I’m going to take a guess and I bet that I will be right. If you are married or in a long-term serious relationship than money has been an issue at some point and caused a fight or argument during your relationship. I have been working to figure out how to talk about money without causing a big fight and I’ve found some things that work.
My husband and I have been married for almost 12 years and together for almost 17 years and there have been plenty of arguments over money. Some just little arguments and some were bigger fights.
Now, this is completely normal and I know that. Even the healthiest of unions can be endangered by money disputes, according to a Kansas State University study. That doesn’t mean that you should just accept that it’s a normal part of marriage though especially if it’s happening very frequently or escalating to full-blown fighting.
It’s important to figure out how to talk about money in a relationship and do so in a healthy and productive way. Money is always going to come up whether you have too much or too little. Bills will keep coming up and you will need to spend money on things for your home and your family. So how do we talk about money without causing a fight?
1 You’ve got to be honest
One of the simplest ways to have a healthy relationship with anyone comes down to just being honest with the other person. Too often this gets overlooked when building relationships.
When it comes to your finances you need to first be honest. This will allow you both to get a clear understanding of what problems with money you’re facing as well as how to go about solving these problems and going forward with your finances as a team.
So be upfront and honest. Lay out your debt that you’ve established both during your relationship or that you got into before the relationship. What expectations do you have of your partner financially? Have you always assumed you could stay home and your spouse would work? Well, you need to say that. Their expectations may be different. Most money fights are not actually about a lack of money but more often about expectations not being met.
So be upfront about what are you willing to do or not do to get in better shape financially. Like are you not willing to take a second job because it means being away from your kids more? Do you want to go back to work after having kids because you like earning your own income?
Well, say those things to each other. Don’t tell your spouse you will be willing to do something when you know that you really aren’t. It might seem easier to not say anything and avoid the fight but you know that it’s going to cause issues later on and things will be worse because you didn’t just tell the truth.
2 Pick the right time to talk
This step is so critical but so often overlooked. There are good times to bring up difficult topics and deal with hard issues and there are not good times. In my marriage, that means avoiding big discussions when one of us is overly tired and cranky. Also after a bad day at work, my husband is not going to be receptive to talking about money or anything negative. In your relationship, you know what times your partner is more receptive to having big talks.
One idea is to set a money date. Plan an evening or time together where it can just be the two of you and you can eat a meal together. Spend some time together and then have some time set aside to discuss money issues. That way you aren’t rushed or dealing with children and other distractions.
3 Be willing to give up something
If money is right and you are struggling to make it month to month than accept that sacrifices need to be made and luxuries need to be gotten rid of. You can’t expect the other person to make all the cuts to what they like though even if you’d like it that way.
I’ve found that it’s helpful to really think about what you’d be willing to give up to help save money for the family. Maybe it’s going without Starbucks, canceling a subscription to something, fewer trips to Target, etc.
Whatever it is share that with your partner so that they will see that you are taking money seriously and are giving up some of what you want. Usually, this helps them see that they should be willing to give up things as well.
4 Don’t attack the other person
Marriage and relationships 101 lesson right here. You will get nowhere by attacking the other person. By saying you did this wrong and all our problems are because of you. Why because when someone feels attacked they tend to either shut down or attack back.
Through lots of counseling and learning about marriage, I have found that big talks go better when you can keep emotions down and not get intense. I get too intense which I’ve spent years working on. Also, don’t just fire off a list of the other person’s flaws and mistakes.
You might think it will be helpful but I can almost guarantee you will get nowhere with that method. Instead, keep things calm and address the problems and issues without assigning blame. More of we need to stop spending so much money on takeout and not a “You eat take out too much and we can’t afford it.”
5.Admit your mistakes and failings
Ok, this one might be a hard one but you’ve got to do it. When it comes to your finances there isn’t just one person making mistakes or not being as careful with money as they should be. I know that in my marriage we both make bad financial choices from time to time. In all the relationships I’ve seen of family and friends there are always mistakes made on both sides.
So come clean and admit. Like I mentioned above don’t lie and don’t try to hide your mistakes or where you have failed. It’s going to happen to both of you from time to time so admit what’s gone wrong and move forward to make things right.
6 Establish your values and compare them
This step will help you figure out how to deal with your money in a way that should hopefully cause fewer arguments. If you don’t already know you need to figure out what each if your values are and where you need to adjust your budget and finances to fit them more comfortably
Trying to figure out your values is a great place to start. It is very important to me that my child or future children don’t go without and I will try to do what I can always to budget in more family activities and things for my daughter. For some others, the value may be to be able to stay home and homeschool their children so figuring out how to survive on one income would be a priority.
By establishing what matters to you and to them you can work on figuring out how to make a plan for your finances where you both win. It is also helpful just to see why certain money issues come up and usually, those issues are attached to a value. Such as wanting to feel secure or supported.
7 Be an example of what you want a healthy marriage discussion to be.
If you have children then this is where you think about how you want to model handling finances in a relationship. If you don’t have children get in the habit of behaving how you plan to model for them in the future. Or try thinking of a younger sibling or niece or nephew.
Even if they are not someone who lives with you like a child would be thinking of what you would advise your sibling or niece or friend and making sure to follow your own words of wisdom can help you make an effort to be kinder and make better choices.
I want my daughter to see her dad and I discuss money and come up with solutions together as a team so that she will be able to do the same one day when she’s grown up and in a relationship. Though that’s still many years away I hope. I know that she’s learning lessons from watching us that she will apply to her own life one day. So I’m determined to model good examples as often as I can.