Financial Empathy: The Key to Creating Financial Intimacy in Your RelationshipJun 23, 2022
For couples, financial intimacy isn’t as simple as adding your incomes together and dividing by two. To create financial intimacy, you have to be able to see things from your partner’s perspective; that means having empathy.
Perhaps you can express empathy with many different people – like your co-workers, family members, friends, or even complete strangers on the street! But what about the person you’re spending the rest of your life with? Do you have the same level of empathy for them? Do you have financial compassion for them?
Let’s start with what financial empathy isn’t
Financial empathy isn’t feeling bad for your partner, judging their reactions, sympathy, or having the right answer. And it certainly doesn’t mean doing something that feels unsafe or makes you uncomfortable.
Instead, financial empathy is actions that put your partner first and help them feel loved and understood – even when the two of you are having a complicated conversation about money. Feeling bad for your partner won’t get you anywhere because it puts up a wall between the two of you and shuts down any real progress from happening.
Financially empathetic partners build each other up financially
Couples with financial empathy learn to talk about money and make time to look at all the major and minor areas of their financial life. Both partners can explore their various needs and goals by working towards collaborative financial decision-making.
Couples with financial empathy will reflect on the past together to understand each other’s relationship with money and the meanings they have given to money. They are not judgemental about how their partner feels about a particular situation. Instead, they use curiosity to understand better why their partner may be feeling, behaving, and thinking the way they are.
From this more profound perspective, couples can understand the importance of financial needs and goals. They have a better idea of how they can build their partner up financially by creating spending plans together or writing down all the big purchases they’ve made recently.
How to tell if someone is financially empathetic?
There are many indicators to identify if you have experienced financial empathy. An essential one is when you feel your body relax and you feel like your partner gets you.
Another way to explore financial empathy is to reflect on these questions
Do we leave each other feeling safe and secure when it comes to money?
Are we able to talk about our feelings about money with each other?
Can we be vulnerable with each other about how we handle our finances?
Are we honest about what makes us angry or frustrated around money matters?
Is there open communication between us regarding how much debt we have or what credit cards or loans we owe?
If you are answering yes to these questions, your partner is listening to you and likely not getting defensive immediately. They can empathize with your financial reality because they’ve had similar ones, or they can imagine the emotions you are experiencing.
Going Deeper To Understand Breakdowns In Financial Empathy
To achieve financial intimacy, you must be able to communicate about money with your partner. Not everyone is good at talking about money, which can lead to communication issues regarding spending, retirement planning, insurance coverage, taxes, and estate planning.
If you have an insecure attachment style – as do approximately 50% of all people – then you are more likely to avoid or become overwhelmed when communicating about finances with your partner.
Avoidance and overwhelm are often because of fears about judgment or criticism from your spouse or partner. Financial empathy holds back on judgment and criticism and leads with curiosity and compassion. You can read a recent blog post I wrote called Your Attachment Style and Improving Financial Intimacy to take that next step forward on your journey of financial intimacy.
Wishing You Healthy Love and Money,
MBA, MA, MS, CFP®, CFT-I™, LMFT
Curious About Your Attachment Style?
Take the Attachment Style Quiz now and learn how it impacts your relationships, finances, and life!