How to Stop Fighting About Money with Your Spouse
How to Effectively Manage Financial Differences to Improve Your Relationship for Good
“The handling of finances is one of the major emotional battlegrounds of any marriage. Lack of finances is seldom the issue. The root problem seems to be an unrealistic and immature view of money.”
- David Augsburger, The Meaning of Money in Marriage
Money and marriage, if there is a deadlier combination, I do not know of it.
Money is one of the major causes of strife in a marriage and one of the leading reasons why marriages fail.
In many marriages, the most common area of angst is that one person is an overspender and the other is forced to become (or naturally is) the controller. It can be an exhausting tug-of-war because firstly, who the hell likes to be controlled and secondly, who the hell wants to parent their partner?
When you get married you join forces with another and for better or worse, you join them financially as well.
Nothing shoves sexytime out of the bedroom like a conversation about finances.
The problem with this dilemma is that if you allow it to fester, it will grow a nice slimy mould over your entire relationship, forcing you to question whether or not you even love your partner, let alone like them.
No one wants to be the warden in their marriage and no one certainly wants to be the prisoner, but those are very typical roles played, with respect to finances.
There tends to be one partner who overspends or is ambivalent about the financial situation, and the frugal or penny counting counterpart, who is checking the bank balance daily and losing sleep over pending transactions nightly.
How do we get out of this financial rut?
What is the solution to money management or lack thereof?
Can a relationship survive financial differences?
How do we make things better for both parties?
How do we add air back into the lifeless financial stranglehold the relationship is in?
Money needs to be a normal topic of conversation and you must learn to speak about money without making money the enemy, nor incriminating your spouse.
What is worse than not dealing with your finances is ignoring them.
You have no idea what monsters may be growing and gaining strength in the lapses of conversation, where you feel the less you know the better. You have to talk about finances in your relationship. Money needs to be a normal topic of conversation and you must learn to speak about money without making money the enemy, nor incriminating your spouse.
By normalizing finances, by making them a common topic of conversation and by having said conversation in a respectful, calm manner, the money will stop seeming like the root of all evil in your relationship. Communication tends to be the bigger evil because communication breakdown is where financial stress succeeds and conquers.
Make a weekly or monthly financial check-in.
Add it to the calendar and do not rush or avoid the money meeting. Make sure that the two of you have no distractions, so no kids or work interferences to get pulled away from; you need to make this meeting matter by giving it merit.
By having scheduled, consistent money meetings, you are creating a safe space where you and your spouse can talk about future plans, current concerns and instead of speaking about money metaphorically, you are strategically planning for the short and long term.
I find Sunday mornings perfect for a financial meeting. Make a nice pot of coffee, pull out a few baked goods and settle in to talk numbers. Make it a positive discussion, and ensure that you have clear goals for the meeting.
Perhaps it is the first Sunday of the month and you are budgeting for the upcoming four weeks. Maybe you have a big trip coming up in six months and you both need to find some areas to trim expenses in. Whatever the case may be, just like at work, this meeting better have a purpose, otherwise, it will derail and derail quickly.
Having a clear goal will help keep emotions at bay.
If your focus is to balance the budget for January, keep the conversation directed at that. Do not talk about how disastrous December was or how stressed out April is going to be after the kitchen renovations, simply talk about January.
Remember, when you are starting to realign your relationship with money, what you are really trying to do is get you and your mate on the same side, and to stop seeing each other as opponents, but rather as teammates, which is critical and also excruciatingly hard to do.
Consistent meetings, plus quitting the blame game is essential for your relationship to succeed financially.
Once everyone can agree that they are all on the same team, only then can true positive growth occur.
Marriage is not about winning the fight, but about finding a common ground to build off of, so that the war zone no longer is the only place to talk about dollars.
Stop bringing up past missteps to feel good about yourself.
It can be too tempting at times to bring up your spouse’s financial fuck ups, but I would strongly resist this urge.
People make mistakes. People make gigantic, cannot undo, will take years to correct mistakes, especially with money. When this happens, you one of two choices: love ’em or leave ’em, that’s it. Love ’em or leave ’em because the fuck up sure as shit ain’t going away, so you have to choose if you can deal with it and its aftermath or walk away from the chaos.
You need to learn to move on from the mistake otherwise it will be the mountain your marriage is murdered on.
Have your moment, expel your anger, take a step away, so that you do not say things you cannot take back and regroup. You are allowed to bu upset by a financial misstep or negligent decision of a spouse, but you cannot keep dwelling on it and bringing it up.
Figure out where you go from here, from your current financial reality.
Make a plan. Make many, many, many plans. Make the first-month plan, make a plan for the season, make a six-month plan, make a one year plan and a five-year plan. Plan and prepare as best you can, so that you can get through this together instead of the time tearing you two apart. A plan will make you feel secure. A plan will give you something to lean on when you are feeling like nothing is in your control. A plan will allow you a roadmap to follow when emotions threaten to take over.
Do not make jokes about money or minimize the mistakes you have made in the past.
A relationship is always perfectly imbalanced; someone is up when the other is down and rarely are both of you hovering at perfection on the teeter-totter of life. Make sure, when you are high up in the sky, swinging your legs from joy and lack of stress, that you never forget what it was like when you were much closer to the ground and stressed about dollars and cents.
Past actions should live in the past, but the lessons they taught should be carried into every present-day and future decision.
Minimizing past mistakes can be very harmful to your relationship; it can make your partner feel as though you did not learn from your past missteps or now deem it trivial. You have no idea how your partner feels about this or any past mistakes, so mocking or joking about your past gambling debt or frivolous purchases as though they were as harmless as tossing a coin into a wishing well will only aggravate your spouse.
Humility will keep you both happy, so quit trying to one-up your spouse.
Marriage is hard and money makes any situation ever so much more complicated. When you get married you join forces with another and for better or worse, you join them financially as well.
I have met few couples who are on the same wavelength financially, it seems to be the biggest cosmic joke to pair polar financial opposites together time and time again, but perhaps it is the greatest challenge for us to overcome.
Once a couple is able to override and control financial differences, other issues seem much more manageable as well. The tactics to manage money can be translated to so many other problematic areas in your relationship, so see this as a great opportunity to fix each area of weakness in your relationship through strategic, planned communication, so that you can leave emotions, history and your weapons at the door and work on creating a healthy, harmonious household with your loved one.