It’s hard. It’s hard for everyone. Talking about money with your spouse is hard. But it gets easier the more you do it. Practice makes it easier, and practice makes each of us feel better, feel better about ourself, about our marriage, about our spouse.
Think twice about avoiding talking about money. You haven’t escaped reality by not talking about your money problems; instead, by not talking about your spending, your borrowing, your increasing debts, you’re only creating a greater problem for yourself, your spouse, and your marriage. Marriage is a partnership, but a partnership with a difference: men and women differ in their perspectives on and their reactions to money — that is to say, to income, debt, wealth, and security.
Where and when did each of us learn to talk about money? At home of course. We learned by observing our parents. I learned to talk, or more accurately, I learned not to talk about money from my parents. My wife learned from her parents. Were her parents and my parents alike in how they talked or didn’t talk about money? Not at all. Both sets of parents talked about money outside the presence of children, but complained occasionally in the presence of children. Neither set of parents talked about money in the comfortable, relaxed manner in which they talked about other subjects. The message we as children learned is that money is a source of contention; perhaps we even learned that talking about money was something to be avoided. We can’t, however, go through life blaming everything on our parents. Ultimately, we are responsible for our own lives. So, the question for each of us is: Can we learn to talk comfortably with our spouse about money?
For a concise overview of money and relationships, see Dave Ramsey’s webpage, the Truth about Money and Relationships.
Money is one of the biggest sources of frustration in many marriages. The main reason for this is that a lot of people have never learned how to talk about money in a relaxed, communicative manner. This is particularly a problem during times of financial stress like we’re going through right now with the recession. Learning to talk appropriately about money can reduce stress in your marriage. It can also lead to greater savings because it puts you and your spouse on the same financial page.
Here are some key tips to follow when discussing money with your spouse:
- Know what you want to say before you say it. This is always a good rule to follow before initiating any controversial conversation with your partner. Then make sure to stick to the topic.
- Understand your own weaknesses. Do you waste money on certain things? Do you get defensive when talking about the bills? Knowing what your own flaws are will show you what you need to work on in order to have a better financial relationship with your partner.
- Create a system for dealing with finances in your home. There are a lot of different systems to choose from (such as joint accounts vs. shared accounts) and you’ll have to find what works for you but it’s important to make sure that you have one.
- Identify your shared financial goals. The best way to do this is to sit down individually and write out your ten most important financial goals. Come together and see which items are on both your list and your partner’s list. These are the major goals to work towards together. Revisit these goals annually; tax time is a good time to do that.
- Celebrate the small goals. Within those big goals will be smaller goals. Celebrate together when you reach them to keep your money life happy together.
- Set aside one day per month to discuss money. This is the time when you can haggle over expenses and discuss bills. Make a commitment not to argue about money the rest of the month. You’ll still be dealing with the important issues but you’ll have the rest of that time to just enjoy one another.
- Continue to learn about money together. By taking financial classes together and reading finance books together, you and your spouse can really get the conversational ball rolling about money in a non-controversial way. Plus you’ll be benefitting yourselves financially.
Learning to talk to your spouse about money is all about learning how to communicate in a calm manner. A lot of us have a hard time doing that when it comes to money because money can be such a stressor in our lives. Taking the time to relax by ourselves and with our partner, waiting until we’re calm to discuss money problems and generally just keeping those doors of communication open will all go a long way towards improving our marriages.