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If you were asked what you believe the majority of arguments in relationships are about, what would your response be? Money? You’re right!.  Financial issues continue to be the center of many debates and arguments in relationships. While the issue has been around for centuries, the truth is–personal finances is a topic that remains a taboo that will withstand the test of time.

When considering taking your relationship to the next level, it’s just as important to get to know your partner’s financial background as it is to know their family background. Although finance is a black and white topic that many may assume is just about numbers, the less admitted characteristic about our financial background is that it often shows us hints of other things such as their character, their sense of responsibility, and even their level of maturity. Granted, most of us were given credit between ages 18-22, a time when we were old enough to have responsibility, but not wise enough to handle the responsibility. In evaluating a potential mate, it’s important to discover whether the person will be an asset to your financial picture, finance neutral, or a financial liability.

Before you attempt to analyze and/or judge your mate’s financial status, it’s a good idea to know you own, in case your mate wants to evaluate your finances.   If you’re serious about your feelings, consider getting to know each other, financially and use the opportunity to build trust in your relationship.  To do so, take the following actions:

  1. Know your Credit history- Order a “Tri-Merge” credit report (a report showing information from all three Credit Bureaus – Equifax, Trans Union and Experian) and learn how to read it.  What’s your credit score? What scores are acceptable for purchasing a home or care? What kinds of companies report to credit bureaus? What’s on your report?  Remember, having no credit can be just as harmful as having bad credit.  Discuss your past financial issues.
  1. Take a workshop on credit and/or finances, together.  Remember, ALL credit issues can be fixed and knowledge leads to understanding.  Use the information gained in the workshop to open a dialogue between you and help you get on the same page with your finances.
  1. Income Potential – Discuss factors that can influence your individual and joint income such as:
    1. Current position and salary
    2. Career path and aspirations
    3. Preparation for meeting your career aspirations (need more education, need to relocate, feasibility, time frame, etc.)
    4. Responsibilities (children from previous relationships, older parents, etc.)
    5. Working too much to enjoy one another
  1. Discuss your current debts, openly and honestly (School loans, mortgages, car loans, credit cards, child support, etc.)

Once you both know the facts, it’s time to take on the difficult conversations, especially if you’ve found out some information about your partner’s finances (or your own) that disturbs you.   Let’s face this head-on:

  1. So there’s some tension- the truth is out and you’ve got to deal with it. The tension comes from the following:
    1. Entertainment – You love to dine out, shop, and travel, but you clearly can’t afford to
    2. Maintain bills – After doing your joint budget, once the student loans kick in you realize you can’t afford to purchase your dream home or live comfortably
    3. Gifts – You realize the expensive gifts and vacations you’ve been enjoying while dating were all paid for on a credit card.  Now, the debt is staggering, and if you marry, the debts from the luxurious gifts are partly yours to pay off.
    4. Stuck – You’re in love and envisioning a future together, yet you realize that the credit issues, combined debt and the income potential for you and your partner is such that you won’t be able to live the life you’d hoped for, at least not in the foreseeable future.  You feel stuck with no ability to grow, expand, or improve.

Once we face the truth, and deal with the tension associated with facing the financial reality of your relationship, it’s time to develop a strategy to help you avoid the pitfalls of financial stress.  In order to avoid financial issues, be proactive and take the following steps:

  1. Discuss your Financial Objectives
    1. Develop a budget
    2. Repair or start building your credit
    3. Outline your Financial goals and objectives and create a plan that includes a specific time-frame for accomplishing your goals
    4. Improve your financial intellect and build a firm financial foundation for the rest of your life together
  1. Discuss your roles in the family’s finances and your expectations
    1. Provide – Will you have a one-income lifestyle or a two-income lifestyle? Who will be the provider for the family. What are you expectations, i.e. work hours, income, free time, vacations.
    2. Provide and Pay – Are you both expected to pay into the family bills out of your income or is one person paying the bills and the other spending the money?
    3. Track – Who will handle the family finances?  Who’s the most responsible with paying bills and tracking funds?
  1. How will you communicate?
    1. It’s important to be open and honest when discussing finances.  Few things can destroy trust in a relationship quicker than hidden bank accounts, undisclosed debts, and mysterious spending habits.  Discuss your level of commitment to being open about finances.
    2. Engage in dedicated meetings specifically to address financial issues.  Money is important enough to warrant your full attention.
    3. Select a Financial Planner – In situations where you can’t or don’t agree on a financial matter, you’ll need a professional to help you resolve the issue. Develop a relationship with a financial planner before you need a financial planner (or a divorce lawyer).

Finances can make or break a relationship.  Certainly, love is not enough when the bills are late, the refrigerator is empty, and the eviction notice is on the door.  In order to avoid the harsh realities of financial problems, we have to take steps to deal with them and not try to avoid them.  While financial responsibility is important, by no means should it be the determining factor in the selection or elimination of a potential mate.  Remember, financial wisdom can be acquired through study, caring, compassion, patience, kindness, and love, can’t.  Select your mate with your heart, but take the steps necessary to secure your financial future.

Sophia Avery, MA and Donavan Sterling West are a dynamic Relationship Counseling team!  If you’d like further information, discussion or a Relationship Counseling session, please call us at visit our website at www.ChristianTalkTherapy.com AND  become a fan of the Avery-West Counseling team! Visit our page on  FaceBook  at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Philadelphia-PA/Avery-West-Counseling-Team/273651777811