Do Money and Relationships Mix?

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Reader’s Question

Could I ever manage my partner’s investments and have a loving relationship at the same time? I am realizing that failure starts to lead towards resentment within the relationship and it is hard to separate care and love for one another with business. Do you recommend that I refrain completely from investing my partner’s capital?

Psychologist’s Reply

Actually, many couples manage to combine business with a loving relationship all the time. Whether or not this works well depends on the couple. Some can and some cannot. With the situation that you describe, it really boils down to the kind of trust and communication that you share with one another.

The most important element that will determine whether you can simultaneously invest financially and emotionally, is trust. Your partner must be able to have faith in your ability to handle money and to invest wisely. Similarly, you must be able to believe that your partner trusts you and will not constantly second-guess your decisions. You also need to have confidence that, should something go wrong, your partner will not hold the negative outcome against you.

The way you know whether the trust is there is through both experience and communication. A lot of people believe that trust is given but for it to be real, it must be earned. This takes time and effort. Thus, people in new relationships are not as trusting of one another as those who have been together for a long time. You must have some experience with your partner to know if they are both trustworthy and trusting of you (and vice versa). If the two of you are a fairly new couple, you may want to wait and see how things go before embarking on such a potentially divisive venture.

However, if you two feel like there is a great deal of trust in the relationship, then thinking about your communication is the next step. Communication is essential to building trust. For people to trust one another, they must know why it is that people do the things that they do. Motivations and intentions can be just as important as the actual behavior. For example, if something goes wrong with your investments, communicating your decision-making process and your understanding of why things didn’t go the way you intended will be necessary for your partner to feel secure about the process.

For this to work, you need to decide whether or not your communication is effective enough that the two of you can have the difficult conversations you may need to have. If you both talk frequently and successfully, then investing may go well. If, however, you two have a tough time talking about sensitive topics, then avoiding a situation like this, that could be fraught with controversy, may be best. Since money is one of the top five issues that tend to be explosive for most couples, it makes sense to proceed with caution.

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