Finance, health and sex taboos – the silent relationship killers

Not talking can seriously damage your health and finances – new research explores the taboos that stop us planning for our futures.

19 July 2016

Posted in People

by Daniel O’Byrne (see media contact)

Research into the attitudes of 2,845 British adults in a relationship commissioned by insurance provider AXA,* found that while 67 per cent said they would feel comfortable talking to their partner about their financial health**, a sizeable minority (a third) didn’t say this was the case. The same was true for talking to their partner about their physical health and their mental health, with 69 per cent saying they would be comfortable talking to their partner about their physical health and 62 per cent about their mental health. Worryingly, this indicates a third of respondents aren’t comfortable talking about these important topics. But breaking taboos around talking about mental, physical and financial issues could hold the key to wellbeing as we grow older.

As society changes, so do our attitudes to taboos. In the early 1960s, developments such as the contraceptive pill led to a change in attitudes towards sex, swearing in films became more commonplace after the first use of the F-word in a movie in 1967 (Ulysses) and 1994 saw the first lesbian kiss on prime time TV, paving the way towards more liberal attitudes to same sex relationships.

When people in a relationship were asked how they generally feel about discussing sensitive topics such as death, debt and illness, only 14 per cent said they felt comfortable and wouldn’t mind discussing these topics. Similarly, only seven per cent agreed it should be discussed as it’s “best to get it off your chest” and “a problem shared is a problem halved”.

A reluctance to talk and plan can carry serious risks; this study is part of a new programme from AXA that looks at the role of mental, physical and financial health on our overall wellbeing.

Chris Horlick, Director at AXA, comments: “It goes without saying that people who plan for their future healthcare and financial needs – and discuss plans with their partners – will be in better shape to make the most of opportunities available to them. In an ageing society it is important for us to be open with our loved ones, particularly as, with the new pensions freedoms that came in last year, we have many more choices and opportunities today to access our retirement pots to fund our lifestyles.”

Nicky McGurk, 46 from Essex, has been married to her partner for 15 years and comments: “My husband and I both worry about our futures but neither of us feels comfortable talking about it. He buries his head in the sand and I get embarrassed talking about what we should be aiming for when we are 80.

“I want to be busy chasing around grandchildren or doing the gardening while he wants to spend sunny days on the golf course. Yet talking about how to get to that place seems a very unwelcome conversation for both of us.”

Chris Horlick concludes: “AXA is well placed to help make these taboos a thing of the past by encouraging people to open up and start planning for a long, healthy and enjoyable future.”

Visit our Ageing Well Centre at www.axappphealthcare.co.uk/ageing-well for information, support and useful resources to help you plan for your future health and financial wellbeing. And, if you could begin all over again, what advice would you give your younger self? Join the conversation using #OpenUp.