How To Talk To Your Spouse About Money

by Tracy · 12 comments

old couple
Money can be an extremely touchy subject.

Even for those of us who swear that money isn’t important, there’s no way to deny that whether we like it or not, dollars touches our lives in every way. If you’re reading this, you probably have a clear idea on how important money is to a well lived life, and how essential solid communication around the topic is to a happy, healthy marriage.

Unfortunately, money is one of the primary catalysts leading to couples fighting, and one of the leading causes of divorce in this country. It’s easy to fight about money, and most couples occasionally find themselves on opposite sides of a financial dispute. Constant fighting is cancer to a marriage, creeping into every crevice of a couple’s lives, slowly eroding the way they interact with one another. This decay can be especially damaging when the topic is as core to a couple’s daily life as money.

And problems with money don’t have to be something “serious” like gambling or addiction to cause serious problems either. Poor habits or inept money management can degrade the health of an otherwise strong marriage. Learning a few simple strategies that make it easier to communicate, before little problems blow up to become big ones, can be the difference between a household filled with peace and quiet, and one that’s silent for an entirely different set of reasons.

Use the 3 following strategies to help you discuss money with your spouse, without any argument.

Honesty

Honesty is the best policy, right?

Lies fester, especially when they’re about money. But numbers are black and white, right and wrong, so getting creative with your stories is never a good idea.

This goes both ways – if you make a mistake, look your partner in the eye, tell them you’re sorry, and mean what you say. Ownership goes a long way. If you expect to keep your partner accountable, you must hold yourself accountable as well.

Whatever the problem is, and no matter whose “fault” it might be, use direct language and don’t shade the truth. Keep your cool, and remain reasonable, but get the truth out in the open. The sooner you do, the sooner you can start working toward an effective solution.

Which is exactly what the second strategy is all about.

Expediency

If you recognize a problem, either with yourself and your personal behavior, or with your partner’s, you must work to correct the problem as quickly as possible.

Problems rarely fade away entirely by themselves. This is especially true when it comes to difficulties with money, which tend to get worse, and more expensive, by the day. Money is the blood of your existence, you must treat it with the same care you would give to any other artery.

Deal with financial problems as soon as they appear, and use specific language to tell your partner exactly what you mean. If you made a mistake, address it immediately, and with specificity. The same holds true if you recognize a problem with your partner.

Don’t let your feelings stew. Address the issue at your earliest opportunity, working toward a solution together will help you grow together, intelligently as a couple.

Growth is often a shortcut to happiness.

Growth

Making mistakes can lead to growth, and consistent growth can lead to a full, happy and healthy life. Mistakes are essential to the process. Of course, mistakes can be a resource too easily overproduced, so make sure you’re running more than you’re falling. Never forget though that if you’re willing to learn from every mistake, each one will have value. You always succeed by failing fast.

Recognizing this truth is essential to effective communication with your partner.

If you’ve made a mistake, make sure your partner knows you understand what you did wrong and why you won’t do it in the future, along with specific strategies you will use to produce different results.

Assure your partner that you’re not upset if it’s your partner that’s causing most of the money pains. Then let them see your cup half-full mentality by reminding them that there’s value to be gained from the setback.

Communicate well with your partner and you can turn money squabbles into money growth. This will lead to a better balance, both with your bank account, and the health and stability of your marriage.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • Linda says:

    There is no reason why you cannot talk to your spouse about money. You should have. Honesty in deed is very important to establish trust always. With the right communication, you can turn the conversion in a healthy marriage. 🙂

  • Debt leads to so many arguments and often resentment with married couples. It’s the stress compounded by the time. Also when one spouse spends money without telling the other, it builds resentment, anger, and distrust. Be careful with money if you value your marriage (as you should).

  • Robert says:

    Honesty is always a plus when speaking with your spouse about money. I think if your are dishonest you may or eventually will be caught and then your spouse may not trust you as much anymore.

  • Sherry Vosburgh says:

    The writer ASSUMES we are all married…

    dollars touches our lives – TOUCH!!

    well-lived lives, not well lived lives.

    True about emotions…

  • Rachel Williamson says:

    Another important part of marriage and money is understanding the emotions of money. I am a very factual person, so adding up the numbers makes perfect sense to me and justifies financial decisions. Other people have different emotions about money than I do, so what makes sense to me, often doesn’t to them. If you have this kind of difference with your spouse, you will need to mutually understand the emotions before you can agree to cooperate on money strategies.

  • Jean says:

    Financial disagreements can indeed ruin the fabric of a good marriage quite often. This is why a good understanding is needed between the couple about spending guidelines and proper financial planning. If you don’t plan and budget adequately, issues are bound to arise when you begin to run out of money halfway through the month. A successful relationship is built on many things but honesty and transparency are some of the most important qualities.

    -Jean

  • I wish that communication regarding money in a relationship was something that was emphasized by people who perform marriages and do pre-marital counseling.

    I don’t practice family law, but as part of my firm’s bankruptcy practice, we have seen the after effects of relationships where money wasn’t something that could be discussed. One spouse has wrecked their own credit and often their spouses as well. Sometimes, divorce and bankruptcy are the result of a lack of honesty and communication between spouses.

    That being said, being open with your spouse and tackling the problem rather than ignoring it is a great first step towards building a healthier relationship with each other and with money.

  • Marbella says:

    Communicating is the most important thing after honesty. Money is the root of most divorces, cheatings and other problems within the family.

  • I would add another key point – compromise. For me, my overarching financial goal is to achieve financial independence (not relying on selling my labour for income) as fast as possible. My wife likes some of the finer things in life, and was in favour of a nice wedding, so we compromised. I guess this goes hand-in-hand with your honesty section.

    • KM says:

      My husband used to be the kind that spent without looking at prices just because he wanted something. So I tasked him with itemizing each receipt to see where the money goes and now he stops himself before mindlessly grabbing things, saying they are too expensive. We also look at the “per” cost (per ounce, per 100ct, etc) together and look for the best value. People can change, but being on the “frugal” end of the relationship, I can totally understand how frustrating it can be sometimes when you want to save money and the other person wants to spend it.

  • MoneyPerk says:

    I have no place to comment about finances within a marriage, as I have never been married. But, I found this piece quite informative and helpful as to how to handle such a finance disaster once I am married!

    • MoneyNing says:

      It doesn’t have to be a disaster 🙂 As someone wise once said, your marriage could be the best thing that happens to you or it could be the worst – it all depends on the person you pick.

      Good luck!

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