Why Do We Fight About Money?
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Learn why and how couples fight about finances and ways you two can start working together to build up your marriage and money!
How to (and Not to) Have The Money Talk
Today we'll be discussing one of the biggest concerns couples have when it comes to love and finances, having the money talk.
When I say the, I mean, exposing your finances to one another, this is a big step.
For many, it is a scary step, especially if there's some messiness involved like debt.
For years, I shared a monthly net worth update, but I don't think I really got into the first time we had an open and honest conversation about our finances.
Today is the day.
This episode is a new experience for both of us, and I hope it helps you with your own conversation.
Don't let fear keep you from getting on the same page with your finances. I personally know how nerve-wracking talking about money can be.
When my husband and I were first engaged in laid out the numbers. Between the two of us, I was carrying the bigger amount of debt.
Even in that situation, I'm still grateful we had the talk. We saw that we needed to start talking, not just finances, but bigger issues like goals and our plans to get there.
Having the money talk can be an empowering experience and draw the two of you closer together. How you go about it makes all the difference.
Today I'll be sharing some tips to help:
- make the discussion less stressful and more productive
- go over do's and don'ts – how to set up your money chat
- share some additional resources
I'll also chat with my husband afterward about our own first discussion on money So you have a general idea of what to expect.
Let's get started!
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How We Pick Up Our Money Habits
No matter how your marriage started out, at some point the honeymoon is over and the two of you are dealing with the realities of the day to day.
Many times that eye opener is disagreements about money.
And it's not necessarily a bad thing.
Laurie Puhn, a couples meditator, commented that having arguments about finances can be expected with married couples.
The truth is most of the time, it's not necessarily the numbers, but it's what we bring to the marriage that cause us to bicker and nitpick.
Our previous experiences with money have a huge impact on how we view it and how we act towards it.
Maybe we picked up unproductive habits because of our role models. If money was a tense topic growing up or you've seen the big issues side stepped to completely avoid fights than you may feel unprepared on how to best talk about it.
Differences in culture can be another source of tension. One of you may have family who expects you to take care of them when they older while the other was raise with the idea that each generation is self-sufficient.
Don't forget we also have unique personalities. I can tell you that some of the traits that made me fall in love with my husband can also be some of the more frustrating ones to deal with when we have a disagreement.
His thoughtful and deliberate discussions become dragging his feet with decisions. (Or at least that's how I feel in the moment 🙂 )
This isn't about making excuses, but about understanding where your spouse is coming from.
Once you both see why your partner coming from a certain perspective, it can make it easier to work with them.
How Can We Talk About Money Better?
Having differences of opinions doesn't mean that your marriage is doomed; how you communicate with one another can though.
Misunderstandings can quickly snowball into arguments and shouting matches, depending on your personalities.
So just how you talk about money?
- Write it down. Before you two get together to talk about your finances, make some time to jot down your thoughts and feelings about it. It can serve you in two ways – help you identify your end goal and release some of your emotions.
- Choose to meet at a time and place that is relaxing for the both of you. Make the situation as comfortable as you can so they two of you are in a better mood to listen. You also might want to have a set time to start and finish so you don't feel like this will go on forever.
- Both sides need to talk. Let each of you have some uninterrupted time to express your thoughts and feelings about the situation. While the other one is talking, make sure you're paying attention to what they are saying. Take notes if you have to. If you're worried one about going over the limit, set a timer.
- Find common ground. Once you both spoke about it, try to see if you can come to an agreement on something and work from there.
- Break it down. If you're still having trouble coming up with an overall plan for your goal, see if you can back it up a bit and agree on the first step.
Building a Better Marriage with Conversations
I think one way to overcome bad communication habits is by having positive models we can build from.
It's one reason why I created the Couple Money Podcast. Besides sharing our story, I interview couples who have worked together to improve their marriage and their finances.
Two other awesome podcasts you may want to check out are His and Her Money and Marriage, Kids, and Money.
Download these podcasts and take a listen the next time the two of you are hanging out.
Thoughts on Why We Fight About Money
I'd love to hear from you about how both of you handle financial disagreements. What has been your biggest money fight?
What has worked for you and what hasn't?
This episode was originally released in 2014. Show notes have been updated March 2021.
Money seems to be a sensitive subject! It doesn’t have to be. I think it is best to discuss your financial goals and form consensus and you can proceed from there with a budget.
I agree! Finding a common ground can be tricky depending on the couple, but it’s essential if couples want to succeed.
My husband and I have “finance dates” where we discuss and analyze everything related to our money and our goals. For us, it’s really important to carve out this dedicated time to sit down together and check-in. We employ a lot of the tactics you suggest and I find that having a judgement-free zone is the most critical element. Each person needs to feel safe to express their feelings. We also try to keep our goals at the forefront–more important than the raw numbers are the things we’re working towards together.
I like the finance date idea; makes it a much more comfortable chat!
Open communication is so important in relationships, and in many aspects people really do that well. For example, people will be open about where to go out for dinner, or what movie to rent, etc. Small stuff.
However, when it comes to a big picture issues like money management, saving vs. spending, investing, or even gender roles and money – it becomes more of a taboo topic. In reality, I think that the more important the issue is, the more essential it is that people communicate.
Actually communicating, with an open mind and willingness to find common ground, is something each person should do. If this can happen with the most important topics and issues, it makes many things fall into place easier.
I think the most important thing is to have shared goals. If your goals align, finding the path towards those goals that you both like will be much easier.