Do you and your partner fight about money? Everyone does—but for some couples, money issues can get so ugly and emotional that they end up breaking up because of ‘irreconcilable differences.’ In fact, money is the leading reason for divorce, trumping infidelity and even spousal abuse.
But many couples are able to have honest conversations about money and reach a happy compromise. Here are some of the remarkably simple ways to achieve that in your relationship.
1. Understand each other’s money personalities.
People have different perspectives, attitudes and emotional associations, and ‘default modes’ of dealing with money. For example, some are more inclined to save for a rainy day, sometimes to the point of being a ‘tightwad’; others are more impulsive and are dangerously reckless with their cash. That doesn’t mean that they can’t agree. These are just tendencies, which both can overcome or at least be conscious of.
The secret is to be frank about your tendencies, and your partner’s. Then balance each other’s weaknesses, capitalize on each other’s strengths. Take the case of Ricky and Paula. ‘I’m in charge of the budget, because I’m better at keeping track of expenses,’ he says. ‘But my wife is brilliant at finding sales and deals, like furniture at garage sales or gadgets in mint condition on eBay. So we set a budget every month for her ‘finds,’ or if she sees something we talk about it. She’s the smartest shopper I know, and I trust her to find a way to get the best value for our money.’
2. Set rules for discussion.
Before, Linda and David would argue constantly about money. In fact, the couple nearly divorced, but were able to save their relationship through counseling. Their therapist gave them this great piece of advice: set a regular time for talking about money, and set ground rules.
For example, don’t suddenly bring up a money issue while the two of you are on your way out of the house, or in the middle of dinner. You’re catching your partner unawares, neither of you may be in the best mood, and your conversation is likely to be derailed when the kids interrupt or the phone rings.
Instead, set an appointment—like Saturday evening, every first Saturday of the month—so you can both put yourself in the frame of mind to look at the budget, discuss bills, or plan next year’s vacation. Between those ‘family meetings’ write down any money concern in a notebook so you won’t forget them.
3. Dream together.
Most couples fight about money problems, but why not take this approach: you’re both working together to use money to make your dreams come true. Instead of saying, ‘You spent too much money on gadgets!’ you can say, ‘Let’s plan that second honeymoon in Spain! Where can we save so we can make that happen by next year?’
Also have one big annual money talk. Talk about your goals for that year, or talk about long-term goals. For example, what age do you want to retire and how will you plan for that retirement? What kind of lifestyle would you like to lead? How much money would you need to save a year in order to achieve that?
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