It’s a commonly repeated truism that romantic partners fight most often about work-life balance and money; so it’s no surprise that discussions about these interconnected issues can be fraught with anxiety. But those conversations don’thave to be so difficult. In fact, they can be opportunities to connect deeply around shared values and to appreciate complementary differences.Here’s how to start.Talk About Values1) Set aside some time when you can be really present for each other, and you won’t be distracted by kids, housemates, or screens.2) Take turns listening and speaking. Speakers answer each question thoroughly. Listeners don’t share reactions to what the speaking partner is saying. Instead, they repeat back what was said, and then ask “did I get that right?” Once that is done, listeners ask the speaking partner “is there anything else?” Then you move on to the next question.3) Once the speaking partner has answered each question, the listening partner takes a moment to write down what was said and then the roles shift.
Take turns listening and speaking around these questions:• What does money mean to you? Safety? Status? Opportunity? Something else?• How much is enough when it comes to our goals and how will we know when we have it?• What is the most important thing to spend money on? What is the least important?• What are your expectations about each other’s career success and how that will contribute financially to the household?• What do you think I expect from you in terms of career success and financial contribution?• What tradeoffs and sacrifices are we prepared to make in order to take work opportunities that might bring in more money? Which tradeoffs and sacrifices would take things too far?• How was money managed when you were growing up? How does this impact how you view money now?• If you have children (or plan to have them): How much money is “enough” to raise a child on?Check InOnce you’re done having this conversation, check in with each other. How are each of you feeling? Agitated? Relieved? If you’re amped up or feeling anxious, take some time to do something separately that will let you each wind down and process what you heard.Review Commonalities and DifferencesTake out each of your notes and look through them. Find the common themes and the outliers. Try not to judge priorities as right or wrong, focus only on where you are similar and different.PrioritizeStart with the things you agree on easily. Rank those things in order of priority. Then move on to the things you disagree about.Each of you should be prepared to compromise on a couple of things that you value differently. For example, you might be willing to put off that expensive vacation, but in exchange your partner will prioritize getting a new sofa.If there’s an area where you absolutely cannot agree, then align on a certain percentage of each of your incomes that you get to use as discretionary cash with no judgments.Align Expenditures to ValuesOnce you have your agreed upon priorities, look at your income and fixed expenses. Then, based on the shared values you just discussed, figure out how much to save each month. Divide up the remainder of the monthly income based on the values you just prioritized.Guess What?You just made a budget! You did it with compassion and kindness for your partner’s needs and balanced those things with your own needs!Good job!