Could Swapping Money Personalities With Your S.O. Make Your Life Better?

Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.
By Shana Lebowitz

In our “
Power Hack of the Week” series, we highlight one quick thing you can do each week to improve your personal, career, or money life.

Today, we’re offering you and your sweetheart a way to overcome financial differences — by walking in each other’s money shoes.

You know the old saying: Opposites attract.

But, while that type of chemistry may seem fun at first, it could potentially wreak havoc on a relationship — especially when it comes to managing your money together.

In fact, one well-known study found that tightwads and spendthrifts tend to marry each other. And, the more they differed on the spending scale, the more likely they were to fight over money — and report being dissatisfied in their marriages.

Here’s one thoughtful strategy to help avoid that kind of discord: Temporarily “try on” your partner’s money personality by adopting some of your significant other’s financial tendencies, says Olivia Mellan, a couples therapist, money coach, and author of Money Harmony: A Road Map for Individuals and Couples.

This way, you can better see where your loved one is coming from the next time you’re gearing up for a financial fight.
Illustrated by Mallory Heyer.

Why It’s A Power Hack 
There’s no denying that money can put a strain on your love life: Nearly half of people in a recent poll say that frequent disagreements over finances are a top source of stress in their relationships.

Perhaps contributing to the problem is the possibility that even “if opposites don’t attract right off the bat, [a couple will] eventually become opposite [in their money personalities],” Mellan says.

In other words, if two overspenders marry, one might turn into a superspender over the course of the relationship, making the other one seem like a saver by comparison. As a result, money arguments can still break out, even if you thought you were on the same financial page.

But, Mellan says that trying on your partner’s money personality can serve as an “empathetic bridge” that can help you understand why your partner treats money in a certain way. Moreover, it can help you identify negative money habits that you may not even realize you have.

Related: Our First Money Fight: The Trip That Almost Blew Our Marriage

How To Get Hacking 
For starters, you need to determine just how you and your partner define your money personalities by reflecting on typical behaviors: Does buying something nice pain you, while your partner can make spontaneous purchases with ease? Does saving come second nature — or do you find it hard to earmark funds for the future?

Next up: Pick a day when you and your significant other can “swap” approaches to money. For instance, if you’re the saver and your partner is the spender, purchase a non-essential item you’d normally forgo that day — maybe a hardcover bestseller, or a new sweater for your sweetie — as long as the purchase fits within your budget.

Meanwhile, your partner can take a predetermined amount of money — perhaps an amount that’s equal to what she’d normally spend in a day — and transfer it into a savings or investment account.

At the end of the day, both of you should write down how it felt to go out of your financial comfort zones, and discuss how the exercise may have taught each of you to empathize with the other person’s money personality.

Equally important? Be sure to “share verbally what you appreciate about what the other person is doing,” suggests Mellan. After all, perhaps your S.O.’s spending avoidance comes down to being proactive about retirement savings, or maybe his tendency to buy gifts is simply to show love.

The idea is that you can use these insights the next time the two of you are having a financial discussion, especially if it starts to get heated.

The final step of this exercise is the most gratifying: Reward yourselves with a treat that reinforces the positive aspects of your behaviors. Perhaps it’s a date night at a restaurant you’ve been wanting to try, or maybe a joint gift that will remind you of that Caribbean vacation coming up in a few months that you’ve started saving toward.

Ultimately, Mellan says, it’s about enabling you to communicate in a healthier way. Eventually you’ll see that your partner will never be the same person as you — but it’s probably those special qualities that drew you to each other in the first place.

Next: Long-Married Couples Confess: How We Talk About Money


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