With my first wedding anniversary coming up, I thought it would be time to share what I’ve learned in 365 days of marriage: how to handle a money fight. Everyone knows that money is one of the biggest causes of divorce. So how can you prevent finances from destroying your relationship? Read my tips below.
GIVE THEM ALL THE INFORMATION
In many relationships, one person has all the financial control. This is only bad if during a fight, you use your knowledge against the other person. The person with the control feels incredible responsibility for managing the finances, paying the bills and figuring out how much the couple has to save.
The other person is living in the dark. They have no idea if everything is getting paid, if the retirement fund is full and if you’re ok if anything bad happens.
So if you bring up a money issue, make sure to put it in context. Saying, “we’re broke” can put your partner on edge if what you really mean is, “We spent $200 more than we earned last month.” Remember that your partner may not have all the information that you do, so give that to them before saying what you’re worried about.
This is something I’ve learned to do. Since I’m the one in charge of managing our budget, I have 99% of the financial insight about our relationship. Not giving my partner the context to understand what’s going on can lead to unnecessary anxiety and confusion.
REALIZE IT’S PERSONAL
A money fight is not about numbers, dollar signs or math. It’s about control, freedom and emotions. If you tell your husband that he’s overspending, he’s going to feel patronized and stifled. If he tells you that you’re saving too much, you’re going to feel like he doesn’t understand what you’re doing.
A money fight can get heated quickly. If you want to bring up a money issue, take a page from my book. I often get nervous during stressful discussions, so I try writing out my feelings beforehand. This is something I do all the time since my anxiety often clouds my thoughts and makes it hard to express what I’m really feeling.
BRING IT UP EARLY
Don’t wait until your boyfriend has spent rent money on an Xbox One before you bring up your money concerns. Having a money fight is like any other fight. The longer you dwell on the issues, the more heated you will be. These fights should be as calm and neutral as possible. The faster you bring something up, the more likely you can resolve it without tears or yelling.
Choose your timing carefully. Don’t wait until the end of the night to show him a budget spreadsheet or while you’re shopping for Christmas presents. Make sure to consider his point of view before starting the discussion; you don’t want to enter it with an agenda or pre-conceived notions about why he did something.
IT’S A LEARNING PROCESS
Merging two lives is a beautiful, complex process. Don’t be surprised if you have some kinks getting it sorted out. And even though you both may be speaking the same language, understanding what the other person wants can take time (and many discussions).
Remember to compromise. If you’re used to being the money manager, learn that your way cannot be the only way. This is something I really struggled with. I’m a personal finance writer and blogger – shouldn’t my opinion count MORE? Turns out, both people’s thoughts matter in a marriage.
Honestly having my more laidback husband involved in our family finances has been so helpful. It’s helped me let go of the OCD approach I used to have toward budgeting. I don’t have to account for every dollar of our budget. He lets me know it’s ok to buy something I really want and that it’s also ok to save for something important, like our future rental property.