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Why money talk can help your sex life
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There's only one thing that's more embarrassing to a stiff-lipped Brit than talking about money, and that's talking about sex.
At least, that's what a new report into family finances from the insurer Aviva suggests. It's found that sex is the only subject more taboo than money, meaning some couples and families end up in real financial difficulties.
What's more, this isn't the first time a study has shown that Brits are a reserved bunch when it comes to cash. Last year, Prudential found that one in 10 people hide savings from their partners because they don't trust their decision making, while a survey from Nationwide found that 22% of people have bank accounts their partners don't know about.
So how damaging is this financial reserve and how can couples overcome it?
Money talk and pillow talk
Christine Northam, a counsellor with the relationship support organisation Relate, says that talking openly about money is hugely important.
She says it's not just about financial problems, as a lack of openness can affect every aspect of a relationship - including couples' sex lives. "Money problems often reflect other problems in a relationship, they show an inability to negotiate more generally," says Northam. "The way you handle money can be said to reflect how you feel about life, your values and your relationship together."
Terry Prendergast, chief executive of the charity Marriage Care, agrees. "Part of the process of coming together is sharing on a range of levels. A refusal to talk about money can therefore be a barrier to intimacy, or sets up suggestions of secrecy."
Couples have always argued about money and spending priorities, and the recession has dragged even more people into difficulties.
However, Northam says that money is often associated with power in relationships, so potentially the downturn is simply highlighting existing problems.
She explains: "So often money is about influence within the relationship; it's about responsibility, it's about different priorities and it's a very powerful relationship currency. What happens to the money can very often reflect wider truths about the couple."
The joy of discussing finances
If this has made you decide to go home and discuss a financial question with your partner, how should you approach it?
Prendergast suggests devoting some specific time to the discussion and setting a few ground rules before you begin. "Start out by accepting that you both might end up with different points of view, where both are correct for the individual concerned," he recommends.
"Show your partner that you are taking note of what is being said - we use a speaker/listener technique with couples to teach them how to let the other have their say, not interrupt and actively listen to what is being said."
He warns against using a discussion about finances to drag up past arguments: "Don't assume anything about what your partner will say; genuinely listen and do not use the situation to stoke up or resurrect old issues."
Northam suggests keeping your goal in mind, to keep the conversation on track: "If you can meet this challenge of putting all financial cards on the table and sharing how you manage your money, it will be a very valuable part of your relationship."
Talk about how you feel "rather than blurting things out or playing the blame game", she adds. For example, perhaps an overdraft is making you anxious or the bills cause you to feel out of control.
Avoiding the blame game
It can be hard to put any issues to one side and discuss finances openly and honestly with a loved one. But, sex aside, your financial and relationship security could depend upon it.
Here are some tips for making an awkward conversation easier:
- Work out what state your finances are in before you start; tally up income and outgoings. Doing this together could be a good way to get started.
- Don't wait for a storm, like an unexpected bill, before talking. Instead, choose a time when you're both relaxed and not defensive.
- Be open about how you feel. If your money worries are made worse by past experiences then admit that.
- Don't demand full disclosure if it's not needed. Your partner has a right to stay in control of their own spending money - just work out together exactly what that is.
- Agree some shared financial goals, such as clearing debt or making savings, and then form an action plan that allows both of you to work towards it.
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Which of these financial mistakes have you made most often?
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- Accidentally giving wrong information on a credit application
- Forgetting to make a repayment on time
- Making multiple credit applications in a short space of time
- Not checking your credit report before applying for new credit
- Not staying within your agreed credit limits
- Taking on too much credit that you’ve then found hard to manage
- Forgetting to sever financial links with a previous partner
- Not having enough of a credit record