Valentine’s Day is tomorrow, which made me think about the many conversations I have had with couples about their money over the years. Some of these sweethearts have been married for 50 years while others just celebrated their first anniversary together, and a few were in the early stages of love. The commonality between all of them was the role money played in the state of their relationship.
What I have witnessed is there is a right and wrong way to love your sweetheart financially. Does it mean the one who spends the most on the other person loves the most? Absolutely not! Unfortunately, many of us have fallen victim to this mindset, which is frequently perpetuated in Facebook brag posts and ring selfies of newly engaged couples. There is nothing wrong with sharing your news and excitement, but too often we confuse love with the size of our diamond ring or money spent. Real love isn’t dictated by what we buy, but what we do.
Please do not get me wrong, I enjoy jewelry, nice homes, cars and fancy trips too, but after 25 years of marriage and 23 years of helping couples find money happiness, I know material objects do not create a sustainable relationship. Those things are the icing on the cake. A long-term, happy and financially strong marriage is built on much more.
So if buying things isn’t the answer, what is? Fortunately, it’s quite easy and you won’t have to stress over whether they will like it.
Loving someone financially is making sure the combined efforts in the relationship result in creating the financial life you both desire. To do this, you may have to make sacrifices and choose your shared goal over spending money on yourself. This isn’t always as easy as it sounds as many couples struggle to go from “me” to “we” money mindset.
Think about the last time your sweetheart put a shared goal above his/her desires. How did you feel? I bet you felt pretty loved. I know I do. My husband travels a lot, which is exhausting for both of us. I know he would rather be home with me and the girls, than at a hotel, but his sacrifice brings us closer to our financial dreams, and it makes me feel very loved.
Your To-Do: If you don’t have shared goals, that is your first step. Ongoing, recognize your partner for the sacrifice s/he makes to help make your goals a reality. Make sure they know you appreciate their sacrifices and how loved it makes you feel.
Unfortunately, I frequently meet couples who have secret spending habits or credit card debt. Nothing destroys trust or feeling financially loved than this one. If you have to “hide” debt or purchases, there is a deeper issue that needs to be resolved. It’s time to come clean and face the music, if you have been keeping debt secrets from your sweetheart. It may not be easy, but continuing to hide your debt, will only make it worse.
If you are single and would like to be in a long-term relationship, love your future partner by staying out of debt or eliminating the debt you do have. I hear the real story behind closed doors, and no one wants to be strapped with debt that they did not accumulate. It is not the right way to start a relationship and may speak volumes about your ability to manage money without you saying a word.
Your To-Do: If you have debt, create a plan to eliminate it. If you have a partner that you’ve been hiding it from, stop. They won’t be happy, but being honest is the first step to regaining their trust.
Life happens: People die prematurely, get disabled and need long-term care. The most loved I have ever seen someone feel financially is when I deliver a life insurance check. Amidst their grieving, this check eliminates many of their immediate fears and concerns and allows them to process their loss.
None of us may enjoy paying our insurance premiums, but unless you are so financially secure that the loss of you or your spouse’s ability to earn an income would not negatively impact your family’s financial well-being, than you need to protect them. Making sure your family is okay financially is one of the most loving gifts you can give your family.
Your To-Do: I know this task is not always easy, but make sure you have proper insurance coverage, including life, disability and long-term care. And don’t set and forget it either. Review beneficiaries and evaluate whether you need to increase coverage (as your family and/or salaries grow) annually.
There are a number of studies that show how giving to others creates a happier state of mind. This Valentine’s Day think about donating your time, money and/or talents with your sweetheart. This is something Chris and I do regularly and we love it.
In relationships, it is so easy to get focused on our own lives, including our frustrations with one another, whether it’s little or small infractions. It’s not that we should pretend they don’t exist or not find solutions to them, but giving is a great way to regain perspective. To remind both of you of your good fortune and many blessings. When Chris and I can spend a day making someone else smile or share our money with a cause we both love, it strengthens our relationship.
Your To-Do: Sharing together as a family is important, but also make a special effort to share just as a couple too. It makes it extra-special when it something private between the two of you.
Valentine’s Day may be an overly commercialized holiday that leads to me eating too many dark chocolates, but it can also serve as a good reminder of the importance of financially loving your partner too. It’s not a one day holiday, but something I do every day and urge you to do the same.
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