A couple of man drinking coffee and discussing
December 12, 2022

Chapter 2: The Eye-Opening + Confronting Conversation You Need to Have with Your Partner

Author: Vanessa Stoykov
Category: Manage Finances

Money Matrimony
On a scale of one to ten, how honest are you with your partner when it comes to money?

Come on, come clean.

If you’ve lied to your partner about money—sneaky credit card use, being deceptive about how much you paid for something, buying shoes or stocks without telling, secretly slipping some extra cash to the kids when you said you wouldn’t—you aren’t alone.

Look, we’ve all scuffed up a pair of new shoes and told our partner they’re old (or maybe that’s just me, but hey, I learned this behaviour from someone!).

Maybe you’ve done something bigger, like gambled the savings away or put money into an investment that went bust. Maybe that money you’ve both been putting away for your kids’ education has been funding a little side project for some time now.

I have friends who’ve been victims of systematic lies where their partner has racked up a lot of debt and taken out a secret second mortgage—I mean, that’s serious stuff. But I’ve seen it happen.

Transparent Talks about Money
Lying to a partner about money is more common than you might think. Research shows that anywhere from a third to almost half of us admit to having lied to our partners.

Lying is human nature, and we do it for several reasons—to protect ourselves and to try not to hurt the people around us. Maybe we do it to avoid conflict and keep the peace and avoid disappointments. Maybe we just know our partner wouldn’t agree, so we do it anyway and avoid having the conversation about it.

Most of us could probably be a little more honest with our partners when it comes to money. And it’s important for several reasons.

You probably don’t need me to tell you that money is one of the leading causes of separation and divorce.

It’s something couples argue about all the time, no matter how much each partner is earning, and financial stress that builds over time can be catastrophic in a relationship. Whether you have a lot of money (individually or combined) or not, money can cause major rifts in relationships.

Being Financially Honest with Your Partner
Do you feel you need to sit down with your partner to discuss some bigger things you’ve been putting off? When was the last time you sat down and really opened up to your partner about something you’ve been avoiding—something that’s been giving you grief and you haven’t told them yet?

Maybe you don’t want them to go out drinking on the weekend, or you think it would help you both save more for a house if they didn’t order from Uber Eats so much. Maybe you’ve seen the hidden shopping bags or found out the credit card was over the limit again.

Opens on Jane and Jasper having wine in the lounge room of her house.

Jane: I love this wine. Who made it again?

Jasper: Friends of mine who own a vineyard.

Jane: Cool, how much is it a bottle?

Jasper: I am not sure; I buy it by the case.

Jane: Case? That’s a lot of wine! What does that cost?

Jasper:(knowing he spent $180 on that case) Not much. Practically a freebie.

Jane: Oh, okay. That’s good. I can take a bottle over to Mum and Dad then.

Jasper: Ah, sure, no problem. (Awkward silence.)


Jasper didn’t want Jane to think he spent too much on booze. He was hoping to make a good impression and did not want how much he spent on alcohol to be an issue. This is only going to be obvious later in their relationship, as Jane realises how much Jasper does spend on drinking.

If we’re going to live together, share our lives, and maybe raise children together, we’ve got to be honest with each other. A good relationship starts with trust and honesty, and it all comes down to clear communication. The healthiest, happiest (and wealthiest) couples don’t hesitate to talk about their finances, even if it’s a bit uncomfortable at times. The more you do it, the easier it will become. You’ve just got to get comfortable with being uncomfortable to start the conversation.

We have a long way to go to get past the shame and social stigma when talking about money with our partners, no matter how long we’ve been together.

It’s easy for me to say you’ve got to be open and transparent with your partner about your finances. If that is not how you have done things before, then it might take some setting up for that first conversation. If you are in a new relationship, it is easy to watch for the signs on money. Are they spending on credit cards? Do they seem stressed about money? Or ultra-tight? The signs of money personality and situation are clearly there from the beginning.

When you are in a relationship, sometimes approaching a topic like money is all about timing. Don’t bring up money when your partner is stressed or focused on something else. Set a time. Make a date. Yes, bring wine, or chocolate, or any other conversational lubricant that will help this go smoothly.

Because this isn’t the conversation you have where you pull out the credit card statement and ask about the line items. This is much bigger. Much more crucial. And you won’t get to any sort of resolution in your first conversation—so don’t go in expecting this to be a one-off.

Taking the time to check in as a partnership is important on a number of levels. Money is just one of them, and most of the conversations we all have about money are usually about what bills are coming in, and who is paying what by when. They are very transactional and don’t really give either partner a chance to voice their goals, dreams, or worries when it comes to money and how things are tracking for you.

So, this is it. Relationship dream time. This first meeting needs to be the start of a two-way, ongoing dialogue. How’s it been for you? What are your frustrations or fears around money? What would you love to do? Together or separately? The aim of this session is to talk about the bigger picture of life and money. And it will only be effective if both of you go into it committed to being honest and open.

You: Okay, I’m glad we are doing this.

Your Partner: Well, I am glad we have this beer and cheese platter.

You: Me too. So, I will start. My big dream is to buy a home. I am so sick of not having a garden and being able to put pictures on my walls.

Your Partner: Yes, a garden would be good. But a mortgage? I grew up in a family that was a slave to the mortgage. Not keen to repeat that.

You: Hmm. Okay. Well, I guess we would have to be able to afford it. I figured out we would need a $100,000 deposit to start to look.

Your Partner: What! How are we ever going to save that?

You: I am not sure. We would have to figure it out together. But first, do you even want a home that’s ours?

Your Partner: I am actually happy living close to work and renting. We would have to move way out to buy.

You: That’s true. Maybe we could look around here and see what things cost.

Your Partner: Looking would not hurt, I guess.

You: Okay, deal. We can look for six months and assess again where we are at.

Your Partner: Sounds good. Cheers to that.

Happily ever after begins with a brave conversation around money. And also time. You cannot change mindsets quickly. Each conversation has to be about progress, not the final solution.


Modern Money Relationships
So much has changed societally in the way men and women interact about money.

Talking about money with our partners is actually quite a new thing, historically speaking. Our grandparents and their parents would have rarely, if ever, talked about money together. Our own parents would have found a simple system that worked for them early on, and that was that.

When I was growing up, Dad was the money earner and Mum would manage it and buy what we needed. As far as I know, they didn’t discuss it further than that, except when big purchases like a holiday came up. Having regular check-ins about the finances wouldn’t have been a thing. They would have known what was coming in and what bills needed to be paid and would have occasionally made a decision to buy something. One would have said, we can afford it, or we can’t, and that would have been that.

These days, the typical conversation isn’t about what one partner is willing to give the other as housekeeping money, it’s whether a couple will open a joint bank account. Many couples keep their finances separate nowadays, especially millennials. Some couples have had other long-term relationships, have kids with an ex-partner, maybe own their own house already, or have some other investments or properties stashed away, before they found each other.

This means that we also come to our relationships with a whole bunch of financial baggage and beliefs about money. We’ve written an entire collection of our own stories about money growing up, and we bring all this into our relationships.

Something that is crucial to figure out before committing to a partner is how financially compatible you are with them and what it means for your relationship. Do you have the same ideas and values about money, or are you on completely different pages? Do you even want the same things? It’s so important to iron this out now.

If you can get that right, you will save yourself a whole lot of heartache later down the track, when you wake up and realise you were not a match made in heaven after all. It’s always better to know up front.

Talk Soon, Talk Often
Whether you’re in a new relationship or you’ve been together a while, it’s always a good idea to have regular money talks, after you have your first “deep dive” session. It doesn’t need to be boring with spreadsheets; you can pour a wine (if you drink) or order takeout together and make it fun. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been together. You can use it as a chance to get to know each other more. It’s a good opportunity to check in and iron out some money tension that may be lingering.

You: Hey, here’s wine. Let’s chat about where we are at this month with money.

Your Partner: Really? Can’t we just watch Netflix?

You: Well, I had some good news. I checked out our shared account and we have $150 more left over this month than I budgeted for. We can add that to our holiday account.

Your Partner: Oh. Well, that’s good. Actually, I forgot to tell you, I won’t drive to work anymore. Petrol’s too expensive, so I will catch the train. So that’s another $100 a week we can put to good use.

You: Wow, great idea! We are killing this budgeting thing.

Your Partner: It feels good to know we are kicking some goals. Let’s cheers to that.

The earlier you can get on the same page and start talking openly and honestly about money, the better off you will be in the long run. Because this is really about aligning your personal values and goals together and supporting each other through whatever life throws at you. If you avoid these conversations, things can turn really sour, especially if they’re left under the rug for quite some time

This is an extract of Chapter 2 from Vanessa’s new book. You can order it here



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Each day I wake up excited to inspire everyday people to open up and take control of their money, regardless of their history, goals, or savings amount. About Vanessa >>


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