It’s never fun to fight with your spouse. That’s especially true when it comes to money fights.
You’re upset because he bought something you think is a waste of money. Or maybe she doesn’t like to spend enough in your opinion.
Whatever the argument may be, it’s serious business. According to a recent survey, fighting about money in your relationship may be the No. 1 predictor of whether or not you’ll end up divorced.
As a married man of nearly 10 years, this statistic scares me. My wife and I have had our fair share of money fights during our short time together in marriage. But I’ve learned a lot about how to limit them, as well.
Here are five ways that I’ve worked to limit the money fights in my marriage.
Craft Goals Together
It’s easy to run into the same argument over and over again if you don’t understand your collective goals. It’s like driving across the country without a map. You’ll get lost, confused and angry really fast.
Take time to speak with your spouse about your goals and then ask your spouse to share their goals with you, as well. This way, you understand where your spouse is coming from the next time there is another financial brouhaha.
Here are some questions to kick-start the process:
• If you had all the money in the world, what would your ideal day look like?
• What are the top five things that bring you the most joy?
• What does your ideal career or business look like?
These questions not only make for a great date night, but they allow each of you to understand the true dreams and desires of your spouse. Once you know this and you had the chance to share your dreams, you’ll both be more empathetic to each other’s situation (and money decisions).
Develop a Budget Together
It’s hard to argue on how much your spouse is spending (or saving) if you’ve agreed on the amount at the beginning of the month.
Set a specific date on the calendar to craft a household budget that works for you and your spouse. This monthly meeting can help you determine what financial categories are important to both of you.
Use an automated budgeting system to help make the process simple. My wife and I enjoy using the budgeting features on Mint.com, a web-based financial management service. Lately there has been a rise of new couple-focused budgeting tools, like those found on AskZeta.com. Zeta offers free tools that allow couples to track their spending, manage their budget and communicate together about money. If you’re not into digital systems, use a spreadsheet or even a pen and paper to get the process started.
Remember that both parties get a say in how the money is allocated. If this session becomes one-sided, then the process may be a waste of time and could further infuriate the alienated spouse.
Recognize Your Relationship with Money May Be Different
We all grew up differently. Therefore, our relationship with money may be quite different from our spouse, as well.
Saving may be important to your wife because it represents her path to freedom. While spending may be important to you because it also equals freedom!
Now, are either of those views right or wrong? Not in my opinion. They’re just different.
Your spouse may have grown up in a house where money was a taboo topic. While you grew up freely speaking about money with your parents.
Recognize these differences as you navigate financial decisions in your relationship. Take into account your spouse’s feelings and opinions in addition to your own. Our “money past” can significantly affect our “money future.”
Share Emotions Not Accusations
Your monthly budget meeting is an excellent time to discuss your finances for the month ahead. But let’s say a financial disagreement pops up outside of that monthly money meeting. It’s important to let your spouse know how you feel.
Try these steps the next time a money fight occurs:
• Ask your spouse if they are available to discuss the disagreement further (“Can we please take 5 minutes to talk through this in the other room?”).
• Put away any distractions and ask your spouse to do the same (“Let’s shut off our cell phones so we can give each other our full attention because this is important for both of us.”).
• Share what emotions come up for you when the financial decision was made (“When you tell me that you think buying new shoes is a waste of money, that makes me feel like you don’t respect my choices. It makes me feel sad.”).
• Ask your spouse to do the same for you and truly listen (“I feel disrespected when you buy clothes and shoes that are outside of our agreed upon budget.”).
• Come to an agreement on how this situation can be resolved (“I will work to stay within our agreed upon budget. I would appreciate if you didn’t make comments about my purchases.”).
• Thank your spouse for their attention and discussing the disagreement calmly (“I appreciate you taking the time to chat about this. I’m glad we can come to an agreement on how we will handle this in the future.”).
• Don’t forget the hug.
Now this dialogue may seem formulaic and too process-driven, but it’s a lot better than name calling, yelling or the silent treatment. When we hold in emotions, or express them in an accusatory form, then our relationships can start to crumble.
Partner with a Marriage Counselor
If you’re having trouble holding civil conversations when money disagreements arise, it may be time to seek out a third party for support. Marriage counseling may be just the type of coaching you need to work out your differences.
Liken marriage counseling to partnering with a fitness coach. This person has been certified to help your marriage get into great shape. Just like we don’t know everything there is to know about staying fit, we also don’t know everything there is to know about marriage. Your counselor can see things from a different point of view and offer you personalized techniques that you won’t find in any book or blog article.
Do you and your spouse have money fights? How do you resolve them? Please let us know in the comments below.