Money and Relationships
Written by Ben Hoogland LMFT
5 Ways to Reduce Fighting Over Money & Budgets in Your Relationship
If you and your partner argue about money, you’re not alone. According to a recent survey, 27% of Americans said that disagreements about finances tend to erupt into full-blown arguments. This means couples fight more about money than they do about work, chores or the kids
Perhaps even more disturbing is that arguments about money tend to be particularly disastrous to the relationship. In fact, a study by Jeffrey Dew of Utah State University found that married couples who argued about money once a week were twice as likely to divorce as those who disagreed less than once a month.
That’s the bad news.
The good news is there are things you and your partner can do to reduce fighting over money.
- Be Honest About Your Individual Finances
When your partner finds out you owe $20,000 in credit card debt after you’ve been married for three years, that’s a problem. Though it may be hard to talk about, it’s incredibly important that both people be financially transparent. Any time you hide something from your partner, you make it that much harder to form real intimacy. Secrecy is one of the first things to undermine a marriage, and when those secrets do finally come out, and they will (how long do you think you can hide your debt), the arguments will follow.
These are issues that ideally are covered in my premarital counseling program, but if these issues are just coming up now, I offer an intensive retreat to work through marriage issues like this.
- Be Clear About Your Values Towards Money and the Relationship
Many fights over money can start simply because we have different values. If I am working with a couple and the husband wants a boat, and the wife wants to save for their child’s college fund, this doesn’t have to be a permanent impasse. In this example, the husband may make it clear that the boat would be a valuable way to spend time with the family. The wife may express her concerns about their child’s education.
Only once our deeply held values are out in the open can we come to an emotionally satisfying conclusion.
- Discuss Your Relationship’s Roles When It Comes to Money
A major component of my marriage counseling approach is looking at our roles and responsibilities when it comes to marriage. What one partner expects of the other may be wildly different from what the other feels is appropriate. When it comes to managing money this can be the case.
Oftentimes, one partner assumes the responsibility of “Money Manager.” Perhaps they manage the bank account balances, retirement contributions, shared tax prep, etc. If this arrangement is never explicitly talked about, it can cause serious tensions. Especially if one partner feels they have to ask permission to spend money. If money troubles are bringing conflicts like this up, you should take the time to dig deeper into the other roles you have assumed in the marriage.
- Establish a Budget
Will establishing a budget be a fun project? Nope, but it’s really important that you both do it anyway.
Creating a budget gives you factual information that cannot be disputed, hence it takes the wind out of your argument for you. Many financial arguments are based on assumptions and emotions, so when you have a budget, you look at cold, hard numbers and nothing else.
Should one of you not stick to the budget, there is no need for finger-pointing, as the numbers speak for themselves.
One important thing to note about creating budgets is to make sure you each have some wiggle room. You’ll both, from time to time, want to buy something the other thinks is frivolous. Having some wiggle room will allow you to make smaller purchases you don’t have to defend.
Some couples see success in allocated amounts in a budget to each partner to do whatever they like. This is usually a good compromise that lets each partner be their own person, have freedoms and also stick to a set budget.
Concerns over questions on budgets are what I will be covering in my upcoming marriage and money webinar. You can register for that at the previous link.
- Understand the Other’s Approach to Money
Everybody has their own unique money personality, so it’s important that you and your partner understand each other’s spending style. Are you a saver or a spender? Two savers joined eternally is a good thing – two spenders together will be challenging. But even more challenging is when a saver and a spender tie the knot.
When this happens, the saver resents the spender on an almost daily basis for buying those unnecessary lattes or that new pretty bra. Understanding each other’s spending styles won’t change them, but it will open the lines of communication.
Money will always be a concern, so every couple should spend a little time on these tips to make their home lives more peaceful and loving. And, should your arguments about money persist, it’s a great idea to seek guidance from a therapist, who can help you both communicate better and manage your issues.
If you or a loved one is interested in exploring treatment, contact me today. I would be happy to speak with you about how I may be able to help.