Doing so can help couples work together toward a common objective.
Start Setting Goals
After having an honest conversation together, Jacqueline Fae, CEO and founder of IDL Match Club, recommends partners set goals together.
Think about what you want to achieve in the next three months, six months and year. Do you want to buy a house? Earn a higher salary? Pay off credit card debt? Build an emergency fund? Once you identify your goals, write them down and begin putting these goals into action.
How does this happen? Fae recommends looking into steps you can take that can allow you to make more money and feel better about yourself. If a partner has a goal of earning a higher salary, for example, their action step may be to look for and apply for jobs that pay more or pivot their careers.
As you start setting goals together, don’t neglect your current financial picture. Wasser recommends crafting a budget and ensuring both partners are actively involved in managing their finances. Pay attention to the inflows and outflows of money each month. Doing so may help prevent any potential money disagreements.
Check In With One Another Regularly
Having an honest conversation and setting goals isn’t a one-and-done deal to keeping financial complacency out of a relationship. Wasser said couples need to have a regular check-in together. This allows you to review your financial progress, adjust budgets as necessary and stay on track to reaching financial goals.
In a healthy relationship, Alderson said both parties bring a similar amount of value to the partnership. Each person has unique strengths and weaknesses, meaning they may have different roles or different ways they contribute to relationships. A balanced dynamic does more than keep financial complacency at bay. It allows each party to combine their strengths to make a team that is stronger than the sum of its parts.
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