One of the things couples argue about most is money. Fights about money – how to get it, how to share it, how to spend it – can wear two people out and even contribute to breaking up their relationship.
Money is also one of those “hot button” subjects that can quickly take over an argument that began over some other subject, like taking out the garbage.
If you and your spouse find yourselves fighting often over money, here are some ways to resolve the problem.
How Do You Feel About Money?
The first thing to do is for both you and your spouse to take a hard look at your own attitudes about money. This means doing some thinking and writing about what sort of financial situation you grew up in.
Parents often pass on their attitudes towards money, whether negative or positive, to children.
If you grew up deprived of money, never having enough in your family, you’re certainly likely to still be affected by that as an adult. Did you have to wear old, hand-me-down clothes? Did you not have money to buy things you wanted? How did growing up in this environment affect you?
Perhaps, even as an adult, you worry constantly about not having enough money, and this creates friction with your spouse.
Or perhaps you grew up with too much, and that gave you a different set of prejudices about money. Thinking over these subjects will give you a more honest idea about how you relate to money, and will help you recognize the “flash points” that might cause you to lose your temper.
Your goal here is to learn to avoid these “flash points” so that you and your spouse can discuss money issues without losing your tempers.
Learn How to Talk About Money — Calmly
Remember, being able to talk sensibly about money is very important. If you simply can’t manage it, no matter how hard you try, seek the help of a professional couples counselor. The money you spend on that will be well worth it.
Clarity about your finances is also extremely important. Because of our upbringings and our cultural attitudes towards money (consider how many low-income families buy lottery tickets, dreaming that winning millions will somehow solve all their problems) it isn’t always easy to think about how much is in our bank accounts, or how much we spend every month.
Fights about money come from pressure, and one way to relieve the pressure is to sit down together and figure out exactly how much you have, how much you earn every month, and how much you spend, and on what.
This can be a big, daunting subject, so don’t feel you have to get it all done in a single sitting. But set a definite time with your spouse to work together on your joint finances, at least once a month. At first, until you get them organized, it may be better to meet once a week.
Write It All Down
Write down everything on paper to keep things clear. List all your debts and obligations, as well as your sources of income. Once you’ve done that, if you’re spending more than you earn, look through your bills together and prioritize them, looking for things you can cut back on to save some money.
Be clear about the difference, too, between secured and unsecured debt. Secured debt, like a mortgage or an auto loan, is based on a valuable bit of property that the bank can take back if the debt is not repaid. Unsecured debt is not covered by anything – credit card spending is a good example. It’s dangerously easy to run up high credit card bills without any security.
Consider cutting up your credit cards – there are people out there who manage to live perfectly well without them. Not having credit cards forces you to live within your means, and that may be the kind of discipline you need.
Don’t limit your discussion to negative things and spending you have to cut. Dare to dream, too – about a promotion or a better job. Sometimes just asking your boss for a raise can help.
Encourage each other to both take steps to increase your income. Remember that unless you first have a dream, it can’t come true.
The most important aspect of these financial discussions is that you have them together. If you’re afraid of your money problems, be sure to talk about that. Don’t catastrophize, but share your fears, however irrational and overblown, with your spouse. Even talking about your worries with another person will help put them in perspective.
If both of you work hard together to get a clear picture of your family finances, you will already have done a lot to reduce friction and fights about money.
Remember that no matter how serious your money troubles are, there are solutions out there. But knowing the truth is the first step, and you shouldn’t be afraid of that. Work together and you’ll be able to support each other through the scary stuff.
While fights are unavoidable, too much conflict, especially over the same recurring issues, can take its toll on your relationship.
If you need help from a third party to initiate and keep these conversations on track, start by signing up for a coaching program which will help you identify and solve the underlying issues.