Tips For Approaching Your Partner About Money Issues When They Aren't Always Receptive

Romance isn't always so, well, romantic. At some point, you and your significant other must negotiate not-so-lovey-dovey issues like bathroom boundaries, splitting chores, and — most notably — how to handle money. Discussing what's going on in each of your bank accounts might not make either of you swoon the way a heartfelt "I love you" or perfectly timed kiss would, and it could even stir up some conflict. In fact, 31% of partnered adults in a 2014 American Psychological Association survey admitted that money was a significant issue in their relationships. Another survey by SunTrust Bank and Harris Poll (via CNBC) revealed that over half of respondents would consider divorcing someone over their debt.

Even if finances aren't an easy subject to talk about, they shouldn't be swept under the rug. Like most other relationship issues, avoiding money problems can have much worse consequences than confronting them, no matter how uncomfortable it may be. So what should you do if your partner shuts down whenever you pull out the spreadsheets and bank statements? With a few handy tips, such as taking the process nice and slow, you might finally get through to your money-avoidant S.O. — and maybe even move closer to your respective financial goals.

Don't take it personally

We know: It's hard not to take it personally when your partner chooses to stay mum on the topic of money. You might wonder why they don't trust you enough to open up or whether they really take your shared future seriously. However, there are many reasons — that have nothing to do with you — why someone might not want to divulge details on this sensitive subject.

Instead of going straight into budgeting and debt repayment schemes, see if your partner is comfortable talking about their "money story" instead. A money story is the mindset and set of beliefs each person has concerning their finances, and it's often shaped by what they witnessed growing up. For example, your S.O. might feel powerless when it comes to money, a feeling that may be influenced by the financial instability they experienced as a child. As a result, they dread talking about money and need you to broach the subject gently and compassionately.

Remember that it's also not a personal attack if your partner doesn't see eye to eye with you. "In every season of life, you're going to find that you and your partner have different ideas about money," Ed Coambs, a financial therapist and owner of Healthy Love and Money, told Everyday Health. "It's not about getting through one financial problem or making one financial decision, it's about finding a way to make decisions and solve problems together."

Take it slow

Money is right up there with family planning and religious beliefs when it comes to tough topics that eventually have to be confronted in a relationship, and sooner is often better than later. However, rushing into heavy money talk can be overwhelming for some people, which is why it's a good idea to pace yourself as you progress through your relationship. "A lot of experts in money tell people that they should talk about money on the first date," personal finance guru Ramit Sethi explained to CNBC Make It. "I'm like, 'Have you ever been on a first date? What are you talking about?' You don't talk about your IRA when you're having the first drink."

Instead, Sethi suggests talking about money as it comes up naturally. "Think about the first time you take a trip together. If you decide perhaps to be in a committed relationship, that's a natural moment to start talking about it," he said. Other experts agree that a series of small, low-pressure conversations can be the best way to ease into the topic of money with a loved one. "I think the micro-conversations are way more important, because if you have just one giant money talk, a lot of times emotions get involved," Andrew Giancola, host of "The Personal Finance Podcast," told The New York Times. "And when that happens on both sides, you can cause a lot of friction."

Schedule tough conversations

Even if spontaneously chatting about money feels like no big deal to you, it can feel like a complete ambush to your other half. If that's the case, and if your partner isn't so receptive whenever you bring up finances, try scheduling conversations in advance. "If you're trying to broach the topic of money, it's always a good idea to give your partner a heads-up," Chrishane Cunningham, a therapist affiliated with the Chicago Counseling Collective, shared with The Cut. Let them know you'd like to discuss a specific financial topic, such as how to divvy up rent or save for an upcoming couple's trip. Then, let them decide the time and place.

You can also combine your money convo with a fun date activity so your partner can view the appointment more positively. "I suggest couples plan a date over a glass of wine or hot chocolate, so it's something they would actually look forward to, in a nice environment," Dasha Tcherniakovskaia, a couples therapist specializing in financial issues, explained to CBS MoneyWatch. "Talk about money in a more neutral, non-judgmental way by asking about values as opposed to numbers."

Once you've planned — and completed — your first big money date, suggest follow-up conversations with your partner. For example, try adding a weekly budget check-in or a quarterly deep-dive to your shared calendar to keep the momentum going.

Focus on 'we,' not 'me'

Remember how we said your partner's money avoidance might have nothing to do with you? That's true — but it's also possible that how you approach the subject of finances sends them running to protect themselves. Ask yourself: Do you lecture your partner about their spending habits? Do you give them unsolicited financial advice? Have you blamed them for your shared financial struggles? If so, it's time to try a different approach.

Next time you bring up a money-related issue, imagine you're on the same team and that you each hold equal power in the situation rather than viewing it as a you-against-me battle (yes, even if your partner initially refuses to cooperate). Keep the conversation focused on your financial compatibility and similarities. "It doesn't mean that me and this person think the exact same way about money or make the exact same amount of money," financial activist Dasha Kennedy told Shondaland. "What that means is me and this person have shared values and goals." Kennedy added that it helps to have "shared objectives around finances and how we, as a couple, will achieve them."

If you're struggling to find common ground or notice that money talks still become combative, consider reaching out to a couples counselor or financial advisor. Sometimes, a neutral voice is just what it takes to get you and your significant other on the same page.

Set clear and honest boundaries

Money might not always be easy to talk about, but if your partner continues to look away from financial issues, consider it a warning sign. "If they won't talk about money at all with you, that's a huge red flag," Ramit Sethi revealed to CNBC Make It.

The reality is that your partner's money habits and issues will affect you too, especially if you decide to live together, get married, or raise a family together. For example, if your S.O. doesn't have an emergency fund, they may rely on you if they run into trouble. Additionally, depending on where you live, you may be legally responsible for paying back any debts your partner incurs after tying the knot. And if you're not in agreement when it comes to financial goals, you'll likely experience more conflict when deciding how to spend and save your hard-earned money.

Clearly, these are big issues that can't be ignored for long. Be transparent with your partner about how important it is to you to discuss money and what boundaries you'd like to put in place. You might decide that you won't share a home until you've created a joint budget or that marriage is off-limits until you've both opened up about your debts. While these boundaries can be difficult to set, they can protect you — and your relationship — from bigger money issues later.