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Marriage and Money Issues and Problems: Compromise on Details, Not Principles

It’s no surprise that money is one of the biggest sources of arguments among married couples, and it’s also the number one cause of divorce in North America. When it comes to money, we often butt heads with our spouse.

I could come up with a million different reasons for why we often disagree with our spouse about money, but most of it is simply due to pride, selfishness, and a lack of communication. What we often overlook is that many times we’re not fighting with our spouse over principle, but rather we’re just fighting over details of a certain financial aspect.

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The word “compromise” has become a dirty word in marriage counseling, because it has the stigma that you’re letting go of your principles and convictions just to please your spouse, and I agree that you shouldn’t compromise your principles and convictions. However, people forget that there are ways to compromise without breaking one’s own long-held principles.

I’ve heard Dave Ramsey call it “losing the battle to win the war.” The idea is to give up a little bit and essentially lose the small battle in order to make the situation right and ultimately “win the war” and have a solid relationship with your significant other. But, how do you know if you’re battling over principles or details? How do you go about winning the war? Here are 3 important aspects of your financial relationship with your spouse to consider:

1. Communication Is Key

Stop for a second and talk about what your disagreement is about. If the disagreement is about whether you should buy a car with cash or buy a car with 100% financing, then you have a disagreement over principle. In this case, you don’t want to borrow money, and he or she does.

On the other hand, if your disagreement is about how much you should give to a charity or a family member, you’re actually agreeing that you should give, but you’re disagreeing over the detail of that gift.

2. How To Lose The Battle

Losing the battle involves compromising a little bit to meet in the middle about the details. If you’re fighting over how much to give to a charity, meet somewhere in the middle. Agree to give more money in months when you have managed to save more, and less in months when your expenses are higher than usual.

If you’re fighting over the car financing issue discussed in the previous section, this is obviously a bigger issue since it’s over principles, but still not impossible to get over. You need to explain to each other why you have the stance that you do, and see if there is room for compromise. Perhaps you can agree to pay with cash for the car this time, and consider using financing in future scenarios where you both agree it makes sense.

3. Winning The War

If you find a way for you to both partially win, then you’ve won the war, because you both put your pride aside and found a way to make each other happy. If you communicated about it and found a reasonable compromise, then you’ve each “lost” very small battles, but you’ve won the larger war. Your disagreement won’t fester and you’ll make progress without butting heads every time you talk about it.

Final Thoughts

Have you picked up the common theme in all of our marriage and money posts? It’s communication, which is one of the easiest thing to do, but one of the hardest things to remember to do when you’re involved in marriage or a serious relationship. We often take for granted keeping an open line of communication with our spouse, since we spend so much time together that we actually get lazy about effectively communicating to each other. Communication solves a lot of problems; you should try it sometime!

(photo credit: invisible hour)

Erik Folgate
Erik and his wife, Lindzee, live in Orlando, Florida with a baby boy on the way. Erik works as an account manager for a marketing company, and considers counseling friends, family and the readers of Money Crashers his personal ministry to others. Erik became passionate about personal finance and helping others make wise financial decisions after racking up over $20k in credit card and student loan debt within the first two years of college.

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