Do you and your partner fight about money? If you’re in a long term relationship, there probably will be times when you disagree about money. That’s normal. But if you routinely argue about your finances, take heed. Fighting about money can lead to deeper relationship problems.
Unfortunately, having money differences is one of the main predictors of divorce. One study found that debt creates stress in relationships, increasing the “likelihood that couples will argue over issues other than money and decreasing the time they spend with one another”. The same study discovered that partners who rely on material possessions for their happiness fight more frequently, no matter what their income level.
If you fight about money, take these first steps
Try to see it their way
First and foremost, don’t shut your partner out just because you disagree.
Try to understand their perspective. How he or she thinks about and uses money stems from childhood influences, past experiences and personality traits.
Ask your partner about their childhood experiences with money, how their parents handled finances, and what influence that might have on your money differences. Working through the past isn’t a quick and easy process. Sometimes just thinking about it brings up unpleasant memories that one or both of you would rather forget. But, if it’s contributing to money fights (and it likely is), it’s important to work through it.
This is the person you love. Be kind and understanding.
Whether it’s stress from debt or spendy behavior, it gets really tricky when partners stop communicating. In fact, Dr. John Gottman of The Gottman Institute, found the #1 predictor of divorce is contempt.
Contempt for your partner goes beyond anger and arguments. It’s characterized by a complete lack of communication, accompanied by disgust, or a feeling of being “better than” your partner. Contempt creates a rift, ultimately leading to emotional distance and withdrawal (and, quite possibly, a break-up or divorce).
In any relationship, disagreements are inevitable. And, while taking a break to chill after an argument is helpful, burying your head in the sand and avoiding the issue altogether won’t make it go away. Keep the lines of communication open, respectful and positive.
Let go of control
How do you like being told you are wrong or you “have to” do something someone else’s way – because it’s the “right” way?
I am one of those people who has to come to her own decisions about things. Telling me you’re right and I’m wrong and I “need” to do something your way isn’t going to work for me.
Trying to control how your partner behaves, or how they spend and think about money is futile, even counterproductive.
If there is one thing I’ve learned about my own relationship and those around me, it’s you cannot control your partner – and you should never try.
What’s the saying? If you love it, let it go. If it was meant to be, it will come back.
Don’t try to force your own beliefs on your partner. Yes, you are in a relationship together, but that doesn’t mean you have to think and believe exactly the same way. Respect your partner and communicate about differences.
Start the conversation
You have to make the effort to start the conversation. It won’t just happen.
Choose the right time. Not when you are in the heat of an argument, but when you are both relaxed and open to talking. Set a date. Have a glass of wine. Agree ahead of time to leave accusations and defensiveness out of it.
For specific ideas on starting the conversation, check out this post.
Start with the end in mind. Talk to your partner about what they want out of life. What is their “why”? And what is yours? What dreams and goals do you both have? What are your visions for a perfect life?
No doubt about it, money will play a role in reaching your dreams and goals. Think about how money can be used as a tool to achieve those goals. Maybe you can change certain money behaviors and create a strategy to get you both there faster.
Developing shared goals can help more than just your money, it can do wonders for your relationship. Working together to achieve the life you both envision can bring you closer than ever.
Having shared goals helps Alan and I stay on the same financial page. We both have dreams of traveling and having time to work on our own individual projects. And we would both love to see it happen asap. This has kept us focused on paying off our debt, saving and our goal of financial independence.
Try something different
If you’re in a pattern of arguing about the same money issues over and over, what you have been doing is not working. You need to try something else.
Rather than focus on what is wrong, focus on what you could do to make it right.
There is no prescriptive right way to solve money differences. What works for each individual and each relationship is going to be different. My best advice is to be open minded, communicate, respect each other and keep trying new things until something clicks.
If you’ve taken these steps and still can’t agree, compromise may be the best way to make your money differences work.
Agree to disagree on some issues, even though neither one of you will feel like this is the perfect situation.
Compromise on spending by giving each person a monthly “allowance”. Or you can split the difference and set a monthly discretionary spending limit somewhere in the middle of where you each think it should be. Try budgeting one way for a month, and another way for the next month. Meet in the middle or take turns – do what needs to be done to make it work for both of you.
Do what you can to find some middle ground – for the sake of your relationship.
Changes don’t happen overnight. Be patient, be kind and take it one step at a time.
Above all, remember money is a tool for life, for freedom, for reaching dreams and goals. But money, in and of itself, does not bring happiness.