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Money is a hot button topic for many couples. There are usually two types of people in a relationship: one partner who loves managing money carefully, and one partner who loves even more to spend it freely.
So what do you do if you and your partner can’t seem to get on the same page with your budget, money goals, and spending?
What if every attempt to talk about money causes a fight?
This may leave you feeling deflated. After all, life is full of demands, and managing your money is just one of them.
It can be incredibly hard to go it alone and be the family Chief Financial Officer without any input or support from your partner.
Maybe you’ve tried to get your partner on board with managing your family’s finances. It’s possible that you’ve even read books or taken courses to try to prove to your spouse that your finances are important.
Maybe you’ve even begged and pleaded for your partner to make some small compromises with no progress.
And maybe spouse still won’t talk about money without becoming distant or angry.
If this is you, I’m here to tell you there is hope!
Do not give up!
Every day I thank God that my wife and I never fought about money with the kind of anger and opposition I described above.
But did we sometimes fight about money? You bet.
However, our money fights are few and far between these days.
Five simple principles have helped us basically eliminate significant money fights alltogether, and I’m confident they can help you, too.
5 Keys to Talking About Money With Your Partner Without Conflict
Before we dive in, I have to admit that I don’t have all the answers. But my experience as a husband, “the nerd,” and educator have provided a wealth of experience in mitigating conflict and achieving solutions that allow everyone to “win.”
If I’ve ever learned one over-arching principle about money conflicts in relationships, it’s this:
The keys to finally getting your spouse to talk about money with you and ultimately get on the same page are mutual understanding, respect, and teamwork.
Read on to see how you can implement five simple principles to stop fighting about money with your partner.
1. Understand and Respect Your Partner’s Dreams
If your spouse won’t talk about money or other important matters without becoming disconnected or irritable, let me tell you something:
You don’t have a money problem. You have a communication problem.
This is a dangerous sign that you’re lacking connection in other areas as well.
Answer these questions honestly:
- When was the last time you and your spouse laughed together?
- When did you last sit down to discuss your hopes and dreams for the future?
- When was the last time you reflected on how far you’ve come in your relationship and expressed gratitude for that journey?
- When was the last time you really blocked out other distractions and focused on each other?
Let’s face it: if you aren’t connecting as a couple, agreeing on how to manage your money isn’t going to happen.
A long time ago, I learned an important lesson reading several books by Dale Carnegie:
People don’t care what you know until they know that you care.
If you’re the type that plans out a budget, sits down with your game face on, and is ready to share your brilliant plans with your spouse before you do anything else, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
I know this is true because I’ve been there.
When I learned to listen to my wife’s feelings, ask her about her day, and form an emotional connection with her before talking about money, something changed.
She stopped resenting our financial conversations and grew to look at them as times in which we connected and discussed our hopes and dreams for the future.
I can also tell you that a powerful thing happens when you have an understanding of your spouse’s dreams: it becomes much easier to talk about money as a tool to help you reach those dreams.
Today, we know that we won’t be able to bring her dreams and mine into reality unless we remain on the same page with money.
2. Start Small and Celebrate the Little Victories
If your spouse won’t talk about money matters currently, you need to realize that this isn’t going to change overnight. You need to be patient!
Remember, it’s much easier to change your own mindset than it is to change your partner’s mindset.
The best way to begin having productive money discussions with your spouse is by introducing healthy discussion gradually. You might mention an interesting tip you recently read, mention your desire to plan a family vacation, or just happen to mention the progress you made in cutting your grocery budget.
The point is that you need to ease into money talk in a gentle, non-threatening manner. And the best way to do that is by talking about money topics that don’t involve either of you.
3. Set a Good Example (Walk the Walk, Not Just Talk)
If you’re serious about getting your partner onboard with a solid money plan, there is one thing you absolutely must do first:
Make sure you demonstrate good habits with money yourself.
Pointing out all of the things your partner does wrong with money isn’t going to be the magic wand that erases all their bad habits. Instead, it will be a magnifying glass that focuses in on all of the ways you are being hypocritical toward your partner.
So before you jump into money talks with your spouse, make sure you can talk the talk and walk the walk.
If you keep a monthly budget, make sure it stays up to date. Continue to do everything you can to manage your family’s money responsibly. Even if your spouse won’t talk about money, it is likely that he or she will notice your good attitude and actions.
Remember, your partner will learn better when shown how to do something instead of being told how to do something.
Your actions will show how much this whole money thing means to you, and once your partner sees that it’s important to you (remember #1 above?), things will start to change.
CAUTION: What Not To Do
The unfortunate reality is that it can be incredibly frustrating if your partner won’t talk about money with you.
If he or she continues to do his or own thing with money over a long period of time, you might go from frustrated to angry.
You might even begin to lose some trust in your partner.
This isn’t the time to give up. But it is time to be very careful.
4. Don’t Let Your Emotions Win
You may want to throw in the towel, hit the mall for some retail therapy, or trade in your set of wheels for something newer.
Remember that it is always easier to justify emotions than to justify actions.
If you decide to give up now, you’re wiping out any progress you have made so far.
You may not know it, but your spouse could be starting to come around to the idea of talking about money and making a plan with you.
When things get really hard, sometimes you just have to walk away and blow off steam.
5. Don’t Speak in “You” Statements
If your partner had to pick one reason why they don’t want to talk about money with you, it’s most likely simpler than you think:
They feel like they are just going to be attacked. Again. For the millionth time.
And if we’re being honest, this happens when your patience has run out.
The truth is your partner will never agree to work with you on forming a money plan if they feel like they’re the cause of all of your family’s money problems.
So how can you create a feeling of teamwork?
- Don’t use the word “you.” Instead, speak using “we” statements. Similarly, exchange “your” for “our” so your partner can see that you want to work together.
- Start from a place of talking about your dreams and goals. Don’t be afraid to dream big! If you both have shared vision to work toward, it’s going to be motivating and fun to get on the same page with money.
- Work together to come up with a visual way to measure your progress, like a chart on the refrigerator or an Excel sheet that you update together once per week.
- Celebrate the successes you achieve, and recognize that you achieved them together.
Where to Turn If You Really Need Help
Many couples try time and time again to solve their money problems and never quite get over the hump.
If you feel like you and your partner have tried everything, please consider seeking professional intervention from a trusted pastor, counselor, or other mediator.
Sometimes a neutral third party voice is exactly what you and your spouse need to break down communication barriers and find common ground.
Do you have a spouse who won’t talk about money (or other touchy topics)? What tips do you have for managing this kind of difficult communication?