Love and money is a cocktail that can have a bitter after taste if not properly prepared. As with any good drink, it is about a balance of the ingredients, and finding balance is exactly what I want to talk about today. A good balance means finding ways to advocate for your money in a partnership.
My partner and I never used to talk about our money. Total avoiders. But once we moved in together we kind of had to talk about money. Our conversations felt judgy and stressful and totally out of balance. This usually led to one of us feeling bad about money. Fast forward 3 years of working on our love and money cocktail, we are able to confidently advocate for our money needs and have met some major milestones in our saving and retirement goals.
If talking about money with your partner has left a not-so-pleasant aftertaste as it did for me, then it might be time to start advocating for yourself. Advocating for yourself when it comes to money will help restore or build a balance for you and your partner so you can get a little closer to your financial goals.
5 Ways You Can Advocate For Yourself When It Comes to Money and Love
Keep in mind these tips aim to be as inclusive as possible for any type of couple. You do not need to live together, combine finances, or be monogamous to use these tips and advocate for yourself in a partnership.
1. Decide On Your Couple Financial Approach
If you and your partner have not yet discussed a financial approach, this is something that needs to happen. While there are endless ways to approach your couple money, here are three common ones:
- Combined finances: Typically this involves a joint account and all income, expenses, and spending are reviewed together and paid for out of the joint account. It is the more traditional approach to couple money.
- Split or Equitably Split: Split finances means you keep separate accounts just as you did while single pringles, but you find an easy way to quickly exchange money (i.e. Venmo, PayPal etc.) in order to split joint costs. While 50/50 may feel fair to some partnerships, this should be reviewed so it feels equitable for both of you (this is that advocacy part). For example, when we had split finances, we ended up moving from a 50/50 to a 60/40 for major expenses like rent since I made less than my partner.
- Totally Separate: Who says you need to combine or split? No one. It may work for your partnership to stay completely separate. This also means anything bought for the other person should be considered a gift. If it is not a gift, advocate for yourself by specifying ahead of time that you expect to be paid back.
This is number one on the list because having financial boundaries like this in a partnership is one of the best ways to advocate for yourself and your finances. Clear up the confusion about who is paying for what and why.
2. Know That You Matter, Not Your Paycheck Amount
If you or your partner have a significant difference in your income levels, this can affect the choices you make together as a couple.
For example, I have made less than my partner since we were together and significantly less when I was a teacher. I felt some jealousy of his ability to buy whatever he wanted while I was barely scraping by trying to meet our split finances. What I realized is that we were approaching our shared expenses as if we were both living on his budget. The reality is that I couldn’t comfortably afford some of the things he wanted to do and I had to speak up. Once I did, we reevaluated what we did as a couple and what we spent money on which alleviated my financial stress trying to keep up with my partner.
No matter how much you make, you bring value to the relationship, and saying ‘no’ or that you can’t afford something is not a mark on your value. It is advocating for your finances and creating boundaries for financial growth.
3. Focus on Changing the Language Used When Talking About Money
Words matter, especially when it comes to talking about money with your partner. In order to build trust, shaming or judgmental language needs to be consciously removed from money conversations. Avoid phrases like “Do you really need that?” or “Why did you buy that?” as it implies that a purchase was unnecessary, when in fact it could have been an important item of value to your partner.
On the other side, if your partner is the one using phrasing like this, a good way to advocate for yourself is using “if, then” statements. You could say, “When you say XYZ, it makes me feel like ABC.” Another option could be responding by saying, “I need to feel safe when it comes to my money with you, can you find a different way to ask that?”.
4. Do The Work to Unpack Your Financial Past with Your Partner
This is a hefty one, but a part of advocating for yourself is helping your partner understand your financial decisions and feelings about money. This often can begin by unpacking your financial past. To get started with this here are three questions you can each answer together:
- What is something your peers had that you knew meant they ‘had money’?
- How did your parents handle money?
- What is your first memory of using money? (Buying a gumball etc)
These questions set markers for establishing how you were each raised and what may have impacted your money mindsets. I wouldn’t recommend running through these all at once. Instead, set aside time to have a money date once a month to unpack your financial pasts.
5. Talk About The Worst-Case Scenario
Once you feel comfortable with your partner and have taken some of the steps above to advocate for yourself within the relationship, it is time to have one of the most difficult conversations. A worst-case scenario conversation is going to look at what happens to money and shared assets if the relationship ends or if one of you were to pass away. While it is sad and not something you want to spend days dwelling on, it is something you both want to discuss before a worst case scenario hits (if it hits).
Here are a few considerations that can help guide the conversation:
- What shared assets do you have?
- Are you each listed as beneficiaries on investment accounts? If not, does this need to happen?
- Do either of you have a life insurance policy (offered by work or purchased)? Are you listed on that policy in case of an emergency?
- Will anyone else be listed on investments and policies?
It is likely that these conversations will allow each of you to see an overview of your financials and have an idea of accounts etc. This is a way to advocate for yourself so you have a general idea about your financials should the worst happen.
Bottom Line: It Can Be Uncomfortable To Advocate For Yourself, But It’s So Important For Financial and Mental Health
As womxn in partnerships, there can be many barriers to advocating for yourself and your money situation. Those barriers vary for each person, but they are very real, and advocating for yourself is a journey that takes time. So be sure to give yourself grace to take it at your pace and give yourself space to try and have uncomfortable money conversations.
**If you ever feel unsafe in a relationship, then you could be experiencing financial abuse and these tips are not appropriate action steps.
Bethany McCamish is a brand expert and founded Bethany Works®, a full service design studio.
Before founding Bethany Works®, she spent five years as an English teacher and graphic design instructor building a regionally recognized curriculum. For more than 7 years she was integrated in the Pacific Northwest arts community running and curating shows that tell a story, all while sharpening her communication skills.
Over three years ago, she started a personal finance blog that brought her coverage from CNBC, Forbes, Business Insider, and two Plutus Award Nominations. That blog also led to her first freelance clients, which was the basis for opening her own business and being able to quit teaching.
Now, Bethany gets to spend her days combining her favorite things: design and writing.