There can be a lot of fear, anxiety, and shame when asking your partner to support you financially. It can also be challenging to ask your partner to continue to support you financially if they have been doing so for some time.
However, with the right tools and support of financial intimacy, you can both find a way together where providing financial support works for both of you.
This is something I have been figuring out the hard way in my own life where I have counted on my wife’s bread-winning position to help fund my journey through grad school and launching my own financial therapy practice.
Recently I was on the Dollars and Dumbbells podcast with Justin and this very topic came up for fitness entrepreneurs. Many of them are ready to launch their business and go out on their own and they need to count on their partner's finances to fund the family and business while they get their business up and running. Yet what’s holding them back is the fear of talking with their partner about the financial implications and asking for their financial support.
In talking with Justin it reminded me just how many times I have worked with couples where one person was helping to finance the other partner's passion, business, education, or some other part of life, but then it turned sour.
The resentment, hurt, and sense of betrayal are real when expectations are not made clear and talked through.
Navigating financial support in intimate relationships is no small matter.
Read on to learn more about how you can get started with fostering financial intimacy with your partner and asking for new or continued financial support for your dreams, business venture, or education.
Understanding both of your emotions
Asking for financial support is part financial and part emotional.
Being able to work with the wide range of emotions that get evoked when asking for financial support is an important ingredient to working through your financial request.
How To Navigate Emotions
Acknowledging emotions is an important first step in the process of managing them and fostering financial intimacy.
When you understand what’s going on inside of you, you can begin working with the full range of emotions rather than burying or exploding all over the place.
Feelings are neither good nor bad—they just are an important source of information.
It is what we do with our feelings that matters.
Recognizing, accepting, and talking about our feelings with a supportive listener can help us gain better control over how we respond to those feelings.
If you haven’t had this experience in the past then therapy is often the place people go to start to develop the capacity to engage effectively with their emotions.
Identifying Your Emotions
Some people find it easier to identify their emotions by naming them (e.g., I feel angry when you forget my birthday). Others prefer to describe their emotional state (e.g., I feel hurt). Still, others like to use physical sensations as cues (e.g., My stomach feels upset when I see him/her).
There is no right way to experience emotion; there are only ways that work best for each individual.
Recognize It's OK To Be Afraid
Asking your partner to take on more financial responsibility and provide financial support in a relationship is often scary, no matter how much you love someone.
There can be a lot of fear, anxiety, and shame involved when asking your partner to support you financially.
It can be challenging to get up the courage and be vulnerable enough to talk about money with one another. But making that leap is crucial—not just for you as an individual but also for your relationship. That's because learning how to take care of each other financially is essential to ensuring your relationship lasts through good times and bad.
What Are Some Of My Options?
You have a few different options when it comes to asking your spouse or partner for financial support.
First, you can initiate a discussion without the request for monetary help. This is a good option if you want to make sure your partner knows what’s going on with you financially, but you don’t necessarily need their money at that moment.
Do keep in mind that initiating a conversation about money—even one where you don’t actually need money from them—can cause anxiety and stress in relationships.
If possible, try to avoid putting your partner on the spot by talking about money when you have set aside intentional time to discuss the matter at hand. If you decide to take this route, make sure you have some backup plans should things go south.
A second option is to share how much you’re struggling financially without making any requests of your partner.
Let them know how the extra money would help.
Be as specific as you can about how you are going to use the money and if there is an expected return of the money.
This way, they will know exactly how much money would be helpful and can decide whether or not they want to give it based on their own feelings and beliefs.
While sharing how much you need may seem scary, remember that many partners do care about each other’s financial situations and will likely want to help if they can.
However, it’s important to remember that every relationship is different.
Some partners may feel uncomfortable giving money because of previous negative experiences or because they simply don’t think it’s their responsibility.
Create a budget together
Having a joint budget is one of the most concrete ways you can show your commitment to creating a shared future together.
Creating a budget together takes time and energy, but it’s well worth it—once again, you’re working side by side toward common goals. And don’t forget - Budgets aren’t about deprivation—they’re about prioritizing what matters most and paying attention to how money moves in and out of your relationship.
When you create a budget together, take some time to celebrate with each other when you hit certain milestones. It will help keep things fun and light-hearted while also reminding both of you that there are rewards along the way!
It’s not just about who makes more money or spends less.
What works best for couples isn’t an either/or scenario. Instead, they have figured out what they value and work hard to honor those values financially.
Whether you earn more than your partner or vice versa, make sure you talk through where income comes from, as well as expenses.
The goal here is to increase financial transparency and clarity about where the flow of money is going.
When Past Trauma Blocks Progress
Childhood trauma and childhood financial struggles can block the ability to budget together and create meaningful plans to ensure financial stability.
Past trauma impacts our ability to put ourselves in healthy relationships and is a contributing factor to struggling with trust in even an otherwise safe relationship.
Sometimes it can take years of therapy to achieve the skills necessary to discuss money, budgeting, and financial planning with a spouse or romantic partner.
As I have worked with countless couples they often recount that this is one of the most important lessons they learn. They had not connected how their childhood trauma of emotional criticism, judgment, and cruelty becomes connected with the way they experience money. And they didn’t realize how it had impacted their comfort with either asking for financial support or providing financial support to their partner.
There are many types of childhood trauma that get mapped on to a person's relationship with money.
It is important to consider how your own past painful experiences from childhood may be impacting the role of financial support in your relationship.
Set goals together
When you make a money request, be sure to sit down and discuss your finances with each other beforehand.
Clarify goals, define values, and set parameters.
It’s also important that you be transparent with one another about how much money is coming in and out.
You may find yourself getting closer after talking about finances than ever before!
If you have experienced trauma, know that feelings of fear, anxiety, and shame are not uncommon when trying to create shared goals.
I have had many clients express concerns about being controlled or disappointed around shared goals and that becomes a barrier to trying to set goals together.
Healing from trauma is not a quick fix for setting and achieving goals. However, I have watched as my clients learned about each other's trauma and its impact on their lives and it has created new freedom and flexibility in setting new goals together.
Give each other time and space (and lots of love!)
The process of moving towards financial intimacy and providing financial support to your partner is a process of exploration, healing, and growth.
Because it is such a personal matter, time and space are important.
Give each other time and space (and lots of love!) to feel out what works best for the two of you.
Remember it is not just about the money provided or not provided, but what it means and represents to both of you.
Getting through the meaning and representation makes the decision on how to support each other so much more meaningful.
If you need more support in talking with your partner about finances I am so excited to be sharing The Couples Guide to Financial Intimacy with more and more couples.
The course provides them with the foundational knowledge, healing exercises, and skills to navigate both everyday money realities and the more complicated ones like asking your partner for financial support.
I created The Couples Guide to Financial Intimacy for couples like you that want a better marriage than their parents had, and don’t want to let financial differences drive a wedge between them.
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