Think that love conquers all? Not when it comes to your bank balance. So what happens when rands get in the way of romance? We spoke to finance experts, psychologists and couples in the know, so you can have the best of both worlds.

Description: For Love Or For Money

The Beatles were right – money can’t buy you love, but it can tear it apart

When last did you talk to your partner about money?

30 percentage more likely you’ll get divorced if you disagree about finances once a week, rather than a few times a month. (Source: Utah State University)

Not a flippant discussion about whose change you used for the last car guard, but a serious conversation about what money means to you, your spending habits and who pays (or who you feel should be paying) for what?

If you had to think about it for a while, we’re not surprised. According to Kiki Theo, money coach, transformational facilitator and author of Money Alchemy, Money Well and Wealth Journey, communication is what matters most in relationships, but we often lose sight of this.

Joburg-based clinical psychologist Liane Lurie believes each partner has their own unique financial language and relationship with money. For instance, some may prefer that each partner be responsible for their own expenses, whereas others believe the money they earn should contribute towards mutual benefits, care of each other and day-to-day living expenses. This is fine, as long as you discuss it before making a long-term commitment, she says. While you don’t have to agree all the time, compromise is crucial.

“You might want to consider dividing the payment of bills and living expenses, creating a joint account (and agreeing on your monthly contributions) and discussing purchases with your partner before you make them,” says Lurie. “You’re part of a union, which requires balance and sharing”

And in the current economic climate it’s more important than ever to find common ground. According to Future Fact 2011, 62 percent of urban South Africans have to budget carefully and struggle to make ends meet in their household. The question is: could these struggles be made easier through good communication? Say, for example…

… You’re the breadwinner

Description: Increasingly, women are earning more than their partners.

Women are increasingly earning more than their partners, and provided each partner has an equal say in how money is spent and invested, this arrangement can work, says Lurie. “It’s important that your partner feels like he’s contributing equally (in his own way) to the stability and wellbeing of your relationship and family,” she says. So if he’s a stay-at-home dad, he’s saving you a ton of money on crèche fees. “Many stay-at-home dads (and moms) feel that their contribution is inferior to cash, which is incorrect” says Theo. “Their contribution far exceeds the monetary value of employing a nanny or domestic worker”

And remember: it’s not fair on him if you use your earnings as a power card. Nontle*, a 22 year-old candidate engineer from Secunda, was a university student when she and Vuyo, 24, began dating. Vuyo was starting his own media business and nay spare cash went straight into the company, which meant Nontle paid for everything else. “This was unsettling for me, as I’d never had to pay for a boyfriend before. I paid for everything we did – excursions, dinners out and more. Unintentionally, I ensured that Vuyo knew it was my money we were spending; if we disagreed on what to buy, I’d say, “These are my finances we’re talking about,” says Nontle. However, now that business has improved, it’s Vuyo who is picking up the tab. “He’s so unlike me when it comes to expenditure – it feels like our money, not his. I’ve realized we’re in a partnership.”

Feeling frustrated by his lack of earning power? He may be contributing in other ways. “Each man has his own love language,” says Lurie. His may be to take care of you by making you tea in the morning or lending a listening ear when you’re stressed – and those qualities shouldn’t be undervalued.

At the same time, don’t play down your extra earnings, urges Cape Town – based psychologist Diane Mallaby. It’s important to challenge traditional and conservative views that stereotype male and female roles, especially given the financial difficulties many couples face now.

… You have different financial values

Description: You have different financial values

Think back to how your parents dealt with money. Did they speak to you realistically about the family’s finances, or was it something discussed behind closed doors and represented only by gifts, holidays and plastic cards? “Your upbringing becomes entangled with your partner’s,” says Maropeng Ralenala, a clinical psychologist from Joburg. “Differences can be emotionally charged,” and reveal themselves in surprising ways “from issue of security to being hurt if your spending is criticized,” she says.

Mandy, a 25-year-old student from Cape Town, has been with her fiancé, James, for nine years. She grew up with a stay-at-home mom and, after seeing how one breadwinner alters the power dynamic within a relationship, vowed that she would be financially independent when she was older. Jame’s family struggled financially and, determined never to be in that position himself, he’s become a go-getter in the IT world in order to earn enough to pay for everything he desires. “James’ money habits concern me because there is such a great disparity between what we each earn. I can’t keep up with him,” says Mandy. “I don’t feel comfortable with the amount he spends on things, knowing how the majority of our population lives. He’ll go out and spend more on clothes during one shopping excursion than some people earn in a month.”

Having different financial values in a relationship isn’t a problem, says Mallaby, but “compromise and communication are essential” Ralenala agrees. “You should both take an objective view and consider what’s the best for the individual and the relationship. It’s a team effort, not a you-versus-me battle”

“I know James can – and wants – to support us as a family,” says Mandy. “On the flip side, though, I wish he would work less and spend more time with me”

Discussing their differences openly has helped Mandy to be less critical of James. “I’ve come to respect that he deserves to spend his money how he wishes; after all, he works hard for it and would never spend so frivolously if he was struggling financially. He, in turn, has assured me that he wants to earn enough to ensure the children we plan to have one day will have the best possible opportunities. This means that when he goes out and puts down R3 000 on a coffee machine, I’m not as sensitive about it as I might have been in the past.”

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