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You just got married, and everything in your life is rosy and wonderful. Of course, you want it to stay that way. One of the hardest things to talk about is money, so oftentimes couples sidestep it and flat out ignore it as much as they can. There is so much to think about: how much you'll save and how much you'll spend, what will go toward individual expenses versus joint financial endeavors. Without spelling that out, and understanding where each person is coming from, anger and resentment, as well as guilt, can build between you. How, then, can you preserve the honeymoon period and handle your finances in a way that supports both of your needs? By asking these three important questions.
1. Here are my individual financial needs. What are yours?
The first essential step is to take responsibility for your personal necessities and desires, rather than go along blindly in the same spending pattern you had when you were single. Make a list so you can determine your priorities, the things you can't live without. For example, maybe you have Starbucks coffee every day, or you get a manicure once a week. Consider and decide what you need, and what you might be able to give up.
This is a total necessity before you begin the bigger conversation with your new spouse, and by doing this you won't wind up feeling that your partner is controlling how you spend your money.
2. What are our joint financial goals?
Now you are ready to talk together about and determine your joint financial expenditures. For example, how much you want to be spending on rent, entertainment, vacation and travel, shopping, basics essentials, helping out family members, gift giving, and anything else that might come up. Together make a list of what your life as a couple costs. Figure out what feels like a balance for each of you to contribute to this joint fund, so that neither person feels resentful that one of you isn't carrying their weight.
That said, in the event that one of you isn't working, know that you still have individual needs. It will work out as long as you're able to get a bird's eye view of what your joint expenses look like, so that you can estimate a comfortable percentage to put toward those. You want to know what your financial picture looks like. The objective is to not feel like your partner is treating you like a kid and telling you what you can spend, and you aren't treating your partner that way, and you can both be responsibly aware.
3. How can we compromise so we both have what's important to us?
This is the most essential step of all, and this is where the compromise and problem solving come in. At this point the hope is to line up your values so you can be on the same page, and begin to look at what you are willing to change or give up (individually and together) so you can achieve the shared goals you have set for yourselves. Demonstrate a willingness to make choices and personal sacrifices. It might mean getting a Starbucks drink twice a week instead of every day, or deciding you still need the monthly pedicure but don't care as much about the weekly manicure.
If you aren't always in agreement about the things you want, say you want to go on vacation and he wants to save for a mortgage, look to see where else you can work together to save money so you can do both. That might mean not eating out as much, and packing lunches for work. All of this will enable you to work as a team, while still being able to preserve your individual needs free from guilt.
Dr. Jane Greer is a New York-based relationship expert, radio host, and the author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship. Connect with Dr. Jane Greer on Facebook and follow @DrJaneGreer on Twitter for her latest insights on love, relationships, sex, and intimacy.