What Is Financial Intimacy And Why Do I Need It?

communication financial empathy financial intimacy Feb 08, 2022

We don't tend to think of intimacy in terms of finances. Yet, developing financial intimacy is one of the most important skills you and your partner can cultivate to create a thriving relationship and financial life. 

The topic of money can be fraught with conflict, however when you work on developing financial intimacy money can actually bring you and your partner closer together. 

What Is Financial Intimacy

Financial intimacy begins with basic level honesty. It means sharing financial information with one another. This can include things like student loan debt, retirement savings, and past bankruptcy. 

However, financial intimacy goes a lot deeper than that. It also includes feelings, beliefs, and behaviors around money. 

When a couple is financially intimate they feel safe and comfortable talking to their partner about any topic about money.

The opposite of financial intimacy is financial infidelity, which is keeping secrets from your partner about money.

Why You Need Financial Intimacy

Financial intimacy is a cornerstone of a strong relationship. When a couple achieves financial intimacy they have trust in their relationship and their financial lives, even when things are challenging. 

A recent survey revealed that 29% of the baby boomers and 41% of those belonging to generation X reported ending their marriage due to financial disagreements with their partner. Another study shows that financial disagreements may be the #1 predictor of divorce. 

Issues with money have deep roots and can reveal issues in other facets of the relationship. 

It's clear that couples who disagree about money and have difficulty communicating about money have a higher risk of their relationship falling apart than couples who feel more secure in discussing financial matters. 

This is why it’s so essential to work how money and your relationship intersect. 

How Do You Develop Financial Intimacy? 

There are several things you can do as a couple to develop more financial intimacy in your relationship.

Learn Good Communication Strategies

The foundational thing that couples need in order to develop financial intimacy is good communication skills. Without good communication skills, couples cannot talk about money. 

Good communication skills help couples minimize financial conflict and find common ground. 

Yet, we aren't taught good communication skills in school and many parents do not pass on this information to their children. 

So how do good communication skills develop? They either develop through modeling, which means watching other people communicate well. Or they develop through purposeful learning. 

If your parents didn't have good communication skills or fought a lot about money, then the chances are that you model this behavior yourself. If so, then it's time to purposefully learn more about good communication skills by reading books or taking courses like my course The Couples Guide to Financial Intimacy

Have Open Conversations About Money

There are many things that are important to discuss when it comes to money in order to achieve financial intimacy. 

These include: 

  • Facts About Financial Life
  • Feelings About Money
  • Beliefs About Money
  • Behaviors With Money

Facts about your financial life include things like retirement, investment, and savings accounts, amount and interest rates for your debts, loans you've taken out, the money you've loaned to other people, and expenses. It can also include sharing things like past financial hiccups and money challenges that you've experienced. 

Feelings about money might mean talking to your partner about how you feel when your bank account goes under a certain number, how being responsible for paying the bills makes you feel, how you feel about the money you make at your job, or how you feel about supporting your adult children or your parents financially in the future. 

Beliefs about money are often related to how you grew up. They can include things like whether you believe it's easy to make money, whether you feel that people who make a lot of money are greedy or impressive, whether you believe that entrepreneurship is a good idea or dangerous, or even whether you believe that parents are responsible for paying for their child's college education. 

Behaviors with money include things like how much you tend to save, how you budget your money, what types of things you tend to splash out on financially, whether you prefer to use generic brands over name brands to save money, or even what type of investment strategies you prefer. 

Be Transparent And Honest About Money

Honesty can feel challenging when it comes to money. 

There is so often shame and guilt around the topic of money. So many people either avoid discussions about money or they get very reactive when it comes to talking about money. 

Think about it, how often have you seen people completely skirt the issue of money? Whether it’s about discussing a raise they deserve with their boss, talking to their friends about how to equitably split the expenses for an upcoming vacation, or having a discussion about retirement and investments with their parents. People tend to feel as though money is something to be kept in the shadows and avoided. 

However, it's only when people feel that they can honestly and openly talk about money in their intimate relationship that financial intimacy becomes possible.

This means that you can talk to your partner about all things regarding finances from how money is invested, to money spent on a recent shopping trip, to the secret money stash you've been hiding for a rainy day. 

When you have the ability to be transparent and honest about money your relationship will benefit tremendously. 

Develop Empathy About Your Partner and Money

When people feel judged they often shut down, and this is especially true when it comes to challenging conversations about money. 

Many people find that the topic of money is taboo. They feel overwhelmed by conversations about money and have either very strong emotions about it or avoid the topic completely. These responses are often due to things like attachment styles and beliefs about money developed when you were a child. 

When you can take the time to understand your partner on a deep level oftentimes money conversations become easier. This isn't because money becomes less of a hot button issue. Rather, it's because you have empathy and understanding for where your partner is coming from. 

When people feel understood they feel more willing to be vulnerable. Vulnerability requires honesty and openness and a safe place in which to express these things. In order for vulnerability and honesty about money to be part of your relationship you need to develop a deep understanding of one another that allows you to say "even though I wouldn't have made that choice, I understand now why you did". 

If you're ready to develop financial intimacy in your relationship and to heal your relationship with your partner, and with money, then join my course The Couples Guide to Financial Intimacy.

Would you like more 1 on 1 support to develop financial intimacy? Then perhaps Therapy Informed Financial Planning is for the two of you. I invite you to schedule your free 30-minute discovery call today.

Wishing You Healthy Love and Money,

Ed Coambs



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