Money seems to be one of the biggest pain points in marriage. In other subjects, we are the epitomy of grace and cordiality, but when talking finances, we may fight like cats and dogs, or avoid the topic entirely. Neither approach gets things done. Today, I’d like to share with you a few tips for getting the conversation started and keeping it nice. My husband and I have our issues, but thankfully communication has never been one of them. I hope our tips will help you and your spouse to begin working as a team to start working together towards your financial goals.
What is holding you back?
Before you can start having productive conversations with your spouse, you need to identify what is holding you back. Have you had bad experiences with money in the past? Do you lack experience with handling money? Did you miss a few payments and have to pay late fees? Take some time to look within and “deal with your financial issues.” I can help you with financial education, but you are the one who needs to face past difficulties and either take responsibility for your mistakes, or forgive those who made mistakes that affected you.
Use “I” statements
“You forgot to pay that bill!”
“You spent all our money!”
“Do you even care about us?”
Notice that in all these statements, the attention and blame has all been conveniently placed on the other person. I have never responded well to a personal attack, and I’m sure you don’t either. We immediately get defensive and either attack back, or dig in our heels. This may be satisfying for our ego, but it doesn’t encourage conversation. In order for you and your spouse to productively talk about your finances, you need to use “I” statements instead. For example:
“I feel terrible when we pay a bill late.”
“I get nervous when you spend extra money, because I’m afraid we won’t have enough for the important stuff.”
“I want more say on what gets purchased, because I’m in this boat, too.”
“I” statements help you communicate to your spouse where you are coming from, without attacking them. If you haven’t had good money conversations in the past, they may honestly be completely in the dark about your frustrations. “But I’ve told them a million times!” If your tellings were in the form of a personal attack, I can guarantee that they tuned you out. It’s not that they don’t care. It’s just that they entered self-defense mode a long time ago.
Have your attempts at talking finances been driven by accusations? Start using I instead of you and see if that helps bring down the walls and open up communication.
Remember you are on the same team
I’m speaking to married couples today, so yes, you are on the same team. There is no him and her, just us. You vowed to stay together and work together til death do you part. Working together on your finances is part of that vow. When you remember that you are traveling through life together, it’s easier to see that your decisions affect each other.
When one spouse spends money without consulting the other, the other spouse must live with the decision. This is why it is always best to talk over purchases, especially the big ones, realizing that neither of you are an island on to yourself. With smaller purchases, it’s often a good idea to at least have a discussion. For example, does one spouse prefer the name brand of a certain food, even though it is more expensive? Saving money on toilet paper to allow extra money for your spouse’s favorite crackers shows them you care. Knowing how the other one feels about little things like food purchases is a great way to show honor to your spouse.
Split and define the work
Jordan Paige from www.funcheaporfree.com has an excellent video on how to start budgeting as a couple and define who is responsible for what.
It is so important to be on the same page as a couple when it comes to money. I hope these tips will get you started in the right direction on talking finances with your spouse. Are you ready to start talking money? What are you still struggling with? Tell me about it in the comments!