Sarina Finkelstein (photo illustration)—Getty Images (3)
By Martha C. White
February 10, 2016

Relationships, like managing your finances, take work. Luckily, there are some strategies experts recommend for getting your financial house in order that can help you navigate tricky spots in your romance, too. (There’s even a Financial Therapy Association!) Read on to see what love can learn from money.

It helps to know where each of you is coming from. Like many other personality traits, people get their ideas about money from their parents. Relationship experts Jon and Beverly Meyerson say that recognizing this dynamic is the first step toward defusing conflict. It’s helpful to articulate what your parents’ relationship with money was like so that your partner knows why you think the way you do, and can respond in kind. That’s good advice to apply to any other of your partner’s deep-seated attributes that drive you crazy.

A little space is a good thing. The Meyersons recommend that couples keep separate bank accounts so that both have a measure of responsibility and independence when it comes to their finances. They also suggest having a joint account for splurges like vacations. This line of thinking also can be applied to your interests and hobbies. You should have something you do together that you both enjoy, but don’t force your partner to pretend to care about scrapbooking or fantasy football just because you’re into it.

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Keep the lines of communication open. Robyn Crane, author of Mind Over Money Management, says good communication is crucial when you’re talking about money, and it’s true for other parts of your relationship as well. Being able to talk about issues in a calm, rational way without expressing judgment about your partner’s opinion—even if you disagree—is the best way to work through challenges without fostering resentment or letting hurt feelings build up. Financial planner Mary Beth Storjohann recommends that couples carve out time once a month to sit and go over their finances. Like date night, but instead of dinner and a movie, you spend the evening working in tandem to solve a problem, figure out how to achieve a goal, or plan for your future. Come to think of it, that’s not a bad way to spend a regular date night either; it doesn’t have to be all deep thoughts and heart-to-hearts, but putting down the popcorn once in a while to discuss more important things could strengthen your relationship in the long run.

QUIZ: Which TV Couple Is Your Money Style Most Like?

Apply organizational principles to your challenges. When Chicago couple Lisa Dell and Cory Tiffin got married with $10,000 in credit card debt, they decided to tackle paying it off so they could start with a clean slate. They were methodical, reducing their expenses, then working their way up to paying off more than the minimum balance so their debts would disappear faster. To keep the stress of tight finances and high monthly payments from damaging their relationship during the 20 months it took to pay off what they owed, the couple used spreadsheets and kept meticulous records to track their spending. While not everything is as cut-and-dried as dollars, the more organization and clear parameters you can throw at any relationship challenge, the better. “If you communicate regularly and keep good records, it keeps you from having a major falling out,” Tiffin says. That’s good relationship advice regardless of what your bank account looks like.

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