LOS ANGELES, Calif. (FOX 11) - Dr. Jenn Mann, a licensed Marriage and Family therapist, relationship counselor for VH1's "Couples Therapy" and author of "The Relationship Fix: Dr. Jenn's 6-Step Guide to Improving Communication, Connection & Intimacy," joined us on Good Day LA to share the most common financial issues couples face and how to overcome them.
What do you think about having only a joint bank account? Instead of both having separate accounts? We have been married for three years.
This is the most common question I get about couples and money. It is important for couples to feel like they are a team and a joint account is a great way to reinforce that philosophy. If they are a dual income couple, I like both people to be putting money into that joint account. In addition, I like for their to be an agreed upon amount that gets put into each person's individual account. That amount should be based on discretionary income and savings goals. Those individual accounts are play money for each person. This helps couples avoid fights about money spent on adult toys such as expensive shoes, golf clubs, electronics, etc. Couples should agree not to criticize each other's spending choices from those accounts as long as their don't spend beyond their means.
I find myself being bothered by my boyfriend of one year always wanting to split the bill every time we go out. I don't mind doing it every once in a while but it happens every time and I don't know how to approach the subject.
In this day and age, men get a lot of mixed messages about women and equality. You are now moving past the honeymoon phase of the relationship and it is important that you let your boyfriend know how you feel. How can he please you if he doesn't know something is important to you? It is important for you to examine what him paying for meals means to you. Does it make you feel loved? Taken care of? Appreciated? He may assume, especially if you are equal earners or you earn more, that you want equity when it comes to paying for meals.
When you have the conversation, use what I call in my book The Relationship Fix, the "sandwich technique." Start with the positive, then the "meat" of the conversation, and then end with the positive. Let him know about some of the things he does well that make you feel loved and cared for. Then, share with him about how it makes you feel when he splits the tab, making sure to own any of your own issues that may impact how you feel about this (for example, "When my Dad left my mom, he never paid child support which made me feel really uncared for so I know men paying for me is a sensitive issue for me"). Then end with the positive. Let him know how much you appreciate him having this conversation and how much you love him.
I am sure that the two of you will be able to come up with a new plan that works much better, if you use this technique.
Does being a professional woman help or hurt a relationship, as far as power struggles go? I know a lot of women who feel inferior or are put down by the men they're with because they don't work, which is usually the root of most of their issues. Do you think if these women were more financially independent it would create more harmony in their relationships?
What matters in these kinds of situations is knowing the personality of the person you are with. Money is power in a relationship. There are a lot of single income couples where the wage earner truly recognizes the partner who does not bring in income and sees the value of what they contribute to the relationship (childcare, nurturing, maintaining the home, supporting the other person's business goals, working in the income earner's office to help the company, cooking skills, etc.). This set up can only work when both people feel recognized for their contributions and there is not resentment. Also, both people being aware of and having access to money in the relationship is important. When that does not occur, money is more likely to be used as a weapon of manipulation, power and control.
Very often couples start out their relationship with one set up and, later, want or need for things to change. That transition is usually difficult. Change is hard on the system, even when it is good change. In relationships we have a lot of unspoken rules. When we change those rules there is usually a difficult period of transition.
When a financially dependent partner becomes financially independent, it changes the dynamic of the relationship and has a massive ripple effect. Any time you change the plans and expectations in a relationship, it is important to make sure both people are on board first.
If a person's love language is gifts does it mean they are incompatible with someone who's love language is quality time?
No, it does not. It is actually rare for couples to have the same "love language," as Gary Chapman author of The Five Love Languages points out. What matters is that you each learn to speak each other's love languages.
If gifts are your language, he needs to be sensitive to the fact that for you gifts are visual symbols of love. When your love language is gifts, it is not about the cost of the gift if is about the thought and symbolism. As long as it is consistent with the giver's financial abilities, it is going to hit home. You must be aware that for him having your undivided attention, eye contact and quality conversations are magically. You both must work to meet each other's needs.
For those who do not know about the love languages, they are: words of affirmation, quality time, gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. I explain in more detail and offer tips in The Relationship Fix.