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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.

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This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Great advice…can I adjust it a little. I have been married 47 years, and yes to the same lady. The key to any successful part of marriage, financial, emotional, occupations, children…any part is constant communication. A “monthly” budget meeting to the generation from last century is somewhat foreign, but I can understand today’s generation is more “schedule” oriented. Communication is not a cell phone, or text message or getting on social media. Communication is also not just talking. My wife and I communicate simply by being near each other. I realize your views are aimed at one area of a marriage, and money issues is one of the major causes of marriage crisis. But I have found that in almost every crisis, the problem goes back to real communication, on a daily basis if possible. My counseling advice to people who come to me always begins with the question of how much do you expect your spouse to give to your marriage and you give back to them. The general answer is 50/50. If you only give half, you will only get half. For any marriage to work, my advice is that the husband should go into the relationship with the attitude of 100/0, giving 100 percent and expecting nothing in return. The wife should have the same attitude. Recognizing this is humanly impossible, but setting it as a goal, with constant open communication has kept my marriage together through a war in Vietnam, 10 years of police work, various jobs and critical health issues. In 2006, I was “officially” declared totally disabled, lost my business and the over 1/4 million dollars of investment, including all my savings and retirement and money borrowed. I did not file bankruptcy, but with my wife standing with me, worked with our creditors, even paying off medical bills that I could have easily gotten written off due to our financial status. In 2011 my wife suffered a total mental breakdown, but still, we communicated, on a different level, and worked until today my credit rating has gone from below 670 to above 790. Having lost all my retirement, we live only on Social Security, we have a budget, that is no longer discussed because her mental status does not allow for the stress or comprehension of it. Bottom line, the idea of giving 100 percent and expecting 0 in return has worked for us and for others I have counseled. Your ideas are truly great and appreciated. Just wanted to add my thoughts.
    Humbly Submitted,
    Charlie Boggs, Th/D

    1. Thanks for sharing, Charlie! Communication is important in all aspects of any relationship. I also think that the idea of total commitment to making anything work is a good one, whether it’s about relationships or otherwise. It’s inspiring to hear stories of couples like yourself who have stuck together no matter what throughout the years. I really appreciate you sharing! Have a wonderful weekend!

    2. Mr. Boggs sir,

      I didn’t even read the article as closely as I read your comment and advice. What incredible words of wisdom that our generation simply doesn’t not hear enough of. Social media, television, and from mostly anywhere else the ideas that are pushed on us are all of compromise, the 50/50 idea. Rarely of complete devotion, rarely of the type of integrity that you have shared and practiced your life with. I genuinely appreciated you sharing your story, I hope you will share it with more people.

  2. My husband and I have never fought over money matters. We will be married 36 years this year. He worked and I worked. We kept separate checking accounts and had a joint savings account. He bought the food and maintained the car. I paid the Maintenance on our co-op apartment and our son’s school tuition. The co-op apartment was purchased with cash. We never had a mortgage. Our Son attended private school from K-12. The tuition in the high school grades was equivalent to buying a new car every year. We are now both retired. I am 62 and my husband is 67. We each are receiving pensions and my husband is also collecting SS. My husband also works a part time job earning about $8900 per year which he puts in a savings account. My husband pays his bills and I pay my bills. I gently requested he participate in his employer’s 457 plan when he was working. This is similar to a 401K, but is offered to government employees. He contributed 5% of his salary thorough out his career and had $119000 in his account by the time he retired. My employer offered the 457 plan and the 401K. I contributed to both plans and had an ending balance of $635000. I was able to contribute a larger % of my income as soon as our son completed private school. We sent him to a public college where the semester tuition was about the same as one of my paychecks. We never needed to take out any student loans for our son. We never lived beyond our means but have been able to enjoy multiple yearly vacations throughout our marriage. Our net worth is close to one million dollars. This money was saved with no pain and we saved on our taxes during our careers. We were both municipal employees employed by large agencies in New York City. Our Pensions are safe. Now at the next stage of our lives we will be considered on a fixed income and will not tap into our IRA’s or 401K-457 plans until we must take the RMD when we turn 70. We currently are able to pay in full our credit card bills each month. We do not pay interest to any one.

    So the secret to not fighting about money is both husband and wife need to have some of their own money to spend or save as they please and keep in mind the joint goals for their future.

    1. Hi Julianna:

      It’s certainly great advice to think about each couple having something of their own to save and spend, whether that’s through separate accounts or allowances out of the joint account. That way, everyone has little something of their own. I think the communication around your goals as a couple is also hugely important. Thanks for sharing your experience!

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