How to Avoid Fighting About Money with Your Partner

by Jessica Sommerfield · 2 comments

Things can get a little tense when it comes to money and relationships. I know that my partner and I sometimes have different financial priorities and that it affects our relationship.

We haven’t, however, had a lot of fights about money recently.

Some of that has to do with accepting what each of us cares about, while some of it is a result of our increasing income (there’s just more money to go around). We’re fortunate in that regard since it means we can reach our shared goals – and still have enough left over to spend on our individual priorities.

If you’re trying to avoid fighting about money with your significant other, there are some things you can try. Leo Willcocks, stress consultant and author of the book DeStress to Success, offers his suggestions for avoiding undue stress during financial discussions:

1. Listen

“Often we are trying so hard to get our point across that we are not really listening to what the other person is saying,” Willcocks points out. “When we listen, not just hear, we start to actually understand what the other person is communicating.”

He says that understanding leads to better discussions and less resentment over money. I know this helped my husband and me. Even when we were stressed about money, we fought less when we took the time to listen and understand each other.

2. Breathe

“After your loved one has said what they are thinking, take a moment to think about what they are saying,” Willcocks suggests. This isn’t about taking deep breaths or counting to 10. This is about truly considering what the other person is saying before responding to it. “This goes hand-in-hand with listening,” he says.

3. Clarify

“A lot of stress – especially in finances – comes from misunderstanding,” Willcocks says. “After you have listened and thought about what they have said, clarify with them.” You need to understand where your partner is coming from. “This way, if there is a misunderstanding it can be sorted out quickly, without the stress levels rising.” Misunderstandings create a gap between you and your partner and the longer you wait, the more that gap widens. Don’t wait. Clarify as soon as you can to eliminate the chance that any ill feelings can fester.

4. Don’t Be a Doormat

Just because you’re listening and understanding doesn’t mean you should let your partner walk all over you. Willcocks points out that “You need to be heard and have your needs understood.” He says that after you’ve shown respect to your partner by listening and understanding, your partner needs to do the same for you. Money decisions must come from a place of mutual respect.

5. Compromise

Finally, it’s time to compromise as you make your money decisions. “Once you have both shared your perspectives about the finances, you may find that you actually see things the same way,” Willcocks says. “However, this is not always the case. If you have different points of view, then you need to work together.”

He suggests choosing an outcome that allows you to both get what you want. If this isn’t possible, you need to compromise enough so that you’re both reasonably satisfied. Early in our relationship, my husband and I often had to make choices and go through a process of give and take since there wasn’t enough money to go around for all our “fun” wants. During that time period, being able to compromise was essential. It’s easier now that we have a little more to spend on discretionary expenses, but we still have to compromise. As we like to say, “we can do anything we want but not everything we want.” What’s important to you? Figure that out and spend your money on that while giving up on what’s not really important. Let your partner do the same.

With a little effort and by remembering that you love each other, it should be possible to avoid fighting with your partner about finances.

What’s your favorite trick for avoiding the dreaded money fight?

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  • wkr says:

    Good subject! I really think it’s quite important, when starting a relationship, to make sure the people involved have similar financial goals. From the types of vacations they like to the kind of school they expect their kids to attend to house/furnishings/fashionable clothes etc etc etc. There are so many things to spend money on!

    And you may both start out with good jobs and bright futures, but life doesn’t always go the way we hope & expect. What happens when one partner loses their job or has a pay cut and can no longer contribute as much as they were? What if that happens to both of them? It may seem a bit pessimistic, but just thinking about these things and considering how you can meet life’s challenges together may help to pave the way to finding solutions.

    I feel quite fortunate that my husband is even more of a saver and planner than I am, and we redid our place first, in preparation for children, paid it off, and got a nest egg before we started travelling. Both of us are extremely interested in travelling and now every extra cent (outside of a certainly yearly amount going towards investments) goes towards our next trip. Neither of us is interested in spending money on much of anything else… I don’t remember how much we talked about finances before we got married, so it seems to have been a bit of luck!

  • Mark Thomas says:

    Great tips.

    This may not be preferable for couples who have been married for many years and have families, but for relatively new serious couples (such as newlyweds) who manage shared expenses but still have some doubts about their significant other’s ability to budget effectively, I think joint bank accounts are a great idea. Each partner is responsible for depositing their share of the bills every month, and as long as they prove capable, it can potentially reduce disagreements because it’s concrete proof that they can balance their personal spending and required spending. You can even open a joint savings account too and maybe come to an agreement that it’s a good investment for each person to contribute an equal amount to that account each month. Seeing concrete proof that each person is capable of meeting their financial obligations can lead to more harmony, rather than the arguments and anxiety that come with waiting until the bills roll in and one partner suddenly saying “so, I thought I was going to be able to pay my part of the rent and I promise it won’t happen again, but…”

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