Generally, you’ll find many different types of intimacy discussed by relationship and/or psychology experts. These include affectional, intellectual, emotional, sexual, recreational, spiritual, aesthetic, and social intimacy. While all of them are important, this common list highlights how often financial issues are downplayed in terms of relationships. Yet, money problems continue to be one of the top factors in marital strife and even divorce.
When you regularly, honestly, and willingly share private financial information with one another, you are engaging in financial intimacy. That’s the basic definition. However, let’s take a deeper dive to explore this misunderstood and underrated relationship component.
What Are Your Personal Values Around Money?
This question — asked of both partners — is an excellent place to start a discussion regarding financial intimacy. Why? Most people like money. Most people set goals about how much money they want. However, “personal values” concerning money are different.
There are many factors that foster and support your individual values, e.g. how you were raised, whether you prefer to spend or save, etc. To be clear, having different money values needn’t be a relationship dealbreaker. What’s not helpful is being unaware of your differences.
Fostering financial intimacy by discussing your values creates more understanding and compassion. It is the path by which you learn about each other’s economic mindset and the reasons for it. From there, it’s much easier to find common ground and compromise.
Financial Discussion Topics to Consider
Some couples want to save for a house or go on a big vacation each year. Discuss your wants and needs regularly to see where you do and don’t intersect. These commonalities and differences will guide you and indicate where you need the most work.
Do you want to save a certain amount each year? What about retirement funds? Will you start a family any time soon? Don’t leave the major decisions to chance. Plan ahead but always leave room for change and flexibility.
Are you in a financial position to survive a crisis? If you aren’t, what needs to be done ASAP? Do you agree on what constitutes an emergency worthy of dipping into your savings? Discussing these matters before disaster strikes can make a significant difference in how well your relationship fares during tough times.
Shared and Joint Accounts
There are legal reasons why certain assets should be shared. Consult a financial expert together to keep matters clear. Consider too that one or both of you may wish to have some financial autonomy. Talk openly about separate credit cards or bank accounts and your feelings about it.
All of the above (and more) are practical matters. But there’s much more to it than that. As you negotiate the functionality of finances, you must never lose sight of the partnership aspect. Intimacy can grow and thrive from the fertile ground of financial disclosure, honesty, and cooperation.
Some Key Elements of Financial Intimacy
Beyond the basics of sharing information, share your thoughts, feelings, and desires productively. Keep the following in mind:
- Respect each other’s values.
- Be transparent and open — no secrets!
- Be willing to have frequent, straightforward discussions on money-related topics.
- Make each other feel heard, respected, and secure.
- Remain open-minded to learn about each other’s personal approaches.
- Do not create a system in which only one partner has all the control and knowledge.
- Revisit financial agreements regularly to ensure they still work for both of you.
Additionally, keep in mind that “financial infidelity” is also a priority. Just as you do not betray your partner’s trust in any number of other ways, you must also live up to your commitments financially. Financial intimacy is founded on trust, transparency, and teamwork.
The Role of Couples Counseling
There are many tough topics every couple has to manage. It’s okay if you and your partner haven’t figured out how to master the details of financial intimacy on your own. Doing so in the presence of an experienced guide increases the success rate. This is an ongoing and evolving process.
Couples counseling is a proven path for partners looking to learn more about each other in a safe, supportive space. Your weekly sessions are an ideal setting to flesh out money values, goals, and viewpoints. If you feel you and your partner might benefit from deepening your financial intimacy, contact me and let’s talk about it soon.