I heard a disturbing fact while watching the news this morning: divorce rates are anticipated to be higher than usual after coronavirus. To make it even more newsworthy, the newscasters went on to report that the number one reason couples fight is money. I don’t know if these are statistically backed statements or not, but one can imagine that there is a lot of truth to the report.
With so many couples spending more time that usual together during an already stressful time, it makes sense that pandemic will either make or break a relationship. Throw tough financial times on top of it and this does seem to be a recipe for romantic disaster.
I watched the news report and agreed with most of the advice- talk openly and honestly about money, enlist the help of a counselor, and look through your finances together. This is all great advice! But I don’t think it’s enough.
Here are my personal thoughts on how to talk to your spouse about money without fighting.
It is possible to talk, instead of fight, about money in a relationship
Cultural norms have made it taboo to talk about money. This is a shame.
Many of us have been raised to believe that it is impolite to talk about how much you make and how much you spend.
Living in this manner makes it nearly impossible to figure out how to manage money.
Before you can be comfortable talking to your partner or spouse about money, you have to be comfortable talking about money in general. You can’t be afraid to talk about money. If you are, then your fears and insecurities will make fighting about money a scapegoat for more personal issues.
First things first, get over the fear of talking about money.
Explore your own relationship with money before discussing the spending habits of your spouse
We are all different people and we all bring different strengths and weaknesses to a relationship. You bring your own set of financial beliefs and values to your relationship. Figure out what you value most and if your spending habits align with your values.
If your spending habits don’t align with your values, figure out how to fix that before you start digging into your partner’s spending habits.
How do you identify if your spending habits match up with your values?
Easy. Write down the 5 things you value most in life. For example, I would write down family, community, the environment, experiences, and food. Then look through the last 3 months of your spending. Are you spending money on the things that add value to your life? If so, awesome. If not, it is time to change your spending habits.
When I did this I realized that I was spending money on clothes from retailers that weren’t supporting the environment. I would rather spend a little more money on eco-friendly clothing since the environment is one of the things I value most. Coincidentally I can also save money by buying used clothing because that is also pretty eco-friendly. My values dictate how I spend my money. Yours should too.
Don’t overthink the process of talking about money with your partner
Some couples thrive on scheduled time to discuss money with their partner. That is great. However, if talking about money is new to you, it doesn’t have to be a big “thing”.
Casually bring it up in normal conversation. Don’t give your spouse the stink eye and condescendingly say you need to go over your credit card statement together.
Just talk about money and how you feel about it.
I know it sounds hippy dippy and crazy, but money is tied to our emotions. Many of us spend money as a pick-me-up or to signal status.
Talk to your partner about your feelings about money before you start talking about your budget and digging into your debt repayment plan.
I grew up wealthy, white, and privileged. Right before college my parents divorced and we went from having everything to having very little. I had to work many jobs to pay my way through college and grad school. My life experiences have shaped my views about money. I bet your life experiences have shaped yours too. Have you talked to your partner about how life has shaped your views on money? If not, there is no time like the present.
Designate one person to be “in charge” of budgeting
This does not mean that one person has all the money and all the power. This just means that only one person puts the time and manpower into making the budget and reconciling it each month. Click here to see my favorite way to budget.
You can even take turns being “in charge” each month.
I suggest putting one person in charge because budgeting takes time. There is no reason for both of you to put the time and energy into budgeting one household’s finances unless you each have completely different bank accounts.
You still don’t have to hold weekly meetings or set aside a specific time to talk about money unless you want to do that. There are many options here. You can email or text the budget specifics to each other or you can randomly bring it up in conversation when it seems natural.
In our marriage, the person with the most time tends to do the budgeting. I did it before the kids were born and now my husband does it. We do it completely different. I made an Excel spreadsheet with every purchase and updated him each weekend. He watches our accounts daily and gives me updates as I need them throughout the week.
The key to not fighting about money is to make money a regular part of your relationship
Bottom line when it comes to talking money with your partner: you do you, but make money a regular topic of conversation.
No expert can tell you how to avoid fighting about money. Money is such a personal thing that no one can tell you how to perfectly talk about it with your partner. You and your partner have to do the work and figure out what works best for you, what buttons to avoid pushing, and what financial goals you want to make.
If you keep fighting about money, money might not be the real issue
I’m no expert in psychology, but I will tell you that if you keep finding yourself in a fight about money then money may not be the biggest issue in your relationship.
Are you fighting because you don’t trust your partner to spend money wisely? If so, trust might be the issue.
Are you fighting because your spouse doesn’t like the way you spend money? If so, control might be the issue.
Are you fighting because you are so stressed out about debt? If so, organization might be the issue.
It’s important to step away from the situation and stop blaming money for all your problems.
If you keep finding yourself in the same argument, go ahead and spend some money on counseling or a money management program. There is no shame in asking a professional to help guide you towards making better decisions. Money isn’t going to go away. You might as well learn to talk about it without fighting.
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