Thinking About Merging Money With A Partner? Why It’s So Hard

Merging money, or even just opening up the conversation, is not only emotionally challenging, but it can be legally challenging as well, says financial therapist Robin Norris. “Money tends to be banking, and banking is legal,” she says. But, before we get into that: “Why would you want to? Why are you hesitant?” Norris asks. “Money is the biggest trust issue. People think it's sex, but it really is money. Money is intimate, it ties into our hopes and dreams and wishes and desires.”

Extreme anxiety about merging money to fall into one of two scenarios: You have emotional baggage or there are trust issues present.

For the latter, “Do you not trust them, or rather, not trust their spending? Have they shown behaviors in the past that show they might not be great with money? It might be hard to come to terms with these questions, but if you don't trust them, you need to address that,” she says—noting that just because you don't agree with how your partner spends money, doesn't necessarily speak to something more sinister. “You could just have different spending values. I liken it to the love languages: We all have different ways of expressing our values; we all have different ways of spending money.”

The former, well, that's a bit more self-awareness. “You might be bringing in the trust issues coming from your past. For example, did a parent leave your family with financial burden? Experiences like that can, of course, make you weary about merging finances later on. You know, at this point it has really nothing to do with finances, it has to do with your own wounds,” she says, noting that if it's a personal problem, it might require some internal reckoning. “But what I've found is that once the person is able to explain this to the partner, they respond respectfully.”

Okay, so after you've had some self-evaluation, you can move forward with the practical end. First up: The conversation. As Norris explains (and a theme that often comes up with money topics like this), it's not a simple yes and no—nor is it confined to one simple conversation. When you are with someone, and discussing finances, it should be ongoing. “There can be middle ground; it's not that you have merge everything or not.”

From there, how and in what capacity to merge finances is highly individual. Not only is it entirely dependent on your comfort level, but there's also legal factors at play. “It varies state-by-state, but lets say you get married, but choose to remain…

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