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Money Conversations in Your Relationship at Every Stage

Money is often a topic that many couples find difficult to discuss. Since money issues are a leading cause of divorce, fights, and strain in relationships – people should address finances to work toward stronger relationships. This process starts with awareness.

Discussing financial compatibility, setting financial goals, and understanding each other's spending habits are all important to cover when it comes to love and money.

Love and money go hand-in-hand and while money conversations can be uncomfortable, they are necessary for any successful relationship.

In this section, we will explore the role of money in relationships and the top 5 conversation starters to have with your partner at every stage of life.

Already tying the knot? Check out my Newly Married Financial Goals & Checklist HERE

Download the complete Love and Money Conversation Guide HERE for 50+ questions to ask at every relationship stage.

5 Essential Relationship Stages

Relationships develop over time, going through a series of phases. Starting in the 1930s, communication scholars began quantifying this progression into what’s become known as the “Knapp’s Relationship Escalation Model.” The concept suggests that each couple will go through a sequence of five essential stages before reaching the height of their union. 

  • Initiation

  • Experimentation

  • Intensifying

  • Integration

  • Bonding

Initiation Stage

During the initiation stage, individuals make their first impressions of one another. These opinions are usually based on surface-level attributes such as physical appearance, observation, or maybe even some initial conversation. This stage usually involves just a casual occurrence, such as meeting someone new for the first time at work or while among friends. Or perhaps you’ve noticed someone and are trying to work up the courage to approach and talk with him or her. The goal at the initiation stage is for each person to present the best version of themselves to gain each other’s attention. This piqued curiosity motivates the individuals to enter into future conversations where they can learn more about one another. During initiation, it’s helpful to keep an open mind and talk with many different types of people. Some of them may even surprise you! At the same time, however, you should also do some introspection about the type of person with whom you truly can see yourself having a future. Clarifying your preferences is fair not only to you but also to other individuals.

Top 5 questions at the initiation stage:

1. Do you see yourself as more of a natural spender or a saver? For instance, if you met someone who was really into luxury items or was even a bit careless with money habits, would that bother you?

2. Do you tend to value “having things” or experiences more? If the other person was the opposite, how would that make you feel?

3. If this person had no interest in budgeting or investing for the future, would that change how you see him or her as potential long-term material?

4. What kind of occupation would you imagine your ideal spouse having? For example, would you be comfortable dating or even marrying someone who prioritizes climbing the corporate ladder over starting a family? Alternatively, could you see yourself falling for someone who just wants to be a stay-at-home parent? 

5. How important is it to you to save for retirement or reach financial freedom? If the person you’re interested in doesn’t have these long-term goals in mind, would that hold you back from taking things to the next stage?

Download the complete Love and Money Conversation Guide HERE 

Experimentation Stage

In the experimentation stage, individuals explore each other through conversation and spending time together. This process not only gives you some insight into how the other person thinks or reacts to certain situations but also helps to create your bond with one another. An example of the experimentation stage might be two people who have become friends at work. Although the relationship hasn’t turned romantic, you’ve established that you both find each other interesting and enjoy one another’s company. This stage is helpful because it lets you collect much information about the person beyond what you see on the surface. You’ll get to know their personality, experiences, and a little bit of who they are. During the experimentation stage, communication should be relatively casual. Dialogue should be friendly, accommodating, and establish a foundation of comfort and trust between you.

Top 5 Experimentation questions

  1. How does the person you’re talking to imagine his or her future lifestyle? Is the person content with the way he or she lives? Does the person seem more aspirational and hope to make a better life for him or herself? Do you perceive red flags, such as a sense of entitlement?

  2. Does the person appear generous? For example, does she volunteer or give to charity? Does he do simple things like leaving a good tip at a restaurant?

  3. Does the person ever mention wanting to have children? If so, how many? Does he or she already have children?

  4. Does the person seem good at handling money, or show signs of struggle?

  5. When they talk about buying things, does it always seem to be on credit or with a loan?

Download the complete Love and Money Conversation Guide HERE 

Intensifying Stage

During the intensifying stage, it’s clear that there’s chemistry between two individuals, and now it’s time to get to know each other on a deeper level. This phase might involve spending time outside of the usual setting (like hanging out together after work) or possibly even going on dates. Conversations during this stage will start to include a lot more disclosure about personal topics and even reveal some vulnerabilities. The individuals may even subject each other to so-called “secret tests” such as placing each other in uncomfortable situations (like a family gathering), probing close friends, or even eliciting jealousy to see how the other reacts. The intensifying stage is important because it shows the other person the “real you.” It could demonstrate that you have all the qualities that the other looks for in a mate, or it may reveal some important areas of concern. Communication should naturally become more open. This is no longer the time to act like the person you wish you were; instead, show them who you really are. While you should feel comfortable with this person, don’t forget that you’re also being interviewed as a potential mate. Give some thought to your responses if you’d like things to progress to the next stage.

Top 5 questions for couples intensifying

  1. Do you notice if the other person values material items over relationship quality? For example, does he pick a fight or not talk to you for a day if you don’t buy him what he wants?

  2. If one of you lost your job and had to support the other, how would that make you feel?

  3. Is the person doing anything to further her career, or do they seem to be stuck in a dead-end job?

  4. Do either of you have any serious debts, such as credit cards, student loans, or personal loans?

  5. What experiences have each of you had that influenced your relationships with money? Did you grow up rich, middle-class, or poor? How did your background make you feel?

Download the complete Love and Money Conversation Guide HERE.

Integration Stage

At the integration stage, the individuals will express their desire to become a couple and begin to fuse their identities with one another. This is generally done by spending more time together and being exclusively committed to one another. A couple in the integration stage might begin labelling each other as “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”. They may also go so far as to move in with one another. Communication at this stage will be important for the development of future plans as well as for reaffirming the commitment that has been made. You should again be open with one another but feel less guarded about being evaluated or judged since the next actions you make together will determine where the relationship progresses from here.

Top 5 money conversation starters for the integration stage

  1. How important do you feel it is to check with the other person before making a major purchase? For example, if your partner came home with a brand-new, expensive vehicle without telling you first, how do you imagine you’d react?
  2. If you create a budget, could you both agree to stick to it? Or will budgeting cause feelings of resentment toward one another?

  3. Are you willing to compromise career paths for each other? For example, if one of you received an offer for a dream job that required moving to a new city and the other had to quit a current well-loved job, could you do it?

  4. Do either of you have any money saved up? If so, what do you plan to do with it?

  5. Do you both want to work? If you have children, will one of you be willing to stay home? Are you both comfortable sending your children to daycare?

Download the complete Love and Money Conversation Guide HERE

Bonding Stage

In the bonding stage, couples will make their relationship official; usually through an act or ceremony such as marriage. This stage will remain in effect as long as the couple supports one another and does not allow the relationship to fall apart. Similar to the previous two stages, truthful and sincere communication will be important here to continue reaffirming the bond and trust you have for one another. However, couples can also use this stage to nudge one another toward individual improvements. Thus you not only will help one another to become the best versions of yourselves but also will strengthen the bond between you.

Top 5 relationship money questions for the bonding stage

  1. How will our finances be handled officially? Will this be a joint effort, or will one person handle the majority of financial responsibilities? If one person does handle the finances, will the other trust him or her to do so?

  2. What are our long-term financial priorities? Do we want to save our money for retirement, to pay for college for our future children, start a business, etc.?

  3. What is our budget for getting married? How much can we afford to spend on a ring, the reception, a honeymoon, etc.?

  4. How can we eliminate our debt together? Which loans should we tackle first and how much can we afford to put toward paying them off?

  5. What will the reality of retirement look like for the two of us someday? Where will we live in retirement and what will we do when we get there?

Download the complete Love and Money Conversation Guide HERE 

Start your money conversations in your relationship today!

You’re now armed with money conversation starters so you can start being open and honest with one another when it comes to finances in your relationship. 
Conversations about your finances not only reveal who you are as individual people, but also what you could be together as a couple. So don’t avoid those conversations. Think about how you might respond to each of these questions and then invite your partner to do the same. Who knows – you might just learn something new about your partner. Or you may start building a foundation for greater things to come in your relationship.

And if you need a little help with creating your budget, my judgement-free financial coaching can help. All you have to do is book a call and we’ll get started!


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