Most, if not all, married couples fight about money at some point, even if they’re not experiencing any real financial troubles. That’s because it’s not uncommon for two people with very different money styles to meet and fall in love. Savers find themselves attracted to what they see as their spender partner’s spontaneity and generosity.
Spenders love the feeling of financial security that marrying a saver brings. But because you and your spouse are likely to have very different attitudes about money, it’s important to talk about your financial beliefs and goals early in the relationship, and set financial goals that meet both of your needs.
If you and your spouse don’t take steps to settle your financial conflicts, there’s a good chance they could tear your marriage apart. In fact, many studies argue that couples who argue about money are more likely to get divorced or separated. It doesn’t have to be that way though and with transparency most, if not all, challenges can be overcome together.
Be Open and Honest About Your Current Financial Situation
It’s important that both members of a marriage know all there is to know about the household finances. All too often, one spouse leaves the management of the finances entirely in the hands of the other spouse, who then manages the money poorly.
You can’t manage your financial life together unless you both know what’s going on. Often, financial conflict stems from the simple fact that one partner has neglected to be transparent about his or her financial plans — for example, a wife might be focused on saving for retirement, but her husband, ignorant of those plans, just thinks she’s a skinflint. Make it a point to sit down together regularly — say, once a month — and talk about the household finances.
Don’t forget to discuss your financial backgrounds — like so many other things in life, our attitudes about money and our spending habits are formed in childhood. Your upbringing and your family’s financial circumstances have influenced your attitude toward money, and the same factors have influenced your partner’s money attitudes. Understanding one another’s financial backgrounds will make it easier to sympathize with one another.
Accept One Another’s Financial Differences
If you’re a saver and your partner is a spender, you’re not going to be able to change your partner into another saver, no matter how long and hard you nag. If you think you can change anything about your partner, much less his or her attitudes about money, you’re mistaken.
Instead of trying to change your partner, accept his or her differences, and acknowledge what your partner is doing right financially. If your partner is a saver, he or she is prioritizing security. If your partner is a spender, he or she values living in the moment and enjoying life. Both of these attitudes have their virtues.
Share Financial Responsibilities and Goals
It’s not the 1950s anymore; today’s couples are sharing responsibilities in most areas of life, but many still divide up financial responsibilities according to antiquated notions of propriety. Share the responsibility and divide up financial tasks according to aptitude.
Traditionally, wives handle household budgeting and bill paying, while husbands deal with investing and financial planning; but maybe in your marriage, the husband is better at budgeting and running a household cheaply, while the wife is better at long-term planning. If you’re in debt, find a way to pay it off. Try to balance the responsibilities so that neither of you feels overwhelmed.
Developing shared financial goals can require conflict resolution skills of the kind you’ll acquire when you enroll in an MS in NDR program online. Partners often have very different goals — one may want to travel more while the other thinks it’s more important to save for a house down payment, or one may want to pay off student loans while the other thinks saving for retirement is a bigger priority.
Often, you can compromise on shared goals. Talk about what each of you wants out of your money and divide your goals up into long and short-term goals. There’s a strong chance that both of you have goals with merit — traveling together can help you build memories that you’ll look back on fondly for the rest of your lives; saving for retirement early is important, but living with debt is stressful and a financial burden in the present; and buying a house is a goal most couples aspire to. Other goals can include buying a car, having children and saving for their college, or making a major purchase. With a little negotiation, you can come up with a way to meet both of your goals.
Fights about money can destroy a marriage much more efficiently than fights about almost every other contentious topic. Don’t let financial conflicts derail your marriage. Take control of your finances together, before they take control of you.
Photo courtesy of: J.K. Califf