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3 steps to financial honesty in your relationship

Money does not grow on trees. It is not something most people come by easily or have in excess. It is quite the opposite for the average person. This can make finances a pain point in even the strongest relationships.

Talking about debt, account balances, small purchases, big purchases, short-term plans and long-term goals can be difficult and emotional. You may not agree with your spouse. You may be embarrassed by impulsive choices. You may think certain purchases are not a big deal.

We are all human. For many of us, these normal human reactions cause us to ignore the conversation, leave out important details or actively hide purchases or entire accounts. This range of behaviors has a name: financial infidelity.

At least two out of five people admit to committing financial infidelity

The National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE) conducted a survey of individuals who have combined their finances with their partners. Just over 40 percent of the respondents admitted that they committed financial infidelity. Another 40 percent said they knew their partner had.

We all commit these infractions to some degree or another. The good news is that a single minor instance of financial infidelity won't lead to divorce. The bad news is that 75 percent of those surveyed said that financial infidelity had affected their relationship.

Over time, the little omissions can add up to cause permanent damage or make bigger omissions easier to make. How do you prevent financial infidelity from causing a problem in your relationship?

  • Step 1: Talk to one another. Don't avoid the conversation about money. Have it. Make talking about money a normal part of your life. After a while, it won't be such a scary subject.
  • Step 2: Define your expectations. Make sure you are both on the same page as to what you should discuss and what is ok to ignore. For example, if you think $100 is a large purchase, set that as your threshold for a conversation or a purchase that requires mutual approval.
  • Step 3: Address issues before they become problems. If you or your spouse does make a mistake, address it. Don't make the conversation about pointing fingers, but don't dismiss the issue as unimportant.

This is the basic foundation for having good conversations about money. There are many other things that you can do to help tackle financial issues. What are some things you could try (or might do already) when it comes to handling money in your relationship?

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