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5 tips for simplifying the difficult conversation.

Money consistently ranks near the top of any list of issues that cause conflict in relationships. It’s often a conversation caused by a reaction to some stimulus—bills coming due, budgets not being set or kept, overspending or an emergency that causes a financial bind. This makes it seem like every time you want to talk with your partner about money it’s a stressful situation. Rather than being proactive about discussing your finances, you avoid it.

Avoiding talking with your partner about money, however, isn’t the solution. Instead, you should take a proactive approach. Here are five tips that will help each of you ease into the discussion:

1. Make a date to talk about money.

This isn’t a romantic date, though a little wine and candlelight wouldn’t hurt the mood. This is an opportunity for you to have an open conversation about money. You won’t want to bring spreadsheets or detailed budgets to this date. You’ll just want to have an open conversation about where you are with your finances and where you hope to be in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years.

2. Talk about values, not numbers.

The values you discuss don’t have to be about money. Share what matters most to you—travel, family, making memories, gardening, taking your children to school. Whatever it is, let your partner know what you think is important, that way you can identify what you have in common and what makes you different. This will help you start to understand why you’ve made some of the financial decisions you’ve already made. If you value travel, and your partner values making your home more comfortable, you can understand why one of you is always looking for the next adventure and the other is looking for a new couch. As you begin to understand what each of you values and why you’ve made some of the spending decisions you’ve already made, you’ll find how you can support one another and begin to share even the values you didn’t have in common to start with.

3. Start planning for the future.

From how to pay for a child’s college to affording retirement, there are long-term goals you should consider. If you’re not discussing what your hopes and dreams are for what will happen at those crucial points, you won’t have an idea of what it will take to create the budget and spending habits that will get you there. That means your future will happen without your input. It will just appear by default.

4. Say “we” not “you.”

You’re in the relationship together, and your finances are definitely part of that. As you discuss your values and views for the future, avoid phrases such as “you want …” and begin to accept the desires as mutual by saying “we want …” This will help you start sharing the goals, and the work that will be required to get there. It will also help you find ways to plan for the future you’ll be sharing. Perhaps you need to cut back on how often you eat out, pick up a side hustle, or even rethink your career to find work-life balance. Whatever the case, by talking about it in terms of “we” you’ll be sharing the hopes and the responsibilities.

5. Listen to each other and keep having “money dates.”

This may seem obvious, but it’s truly important. If you’re not actively listening to your partner, you’re not going to understand what they value and how you can work together to accomplish your goals. Just as important as listening is keeping the conversation going. Have regular money dates where you talk about your goals and your dreams. You still don’t need to bring spreadsheets and budgets. Just a willingness to be open and honest about what you want to accomplish, and when you’d like to achieve it.

Sometimes, however, there are circumstances that can derail even the best laid plans. You might lose income, or a family member might suffer an unexpected and expensive medical issue. You’ll need to keep talking about your finances and your future when it happens.

If the unexpected has happened, and the biggest issue you’re facing about your finances is the amount of credit card, medical or other unsecured debts you have, you should talk with a Debt Consultant at CreditAssociates.

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Don’t let your debts keep you from having positive conversations with your partner about your finances. We’re here to help you live better, debt free.