Marriage can be full of joy and fulfillment, but it definitely ain’t a walk in the park. Anyone who has been married any amount of time can tell you it’s NOT always easy.
And what about money management? Same story. It’s not easy. You can even have all the steps laid out in front of you… and it’s still tricky! In the Pretty Money Club, we do an 8 week course to gain the knowledge, but then continue to meet regularly for refreshers, community, and accountability. It’s absolutely necessary!
Put marriage and money together, and you are definitely not going to get rainbows and sunshine all of your days. (I’d be shocked if this is a bubble-burster for you. I’m guessing you already know this.)
I’ve chatted with thousands of women about their finances by now and I know one thing to be true: If we hope to overcome money problems and money fights in our marriage, we have to be intentional. We gotta purposely set aside time for money talks. We have to make appointments with our partners to communicate. And we need to learn to communicate WELL.
The Reality of Money Problems for Couples Today
Money magazine found that 70% of married couples argue about money—and money fights happen more often than fights about household chores, spending time together, sex, and snoring! Money is the 2nd leading cause of divorce, which just shows how serious and hard putting relationships and money together really is. We need to take this very seriously… (seriously doesn’t mean boring though, for the record. I’ve never heard the Pretty Money Club described as boring.)
What if money IS a problem in my relationship?
The answer is pretty simple. To overcome financial conflict in your relationship, you have to get on the same page as your partner. Of course this is easier said than done, but putting in the effort and work will be worth it.
The good news is that you don’t have to have the same beliefs about money to make it work.
In fact, your unique perspective regarding money is actually a strength you each bring to the table. I’ve worked with tons of woman that are self-declared “spenders” while their spouses are “the savers,” and vice-versa. Relationships can have a partner that is introverted and one that is extroverted, one that loves gardening and one that is allergic to grass. We are different people and that’s okay!
You’ve got to be able to have open conversation where you can appreciate your partner’s perspective and where their opinion may be coming from. If you can learn to appreciate your own emotional perspective of money and really hear your partner’s invested emotional interest, you can become more unified as a team.
If your money conversations always go sideways, try this:
- Plan a time. You need space for this conversation that will not be interrupted by your life. It should be a time where jobs, kids, and other distractions are unlikely. Distractions will kill this conversation quickly. If you walk into this process dreading it, it’s going to feel dreadful, so try to make it feel a little more upbeat by combining it with a budget friendly date.
- Show up for these chats prepared with a list. Write down some things together that you want to talk about. If it’s a topic that is really touchy, just keep it to that one item and have some open-ended questions ready to ask each other. If it gets emotional, take a break immediately and start with a different topic (from this list) when you’re calm enough.
- Share your money stories. How your family treated money when you were growing up has shaped how you think and feel about it today. The same goes for your partner. By talking about your history, you understand each other more. And that understanding can go a long way. A major part of staying together is communicating shared values and honoring them. So while your partner might prefer to shop at the whole foods market and you love the discount grocers, you both value healthy living and nutritious meals. So how can you meet in the middle spending-wise while still eating well?
- Share your financial fears. Fear makes us do crazy things—like hide purchases or get a secret credit card. Fears boil down to a few common words: power, respect, security, and dreams. Look for the underlying truth. Some truths could look like this:
“I feel like I have no influence over how our money is allocated.” (A lack of control = power)
“I don’t know what I’m doing with money.” (feeling inferior or ill equipped = power)
“I’m afraid something bad will happen and we won’t be able to afford it.” (Security)
“I’ll never be able to do XYZ because we can’t afford it” (Feeling like a dream is unattainable)
“You never listen to me.” (Feeling disrespected.)
- Do a budget together. You need a budget plan that you both agree on. If you don’t have a budget plan that is written down, you’re both just going to be guessing. If you feel like you have to hide your purchases to avoid conflict, then your budget plan needs to include an agreed upon equal spending allowance for each of you. Then you can buy your latte’s without judgement and stop nitpicking your partner for impulse buying that new toy. Having a LIFESTYLE BUDGET is a key part of my budget plan.
- Don’t keep money secrets. Many of the stories I hear about arguments stem from one partner keeping purchases hidden from another. When you try to hide your spending, your spouse feels like they can’t trust you, and you can’t build a strong marriage without trust.
- Dream for YOU. Make a list of your own personal goals that you want to accomplish, even the ones that don’t seem like they have anything to do with money. It will cost money or time to actually make dreams happen… and time can cost you money!
- Dream together. Then think about the goals you want to accomplish as a couple by combining your individual goals. Talk about your long-term goals, like vacation and retirement. When you’re working together toward common money goals, you have a shared vision and shared dreams. Dreaming about the future with the one you want to share it with can deepen your relationship. Prioritizing your goals together can make it easier to decide which ones to focus on first. It also makes compromising a lot easier because you can choose what is most important to you and what you are willing to give up in order to have it. As you work through deciding which financial goals you want to focus on, take some time to FIND THE FACTS about how much those goals are going to cost. It’s really easy to get carried away with goals and underestimate how much money or time it will take the accomplish them. Remember, we don’t use UNICORN BUDGETS.
- Listen to your partner. I know, you’ve heard that before. But how many times do you really listen? Most of us (including me) are guilty of listening only to think up a response. And then we interrupt with our ideas and viewpoints and criticisms. Make this a rule: When your spouse is talking, you’re only allowed to ask questions. You can’t offer your thoughts until they ask or until they’re done sharing. It’ll change the conversation, I promise. If this is challenging (which is often is) then use a “speaking pillow.” Only the one holding the pillow is allowed to speak.
- Forgive your partner. We’ve all made money mistakes. And we’re all going to make more money mistakes in the future. The way we handle those mistakes—ideally with grace and without enabling—dictates how comfortably we can talk about money in the future. Make a plan for this too. Tell your partner what you would like for them to do if you make a mistake, and ask them what they expect of you.
- Have money chats regularly. Seriously, don’t wrap up your conversation without scheduling another. You have to be doing this regularly, because you have to be revisiting your budget any time your income changes or your goals shift. Deciding which goals you want to prioritize as a couple and fitting them into your budget is just the beginning. As time goes on, you might want to add new goals in or you might find that one or both of you don’t actually want the things that you thought you wanted when you initially set your financial goals. That’s okay. People change and goals change too.