Money can be a tricky thing to talk to your partner about. Sometimes we avoid it because it makes us uncomfortable or we don’t want to start a fight. However, if there’s a problem that needs to be addressed and it continues to go unresolved, then it could fester into trouble for your relationship.
As many as 41 percent of Gen Xers and 29 percent of Baby Boomers say they’ve ended their marriage due to disagreements about money according to data from TD Ameritrade. Sadly, as is usually the case with most marital problems, many of these couples could have been saved if had just communicated better with one another.
In this post, I’d like to give you some advice on how to talk about money with your spouse. Follow these tips so that you can both deal with issues head-on and get together on the same page.
Don’t Wait Until There’s a Problem
One of the first things you can do to have better conversations about money is not wait until there’s a problem to have them. Don’t let it become such a super-serious topic. That’s just going to make you both associate money conversations with negative feelings, and then you’ll each want to avoid them altogether.
Instead, talk about money regularly and openly. In fact, laugh about something related to finances every once in a while (like how you can’t believe the neighbors are trying to sell that huge camper they just bought last year).
The more you talk and celebrate the small stuff, the stronger your relationship will become. That way, when something serious eventually does need to be discussed, you’ll both be in a better position to do so.
Actually Listen to What Each Other Has to Say
Whenever you come into a conversation with your own agenda and a low attention span, it can be a dangerous combination. This is according to Cash Nickerson, author of The Samurai Listener. His advice is to use skills that are similar to martial arts techniques that can make you more aware and receptive of what’s going on in the moment.
This is the same approach you should use for conversations about money. Don’t make it a one-way communication. Expressing your points while ignoring the other person’s is only going to lead to frustration.
Instead, hear them out for what they have to say. Maybe your partner:
- Thought you were okay with the way they were spending money and honestly didn’t think it was that big of a deal
- Believed you liked shopping and going out just as much as they do
- Was under the impression that your budget was bigger than it really is
- Didn’t realize what they were sacrificing as a result of their current money habits
Additionally, you might learn something new about your partner that can lead to a better relationship down the road. For instance, through listening, you might find out that traveling is something your spouse would really like to do one day. By making this a long-term goal, you’ll both be more cooperative to make any short-term adjustments that are necessary.
Stop Blaming Each Other
It’s way too easy to play the victim when you’re having financial problems. You might say things to each other like:
- We’d be richer if you weren’t always spending so much!
- We’d be able to afford X if you didn’t always need to have such expensive Y!
- We wouldn’t be in debt if you just made more money!
The problem with all of these types of statements is that none of them are helpful. All they do is accuse and push the blame on the other person. There’s nothing useful or constructive about them that might lead to a solution.
For topics like these, you need to remove emotion from the equation and instead focus on the facts. For example, if the credit card bill was too high this month, don’t start by blaming the other person. Instead, communicate the problem for what it is and then offer a solution:
… Our credit card bill was $1,000 over budget this month. In order to pay it, I think we should cut back on eating out next month …
Again, don’t automatically go with whatever proposal you have in mind. Hear out the other person since they might also have a good solution in mind too.
Realize There’s More to It Than Money
Whenever couples get into arguments over finances, there’s always more to the story than just money. Conversations like these are usually just surface cracks to bigger and deeper problems you might be having.
For instance, you might see it as a conversation about your budget, but your spouse might interpret it as a loss of trust or battle for control. No one wants to feel like they have to go to their spouse and seek permission or approval as if they’re 12 years old again and asking for money from their parents. Grown adults should have the ability to spend the money they earn, assuming they don’t do so to the detriment of the family.
Most importantly when you’re talking to your spouse, remember that you’re talking to an adult who wants nothing more than to be treated with respect. A good rule of thumb in any conversation is to pretend you’re talking with one of your superiors at work. Remember to conduct yourself in a way that humbly gets your point across without digression.
Don’t Dictate, Decide Together
Again, no one likes to be told what to do. So even if one person handles the finances in your household, you should still make it a team effort – even if it’s just to collect input or go over your conclusions. This will bring a sense of involvement and allow them to be a participant in the process rather than just watch from the sidelines.
A good way to do this is to go over your budget together. Schedule some time to go over this weekly, monthly, or even annually – whatever works best for the two of you. Make each other aware of where all your money is going, what this means for your big-ticket goals, and what ideas you have to improve the situation.
An easy way for you both to stay in tune with what’s going on with your budget is to use an app like Buxfer. Buxfer automatically imports all of your transactions and can even bundle them by category for easy review. Both you and your spouse can check on the progress right from your smartphones and use it as a conversation starter.
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