Should Couples Go to Therapy for Their Money Problems?

Adam Putterman
February 16th, 2021 | 7min
Photo by Nate Dunlao
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The real question isn’t “should couples go to therapy” but “when.” In every couple, each individual comes into a relationship with preconceived money habits, views, and biases. Maybe one of you is a spender and the other a saver. Maybe one of you has specific goals and the other doesn’t care. Maybe one of you views money as safety and the other as an enabler of fun. Regardless, we all have money baggage.

A lack of understanding of your money history can cause a lot of problems. Yet it can be uncomfortable to talk about without guidance and support! One of the biggest predictors of the success of couples therapy is how long a couple waits before seeing someone: wait too long, and the chances for success decrease dramatically.

In this article we’ll talk about some of the best (and earliest) times to see a couples therapist to talk about money and other things.

When it makes sense to talk with a couples therapist about money.

Let’s dig into it! Every relationship has its life stages. Each of these stages has new challenges and opportunities, many revolving around money. Below you’ll find a list of big, money-centric moments that many relationships will face. Although not every couple will face all of these, you’re probably close to one of these right now.

Getting to know each other...

It may seem like dating is too early to see a couples therapist or seek premarital counseling. But we at Actually strongly believe it’s never too early! When you're dating, you might benefit from working with a couples therapist when you:

  • Start to talk about splitting meals and activities in a fair and equitable way.
  • First move in together and share expenses.
  • Get engaged and begin to plan for a wedding.

Just like all facets of your health, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. At this stage in your relationship, premarital counseling or couples therapy can do so much good! Because it’s early, you can focus on establishing healthy communication practices, better understanding your past, establishing a collaborative approach to making decisions, and envisioning an exciting future together.

Committing for the long-term...

Many couples start to first consider couples therapy at this stage. Sadly, most will wait 6 years on average between wanting to go to couples therapy and actually seeing a couples therapist. By that time, some issues may have festered, making the problem worse. But you can do better! At this stage, you might decide to see a couples therapist when you:

  • Making joint career decisions.
  • Are thinking of buying something expensive or long lasting like a car.
  • Begin to plan for kids.

At this point, you’re truly living an integrated, joint life. There’s no separate, singular issue - everything is related. Couples therapy is an effect way to find quality time together, resolve recurring arguments, and address things that are going unsaid (like resentment around money habits or goals).

Settling down together...

Many couples in therapy at this stage want to work on larger topics or challenges. Or they’ve come to realize that investing in your relationship is always a good idea. At this stage, you might decide to see a couples therapist when you:

By the time you’re settled, you’re making much bigger decisions. Many of these will have profound and lasting effects on your life...and money will be a factor in all of them. Some of these decisions, like buying a house, are so big that they can be challenging to talk about on their own. Even though you might be particularly busy, you can consider leveraging virtual couples therapy to break down the problem and create a safe space to work through a difficult conversation.

No matter what’s going on in your life, it’s always a good time to get outside perspective and expert support.

You know how important it is to prioritize your physical health. But don’t forget about your relationship health. Money is a key part of relationship wellness and there are countless times that you may decide to see a couples therapist to talk about finances and money.

If you’re looking for a good first step, you can always start with some self-guided questions:

  • How are we currently budgeting?
  • How did our parents treat money? How would we like to be different or the same?
  • What are our short-term and long-term financial goals? How does our life today need to change to achieve these?
  • Do we want to merge our finances at some point? How will we figure out the right approach?
  • How should we approach investing and planning for retirement? Are there any things we can change right now?
  • When we run into money problems or disagreements, how will we talk about them?
  • When was the last time we argued about something money-related? What was the root cause there?

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