Shared or Separate Finances: Which is Healthier For Your Relationship?

Shared or Separate Finances: Which is Healthier For Your Relationship?

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned in my work with couples, it’s that each couple is incredibly unique. What works for one couple may not work for others. Furthermore, what works for a couple at one time, may have an expiration date. This is often the case when it comes to deciding between joint or separate bank accounts in marriage.

When it comes to money in a relationship, there are so many decisions to make. 

  • Who will take responsibility for the finances?
  • Who will pay the bills? 
  • Where will that money come from? 
  • Will there be a savings account? 
  • Will there be a retirement fund? 
  • Will there be “fun money” to play with? 

And then there is the much-debated question: Will we keep a joint account, or will we each have our own separate bank accounts in marriage?

That last question is often debated because it carries a lot of psychological weight. But, in my opinion, it doesn’t have to. Let’s dive into this common question about money and marriage.

Should You Have Separate Bank Accounts?

Many people equate sharing money with trust or closeness in a relationship. But when you really look at the question of having joint or separate bank accounts when married, you’ll see that it’s not that simple. 

If you decide to keep a joint account, does that mean that you trust each other more than those that don’t? Does it mean you are closer than those that don’t? Does it mean you are willing to go “all in” and merge everything down to your last penny? 

If that’s the case, what does it say about a couple who is married with separate bank accounts? Do they trust each other less? Are they preparing for divorce by not marrying their money?

Certainly not.

It’s perfectly acceptable to take the judgment out of this decision and simply look at the logistics of joint vs separate bank accounts without it having to mean something about the quality of your relationship. 

Instead of questioning the deeper meaning of bank accounts and your marriage, consider both the downsides and benefits of having separate bank accounts.

Which method is easier for you as a couple? Which way makes the most sense financially? Let’s examine some specifics by talking about a couple of hypothetical situations.

A couple fights about joint or separate bank accounts in marriage.

What Separate Bank Accounts In Marriage Might Look Like

Couple A is made up of Bill and Jill. Bill works from home as a computer programmer. He is an independent contractor, not an employee, so he’s able to write off many of his home expenses. Jill is a realtor, so she’s also an independent contractor. However, the expenses she can write off are often different from the ones Bill can write off. Can you see how Bill and Jill might benefit from having separate accounts to make things simpler and maximize their tax deductions when reporting to the IRS?

Couple B contains Jack and Julie. Jack is a government employee and Julie works at a bank. Both are employees with steady paychecks that don’t change much from month to month. Julie is also really good at managing money whereas Jack could use some help in this department. Could you see the benefit of these two sharing an account?

You see, in these two examples, whether or not to share accounts has nothing to do with trust or love. Instead, it’s simply about what works for each couple.

You, too, can focus on the logistics of your finances when deciding between joint vs separate bank accounts – and not let your money define your marriage.

Why You Might Choose to Have Separate Bank Accounts

So, should you have separate bank accounts in your marriage? There are many reasons to consider joint vs separate bank accounts. Here are just a few possible reasons to consider having separate bank accounts when married:

  • You’re used to financial independence: You’ve lived most of your life paying your own bills, making your own money decisions, and making purchases independently. That doesn’t necessarily have to stop when you get married. Just make sure to discuss spending boundaries with your partner if you decide to go this route.
  • You have very different spending habits: While it’s important to get on the same page as your partner when it comes to money management, it doesn’t mean you’ll magically take on each other’s spending habits. As long as you have clear boundaries in place and open communication about your finances, it could reduce conflict and overspending to have separate accounts.
  • You have a tough history with money: Money is a touchy subject for so many of us. Perhaps you didn’t grow up with enough money to live comfortably. Maybe you were in an abusive relationship and lacked the resources to feel as though you could leave. If you have trauma, insecurity, or anxiety around money, having a separate account may be critical to your mental health. And that’s perfectly ok.
  • One of you earns significantly more: How you handle finances when one person makes significantly more money is as unique as your relationship. Some couples may still split bills 50-50 and use the rest to save, invest or play. Others may decide the higher earner pays a higher portion of the bills. And still, others may decide that keeping their money separate is simply easier, and perhaps each contributes to a third, joint account to pay their bills. There’s no one right answer!
a couple pays bills together from their separate bank accounts in marriage

How to Have Separate Bank Accounts When Married – And Do It Well

Whether or not you decide to keep separate bank accounts, the key to a healthy relationship is good communication – especially when it comes to money!

If you are keeping your own account so that you don’t have to discuss finances with your spouse, your problems are bigger than your bank account! 

On the other hand, if you’d like to keep some money on the side to surprise your love with shiny things from time to time, that’s probably something your spouse can get behind.

Are you and your spouse struggling to agree on finances? Are you fighting about money and how to manage or spend it? Couples therapy could help! Contact Couples Learn today for a free consultation to discover if couples therapy could help your marriage money problems.

Is Your Partner Depressed? How To Tell and What To Do About It

Is Your Partner Depressed? How To Tell and What To Do About It

Did you know that over 19 million Americans suffer from depression but only about one-third of them seek help? Part of the reason for this is because when someone is depressed, the disease tells them awful things like, “You will never get better,” and “You may as well give up.” As a result, they may not share when they are feeling depressed. So what can we do as spouses and partners? It’s time to get clear on the top signs your partner is depressed.

What Is Depression?

Depression is a common but serious medical illness that negatively affects how you feel, the way you think, and how you act. It often causes feelings of sadness and can impact your ability to function at work and at home. It can lead to other emotional and physical health challenges.

Depression also zaps your energy and makes you lose interest in activities you used to enjoy. It can be very hard to work up the energy to do anything when depressed, especially seeking help. 

However, those who do finally seek help find that depression is extremely treatable. At least 90% of people who try some form of treatment feels better!  

But, what if it isn’t you, but your partner who may be depressed? How can you tell if your loved one needs help? Let’s explore these 11 signs your partner is depressed:

Is My Partner Depressed? Look for These 11 Signs

When your partner is depressed, they may not be able to come right out and tell you how they’re feeling. But there are almost always signs your spouse is depressed – you just need to know what to look for.

Some of the most common signs of depression include:

  • Loss of energy
  • Feeling tired more than usual
  • Loss of appetite or weight changes
  • Arguing often, being irritable
  • Sad or anxious most of the time
  • Hopelessness or pessimism
  • Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Not remembering things
  • Not sleeping or sleeping too much
  • Thoughts of suicide

In some cultures (particularly Asian and Hispanic) there is more of a stigma around having mental health issues and so depression can manifest as physical symptoms rather than emotional. 

If your partner is always complaining of aches and pains (headaches, stomach aches, sore muscles, joint pain) and there is no physical reason for the pain, it could be another one of the signs your partner is depressed.

Couple not talking after a fight about signs your partner is depressed on the sofa in living room at home

How Can A Spouse Help With Depression?

If your partner is experiencing several of the symptoms outlined above, he or she may be depressed. Keep in mind that depression can look different in men vs. women. For example, men may become more withdrawn, while women may become more emotional and moody.

If you suspect that your partner may be depressed, it’s important to remember that you are not responsible for your partner’s happiness. They are responsible for their own happiness just as you are responsible for your own happiness. It’s too much pressure to expect that you will be able to cure them. 

Additionally, the expectation that you will be able to change their mood takes the power away from your partner, leaving them feeling even more out of control and helpless.

So how can a spouse help with depression?

The best thing you can do when you notice these signs your partner has depression is to encourage him or her to take responsibility for making a change and seek help. This can be in the form of self-help books and videos, personal development seminars, therapy, antidepressant medication, or all of the above. 

But how do you bring up the idea of seeking help to someone who is already vulnerable and feeling down?

How To Talk To Your Partner About Depression

First, keep in mind that if you’ve noticed signs your partner is depressed, then they can’t simply just “snap out of it.” Depression is a real disease with physical manifestations.

Just like if he were to have diabetes or heart disease, your significant other is dealing with actual changes in his physical chemistry. These changes in his brain chemistry are causing his mood to shift and his ability to think clearly and rationally to deteriorate.

Your partner may already be thinking he needs help but could be afraid of what you will think of him if he admits that he isn’t ok. Especially for men, admitting that they need help with emotional issues can be very difficult. This is why it’s important not to place blame or be judgmental when trying to talk with him. 

Instead, if you’ve seen signs your spouse is depressed, just say something like:

“I’ve noticed that you haven’t been yourself lately, and I think that what you are going through might be something that a psychologist could help with.

I would be happy to go with you. I want you to know that I am here to support you. How about I make us an appointment to see someone?”

That way, you are gently guiding him into the decision to see someone, but also doing the leg-work that he might not be able to do right now.

And, the truth is, the appointment isn’t only for him; it’s for you too. Being in a relationship with someone who is depressed can be exhausting. You are both probably tired of the constant bickering, the lack of sexual desire, and the absence of fun and joy that the two of you used to share.

How to Take Care of Yourself If Your Partner Has Depression

Depression impacts both people in a relationship. This is why it’s important that you engage in regular fun and self-care activities for yourself so that you don’t fall into a depression too. 

You’ve heard that misery loves company and it’s true! When your partner is depressed, it can lead to you feeling guilty for being happy around him. You might find yourself hiding your good mood or avoiding telling him good news because you don’t want to rub it in his face when he is feeling down.

While it’s good to be aware of someone’s energy and try to match it in some respects, you don’t want to stop living your life just because he has stopped living his. 

If he doesn’t want to go out to the movies for the 5th night in a row and you are dying to see the newest film, ask him if he would mind if you go with a friend instead. It’s great if you can get your partner up and motivated to do activities you know he used to enjoy, but if you have tried and tried to no avail, it’s ok for you to still go and have fun.

A man lays on the couch look sad and exhausted, one of the signs your partner is depressed

That being said, I would also recommend having a discussion with him about it and letting him know how you are feeling as you’ve noticed these signs your partner is depressed.

You might say something like “I know you have been feeling down lately and lacking energy and sometimes I feel bad being happy around you or going to do stuff without you. I want to support you and I also want to make sure I take care of myself so I can be good for both of us. How can I best support you through this?” 

This way you are letting him know you are there for him but that you need to attend to your own needs too.

Seeing Signs Your Partner Is Depressed? Get Professional Help

Another key piece of advice is this: Don’t Argue With The Depression. Even though the person talking to you looks, smells, and feels like your partner, chances are, the words coming out of his mouth are his depression talking. 

Just like you wouldn’t argue with someone who is drunk, there is no point in arguing with depression.

Depression is dramatic, unreasonable, and just plain exhausting. When you feel yourself getting frustrated with your partner, say to yourself (or maybe even to him) “This is the depression talking, not my partner.” 

This will help you be more patient and understanding and it will show him that you two are both on the same team. It’s not you vs him, it is you and him vs the disease.

If you believe that you may be depressed or have noticed signs your partner is depressed, contact Couples Learn today. We have helped many couples overcome this issue and we can help you, too, through individual and couples therapy services.

3 Secrets to a Better Sex Life

3 Secrets to a Better Sex Life

Did you know that sex, or lack thereof, is one of the biggest topics that couples fight about? It’s true! But there is hope for a better – more communicative – sex life, thanks to the sex tips for couples we’re sharing today.

But first, why do so many couples fight about sex? Besides the obvious reason that sex is a very important part of a healthy romantic relationship, there’s the added factor that talking about sex (even sex in a marriage!) is often considered taboo. That’s a major problem! 

How are couples supposed to work on developing a safe, loving, and exciting form of intimacy when they can’t even share what turns them on and what doesn’t?! The short answer is, they can’t.

That’s why it’s so important to learn how to talk to your partner about sex (this is the first of our sex tips for couples). Yes, you may feel awkward or embarrassed at first but remember, that’s from years of conditioning. If you think about it, it’s pretty silly that you can get naked and have sex with someone, as long as you don’t talk about it.

So, in order to break the silence, here are 3 sex tips for couples.

Top 3 Sex Tips for Couples

1. Be Kind But Direct

One of the things that is so beautiful about sex is that you get the chance to learn about each other’s bodies. He likes when you kiss his neck but she can’t stand anyone touching her feet. Everyone has their own specific likes and dislikes and there really is no right or wrong when it comes to each of your preferences. 

However, if you want those preferences met, and your partner hasn’t figured it out yet through trial and error, you need to be willing to talk about what you do and don’t want. That’s why actually talking about sex is one of the most important sex tips for couples – it’s the path to mind blowing sex!

What if you don’t know what you like and dislike? That’s ok! Let your partner know that you would like to explore different types of foreplay, new positions, and maybe even role play and the use of sex toys to learn what turns you on.

If you need some inspiration, two great instructional books are Passionista: The Empowered Woman’s Guide to Pleasuring a Man by Ian Kerner, Ph.D. and The Man’s Guide to Women: Scientifically Proven Secrets from the “Love Lab” About What Women Really Want by John Gottman, Ph.D. and Julie Schwartz Gottman, Ph.D.

Handling Tough Sex Discussions

Ok, but what if you have to share something unpleasant? Like the fact that you can’t handle his smell when he comes home from playing basketball? Or the fact that the way she kisses doesn’t turn you on? It’s better to tell your partner what’s really going on rather than pretend you’re not in the mood.

In the case of the smelly basketball player, maybe suggest taking a shower together or say something like “I’m so excited to continue this make-out session when you get out of the shower so please hurry back to me.”

In the case of the bad kisser, try saying something like “I love it when you kiss me slowly and gently” or “It’s my favorite when you kind of tease me with soft kisses and nibble on my lower lip.” Tell her what you do like vs what you don’t like.

With both examples, you save their ego and encourage more of the behavior you do like vs discouraging what you don’t like. This simple switch is one of the best sex tips for couples to encourage kind and direct communication.

2. It’s Okay To Play

Don’t be afraid to be playful and laugh as you learn about each other’s hot spots. After all, sex is supposed to be fun! Having a carefree attitude is one of our favorite sex tips for couples, and can help bring the pressure of a perfect night of sex way down. It can also help when the unexpected (read: fart) happens.

Two pairs of feet are tangled together under a sheet after trying out these sex tips for couples.

3. Remember That Sex Is Emotional Currency

As it turns out, sex means different things to women vs. men. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule. Increasingly more women are discovering their inner Samantha from “Sex and The City.” 

But, as a general tendency, men feel more connected to their partners through having sex. Women, on the other hand, need to feel connected first, in order to want sex. Do you see how this could be a problem?

To bridge the gap, try to make an effort to understand what sex means to your partner. This is one of the top tips for a better sex life because it can actually lead to more sex.

It’s possible that a woman who knows that sex is her man’s way of wanting to feel close to her will be more willing to rumple the sheets than if she thought he was only interested in a physical release. Similarly, a guy may make the extra stride toward emotional closeness if he knows that it will make his girl weak in the knees.

Go Beyond Sex Tips for Couples

Speaking of emotional closeness, does your relationship need a little boost in the romance department?

Check out this simple exercise that will help bring back the romance in your relationship

Do you need to go beyond sex tips for couples ? Do you want personalized, one-on-one help for your sex life or relationship in general? Explore our online couples therapy and individual therapy services.

If you would like to learn more about how to improve your sex-life with your partner, contact Couples Learn for a free 30 minute consultation today!

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The Biggest Mistakes Couples Make After Years Of Marriage

The Biggest Mistakes Couples Make After Years Of Marriage

We’ve all heard the statistics. At least half of all marriages end in divorce. So what are the specific marriage mistakes to avoid, and at what year(s) in their relationship are couples most likely to make them?

Let’s find out – and learn some tips to successful marriage along the way.

Most Common Years for Marriage Mistakes

Interestingly, there are quite a few seemingly cursed years in a marriage’s lifetime, and they each come with their own unique challenges. Starting from earliest to latest, these years are:

Year 2

This is when the honeymoon period starts to wear off, and the realities and responsibilities of making a marriage work start to set in. This is when some of the most common relationship problems can start. In addition, all of the formerly cute and quirky traits that you once loved about your spouse start to drive you nuts.

Year 5

The term “Starter Marriage” was made for you if your marriage dissolves around year five. A “Starter Marriage” is a marriage that lasts 5 years or less and the couple does not have any kids. Many couples struggle at the 5-year mark because this is when hard decisions, like whether to have children, come into play. This is one reason why not discussing these major decisions in advance of getting married is a big marriage mistake.

Year 7

Here’s where the “Seven Year Itch” becomes relevant. People tend to want to make major changes in their lives every seven years or so, and in many cases, this means changing spouses. Is this itch what causes a marriage to fail? It’s typically not the only factor, but it can have an impact!

Year 10

Apparently, there is also a “Ten Year Itch!” According to a study at Brigham and Women’s University, where over 2000 women were surveyed, the highest level of marital dissatisfaction occurs around the 10th year of marriage. Researchers concluded that this timing was due to the fact that most women were knee-deep in marriage after kids and busy with childcare, household chores, and other responsibilities around this time.

A woman holds her head in her hand after making common marriage mistakes

The Keys to a Successful Marriage? Avoid These 3 Marriage Mistakes

If this all sounds bleak, don’t despair! Researchers found that if you can make it to the 15-year mark without any major marriage mistakes, marriage does get better. Yikes! However, for those of you who’d rather not wait that long, here are 3 common mistakes in marriage to avoid in order to enjoy your marriage earlier!

Avoid Eye-Rolls!

According to renowned researchers, Drs. John and Julie Gottman, the biggest predictor of divorce in any marriage is showing contempt for your partner. This includes sarcasm, ridicule, name-calling, and non-verbal gestures like eye-rolls. Doing these things makes your partner feel like you don’t respect or value them as a person.

What to do instead: Let your partner know that he/she is valued by showing gratitude daily. Write him a love note, give him a hug, or just say a genuine “Thank You,” for something he did. As the saying goes, “A person who feels valued and appreciated will always do more than is expected.”

Stay In The Sack!

Too many couples make the mistake of putting sexual satisfaction on the back burner of their lives. Sure, there are a million other things to take care of, but some studies suggest that even when many other conflicts occur, couples who continue to interact sexually remain happier than couples who don’t.

What to do instead: Make time for sex in your relationship. Even if you have to put it on a calendar, take advice from Nike and “Just Do It!” If you’re struggling to maintain intimacy due to a lack of satisfaction or things just feeling a little bit mundane, then don’t be afraid to spice it up! Sex in a marriage doesn’t have to be boring. In fact, it’s totally possibly to make mind-blowing sex part of your regular life.

Money Matters!

Disputes about money have caused far too many marriages to fail – money is at the root of many marriage mistakes. Oftentimes, people with opposite money personalities (e.g. spenders vs. savers), gravitate toward one another, which can result in major arguments and even divorce. Because of this, one of the most common money mistakes couples make is simply not communicating enough about their budgets, spending habits and financial goals.

What to do instead: Talk to your partner about the way that you like to handle money. Explore your own fears and biases in regards to money, and listen to your partner’s issues as well. Find a way to handle finances that work for both of you, and be sure to show respect for your partner’s financial fears and fantasies.

a couple argues after making common marriage mistakes

The Secret to A Successful Marriage

If you truly want a successful marriage, then it’s not enough to simply avoid marriage mistakes. Above all, if you want your marriage to last for the long haul, you’ve got to make it a priority in your life. Just like any other area of effort, you get out of it what you put into it. 

This is especially true after being married for several years, when there could be a tendency to take your spouse for granted or start to feel like maybe there is someone better out there for you. 

Just remember, the grass is not always greener on the other side…it’s greener where you water it! Sometimes, all it takes is a renewed dedication to make your own lawn picture perfect.

So what can you do if you’re feeling like your marriage is due for a tune-up? Consider online couples therapy to better learn how to better communicate, understand your partner’s love language and work through the most common relationship problems.

Individual therapy for relationship issues may also be an option, particularly if your partner is resistant to couples therapy.

If you would like to talk more about how to make your marriage work for you, contact Couples Learn. I’m here to help!

3 Ways To Tell If You Are Ready To Take Your Relationship To The Next Level

3 Ways To Tell If You Are Ready To Take Your Relationship To The Next Level

So, you are in a relationship, and things seem to be going well. You enjoy each other’s company and feel like shiny happy people when the two of you are together. Then one day, one of you gets the itch. I’m not referring to the seven year itch, that’s another topic altogether. Here, I’m talking about the itch that comes when one of you starts considering taking your relationship to the next level.

Surely, you’ve noticed that relationships happen in stages. You meet, you date, you become “a thing,” you stop seeing other people, and, if all goes well, you eventually move in together, marry, and maybe have a family, a dog, and a white-picket-fence. 

When you’re in a relationship with someone you love, each of these stages bring exciting new adventures and plenty of joy. Still, it can be tricky to know if and when you’re ready to take your relationship to the next level.

Are you wrestling with how to know if you’re ready to move in together or get married (or some other big life change)? Here are 3 ways to test your readiness for romantic growth.

3 Things to Consider Before Taking Your Relationship To the Next Level

Determine if You Love Your Partner or Love The Idea of Your Partner

Do you remember that scene in “Say Anything” where Diane finally comes back to Lloyd after being apart? Even though he is completely in love with her, he hesitates and asks, “Are you here because you need someone or because you need me?”

If you’re thinking about taking your relationship to the next level, you need to ask yourself the same question.

Ask yourself truthfully if you just like the idea of being in a relationship, or if you are really smitten with your partner. Is this the kind of person you envisioned yourself moving to the next level with? Why or why not? 

Not answering these questions honestly will lead to problems once the excitement of being at “the next step” wears off, so they’re important to consider before any big step.

A couple embraces in front of a car door after discussing taking your relationship to the next level

Own Your Place In Life

Ask yourself if you want a more serious commitment right now or if you are taking your relationship to the next level because you feel like it’s what is expected of you at this stage in your life. 

Remember that timing is a big factor to determine whether a relationship is right for you. If it isn’t the right time, it’s possible that it wasn’t meant to be – even if you truly care about your partner.

Don’t give up on your dreams and goals to force a partnership to work or to meet societal expectations. Doing so will only end up hurting you in the long run.

Read Between The Lines

In art, there is a concept called “white space,” which basically refers to the part of the image that the artist didn’t intentionally draw. White space occurs in relationships too. It’s what happens when you aren’t with your partner. 

When you’re thinking about taking your relationship to the next level, take some time to consider your white space. 

Do you think of him? Do you miss him, or, does he fail to cross your mind? How you feel when you aren’t together can be just as informative as how you feel when you are cuddling cozily.

Get Help with Taking Your Relationship to the Next Level

However you answered these questions, know that some anxiety is to be expected whenever you are considering making a big change in your life. 

Whether it be moving in with someone, getting married, or simply declaring that you are in a relationship, these events represent major milestones in your life. It’s perfectly normal to feel a bit jittery before you meet his parents, for example. However, if your gut is telling you that something is wrong, listen to that feeling! Your intuition will never steer you astray.

A man and woman hold their hands up to make the shape of a heart - a representation of taking your relationship to the next level

Having trouble distinguishing between normal anxiety and a gut feeling that taking your relationship to the next level isn’t the right choice for you? Try this exercise:

Close your eyes. Take a deep breath, and breathe into your belly. Keep breathing until your belly feels full and settled. 

Now, think of a time in your life when you challenged yourself to do something new and scary, but also rewarding. Notice how that feels in your belly. That’s what a little bit of anxiety about something new feels like. 

Next, imagine a time in your life when you needed to get out of a situation because it was no longer good for you. Remember how it felt when you figured that out. That’s how it feels when your gut talks to you. 

Finally, think of your current relationship. Which feeling do you have in your stomach now?

Use this exercise to help you make decisions about taking your relationship to the next level. But if you’re still struggling to make a decision confidently, you may also want to consider talking about the situation with a couples therapist or individual therapist.

If you’re ready to get some professional advice, contact Couples Learn to book a free consultation and connect with an experienced therapist today.