Money is among the top reasons for martial strain and divorce, and those of us who are married understand why. Think about your single years: You had complete control over your finances and your bank account. Fast-forward to combining your finances with your spouse, and it’s easy to see why arguing about finances can put a serious damper on your relationship. Financial infidelity, different spending and saving habits, and lean times can make you feel stressed out and liable to take out your frustration on your spouse.
So what’s a couple to do when money woes and arguments are taking center stage? I’ve been married for nearly nine years, and I’d be lying if I said it’s been financial smooth sailing the entire time. But I am happy to say that any money-related tiffs are usually quickly nipped in the bud. It’s important to take money arguments head-on. Allowing your negative feelings about your spouse’s spending to fester can only result in a future blowout.
Having Fair Financial Discussions With Your Spouse
If your financial discussions usually end up in a shouting match, you’re doing something wrong. Unfortunately, it’s hard to control your feelings in the heat of the battle.
The first step you must take is often the most difficult: Resolve to not fight about money, period. If you’re getting fired up about something your spouse has done or said, take a time out before you discuss the issue. Never get into a money discussion when you’re already heated, since it will only make things worse. Once you’ve cooled off, you can calmly discuss your finances using these smart tips.
1. Balance Your Checkbook Together
If only one spouse is familiar with the bank account, issues are sure to arise. When you’re in complete control of the bank account and its balance, you can’t fault your spouse for not seeing the bigger picture.
Instead of hoarding control of the account, set a monthly date to sit down and go over your books and pay bills together. That way, you both know what to expect during the coming month, what you need to spend, and where you need to save. You can also chat about upcoming large purchases, such as car maintenance or a family vacation. This way you can agree on where your money should be appropriated, removing the resentment that can occur when only one spouse takes over the finances.
2. Set a Limit
When one spouse is a saver and the other one’s a spender – or worse, a shopaholic – then going over-budget on a pair of shoes is definitely going to ruffle some feathers. On the other hand, a spender might feel attacked and resentful when an argument occurs.
Stop the madness by setting a spending limit. If either of you wants to go over the limit, it has to be agreed upon and cleared by the other spouse. For instance, you could set a spending limit of $50. Buying a couple of CDs or some sports equipment is totally doable. But when the total of your shopping trip goes above $50, make a phone call to clear it first. It shows that you’re considerate of your spouse’s wishes and conscious of your budget.
3. Take Advantage of Auto-Banking
If you don’t have to think about it, you’re probably not going to argue about it. If your spouse is constantly nagging about retirement savings or paying the bills, look into setting up automated drafts instead of revisiting the same argument time and time again. This is an easy way to help you cut down on common squabbles in your home.
4. Use “I” Statements
When you need to broach a touchy issue like money, your spouse’s defenses automatically go up. It gets even worse when you start playing the blame game. Using “you” statements, such as, “You never pay bills on time!” makes your spouse feel attacked, and rightly so. It’s a way that you validate your negative feelings by blaming your spouse.
Of course, you should know that it never ends well when you go into attack mode. Instead of foisting your anger onto your spouse, use “I” statements to take responsibility for your emotions and your part in the argument. For instance, “I get frustrated when the bills aren’t paid on time. Can I help you out with that?” Rather than making a statement that is a catalyst for an argument, say something that evens the playing field and does not come off accusatory.
5. Find the Solution
If something isn’t working, fix it! You don’t have to have the same old fights over and over. If you’re having problems sharing a bank account, consider separating your finances to reduce fighting. If paying bills on time is a sore spot for you, divvy up the responsibility and use resources such as Mint.com to track your expenses and stay on top of your budget.
Think of yourselves as a team. Instead of fighting against each other, work together to find a solution that works so you can end the fights once and for all.
Even the world’s most perfect couple is going to argue about money every now and again. But as long as you are fair and work toward a fair solution, your money arguments can fizzle away to nothing more than a calm discussion for the greater good.
Do you ever fight about money with your spouse? How do you diffuse the battles?