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The One Financial Decision That Makes Couples Happier

communication power stress Dec 14, 2022

 

What's the one logistical decision that has the power to radically alter relationship satisfaction?

It's not whether or not you have kids.

It's not where you decide to live.

It's not whether you both work or whether one of you stays at home.

It's whether you hold joint or separate bank accounts.

In the United States, studies show that 43 percent of couples have only joint accounts, 34 percent have a mixture of joint and separate accounts, while 23 percent keep all of their finances separate.

How does such a seemingly inconsequential decision impact the health of a relationship?

new publication by researchers at Cornell University and The University of Colorado offers an intriguing answer. 

These researchers found a strong correlation between jointly held accounts and higher levels of relationship satisfaction.

But why?

It's not just because of the logistical advantages of joint arrangements, things like increased simplicity and efficiency. Instead, it's that joint finances seem to create a different relationship mindset, a mindset of "togetherness."

As these researchers explain, "it is important for couples to perceive their possessions and financial goals as shared." And it turns out that merging bank accounts just happens to be the easiest way to accomplish this goal.

This conclusion is good news for all couples.

It's clearly good news for couples with joint accounts. If this is you, just keep doing what you're doing and see if you can optimize this mindset using the tips below.

But it's also good news for couples with separate accounts because it shows that you don't need to merge your accounts to experience the benefits of joint finances. 

The deeper goal here, after all, isn't shared accounts. The deeper goal is this mindset of shared success and togetherness.

And while merging accounts might be the easiest path to achieving this goal, it's not the only path.

How else can you build a mindset of "togetherness" and shared success? 

 

Tools

 

1. Shift from "me" to "us."

When encountering big decisions, our default habit is to ask, "What's best for me?" There's nothing wrong with this lens.

But if you want to shift your relationship mindset, see what happens when you instead ask, "What's best for us?"

This simple shift has the power to radically reshape conversations over trips, spending, parenting, work, and all other areas of life in relationships. 

 

2. Neutralize power.

Separate accounts don't destroy relationships. Imbalanced power relationships do.

These imbalances in power arise anytime one partner has unchecked control.

How can you dissolve power imbalances?

The first step is to bring them out of the shadows and into awareness.

The second step is to neutralize these dynamics -- to ensure that, when it comes to the big decisions in your life together, you're participating as equals.

 

3. Get clear on your shared values.

Here's one final unlock for shared success. It's an exercise we often do as individuals or in organizations but mostly forget to do in our most important relationship: getting clear on your shared values as a couple.

You can use the Values Chapter of The 80/80 Marriage to walk you through the practice. But the big idea is that by getting clear on your shared values, you begin to think less like self-interested individuals, more like a team. In short, you experience more togetherness.

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