It’s at the top of the list of things about which couples fight. Matters certainly aren’t made better when considering gay and lesbian couples face even more challenges.

Indeed, finding a system for managing money that works for both individuals can help couples achieve both financial and personal harmony, no matter the financial and legal curve balls thrown by a society unwilling to fully recognize their relationship.

“Figuring out a fair and comfortable way to share responsibilities and expenses can be challenging but it’s essential for a healthy relationship,” says Sam Goller, author of “Yes, You Can…Achieve Financial Harmony.” “Couples should work together to decide what type of financial system allows them to achieve their dreams.”

Goller suggests asking the following questions to help facilitate a discussion about managing money as a couple:

• How many bank accounts will we have?
• Who will pay the bills?
• Are we getting our money’s worth for what we buy?
• What are our money histories?
• What dreams do we have as a couple?

A couple’s answers to these questions about money and their relationship will help define the financial system that’s best for them. Goller offers three options for couples looking to merge their finances:

The Joint Account.
Managing money with a joint account through a bank that respects and values same-sex couples’ relationships allows couples to combine all of their financial resources. This option can make life easier for some couples by centralizing the household finances. However, it requires that both partners diligently share when they use funds out of the account.

Separate Accounts.
Some couples prefer the autonomy of separate accounts. With this financial system each person is responsible for maintaining their own account, which may include paying some of the bills. Individuals may need to work harder to be equally involved in the financial relationship. Couples should meet on a regular basis to discuss how they are managing money to achieve a common goal.

A Combination of Accounts.
A combination of joint and separate accounts is another alternative for managing money. This financial system allows both partners to contribute while maintaining their autonomy. Individual accounts can be used for personal purchases. The joint account can contain funds for bills and joint purchases. With a clear definition of who’s paying which bills, couples can work together to bring financial balance and emotional harmony to the relationship.

“Regardless of the financial style a couple chooses, communicating about finances is key,” said Goller. “The more you discuss how and why you each spend money, the deeper and stronger your relationship will grow.”

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