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Money and relationships: ‘til debt do us part'

Boundaries on lending and borrowing is important for friendships

Busi Selesho
Busi Selesho
Image: Supplied

While money issues can ruin relationships with friends and loved ones, a few boundaries here and there do the trick.

In today’s economically-driven society, money has the power to make or break relationships. While it is said that money can’t buy you love, the role it plays in friendships and relationships cannot be denied.

According to research conducted by Statistics SA, a total of 23,710 divorces were recorded in the year 2019. The leading causes of these divorces included infidelity, lack of communication and you guessed it…finances.

While relationship coach Siyathokoza Nsizwane believes money should not be the determining factor in relationships, she’s also of the view that the importance of finances should not be downplayed.

“Money plays a big role in relationships. It’s a tool that we use to create memories with the people that we love. At the same time, it can also be a cause of conflict. So it’s very important for two people in a relationship to have an aligned view of finances and how they should be distributed,” she says.

Financial coach and author Busi Selesho shares similar sentiments. According to her, money serves as a scale which the world and society use for a variety of things.

“People treat you a certain way depending on where you live, what you wear and how much money you look like you have. It’s unfair but unfortunately that’s the impact which money has in most instances. This makes it very difficult to say money does not have an impact on relationships,” says Selesho.

The borrowing of money among friends and loved ones

In our journey of life, we are bound to experience rainy days. During such times, we may feel the need to call on those closest to us for financial rescue. According to Nsizwane, lending money to friends and loved ones is a way of being there for them and providing a helping hand.  However, she encourages the enforcement of healthy boundaries to avoid people taking advantage.

“It is important not to allow people to take advantage of your kindness. You must have boundaries and know when people are just using you; when they are making you a scapegoat for their personal mismanagement of finances,” she says.

From a financial perspective, Selesho does not encourage normalising the borrowing of money among friends and loved ones.

“The whole thing about borrowing money is that money is energy. As much as the banks make money from lending other people money, that’s a business for them. But if you want to mess up the energy between you and your friends or loved ones, start borrowing each other's money.”

Selesho says a better option would be to assist the friend or loved one in making money rather than giving it to them.

“Rather accompany them to sell something or help them write proposals which will make the money. It’s best to be there for them by helping them make the money.

“You must also make sure you put your own money to good use and for all the right reasons. Money needs to have a purpose. You cannot have extra money idling for you to borrow others,” says Selesho.

Venturing into business with your lover

The past decade has seen an increase in small, family-owned businesses. More and more couples are venturing into business together. While this is a good idea and may grant couples various advantages such as the opportunity to embrace a more flexibile work/life balance, a lot could go wrong in the absence of caution and care.

“Going into business with your partner can be a great thing. You get to build something together, watch it grow and reap the fruits thereof. It can bring you closer," says Nsizwane.

"But the challenge comes when you need to ensure there is no overlap between business matters and the relationship. In business, you are solely business partners. In your relationship, you are lovers. It’s important to not mix the dynamics of the two.”

A few points to consider when entering into business with your lover

  • Character is key: If you’re planning to go into business with your partner, you may have to re-evaluate their character. Sometimes, someone may be great as a lover but not so much as a business partner. You need to ensure that they share the same passion, work ethic and discipline in order for the business to thrive.
  • Don’t compromise on clarity: To ensure the success of both the relationship and the business, it’s important to have clarity on who does what. This way, you avoid stepping on each other’s toes. Designated roles in the business will prevent petty arguments which may affect you not only as business partners but as lovers too.
  • Always have a contract: While you may have known your partner for a very long time and probably trust them 100%, drafting a contract remains important. It does not need to be something very complicated. A simple document that sets out the basics such as how you will be working together, as well as how and when you will be paying each other can help with accountability and also save the relationship in the long run.

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