Divorce lawyers often report that money is the number one issue that causes most couples to break up. It doesn’t matter whether they are rich or poor. Spouses tend to experience frequent conflict over money management problems. Sometimes it’s because they disagree on how to manage their finances. Other times it’s due to the fact that one spouse is a saver while the other is a spender. Some couples are able to work through this important stressor by avoiding arguments over the role of money in their marriage. The following tips may prove helpful in this effort.
Don’t Make it Personal
Money fights can escalate into serious disagreements between emotional spouses. Sometimes it turns into name-calling and spills over into other issues, extending the argument and raising the stakes. Avoid using a financial problem as a springboard to other complaints. Don’t put all the blame on the other person, even if he or she is the spendthrift. Be willing to accept a reasonable share of responsibility if warranted. Remember that we all make mistakes in one area or another.
Keep it Simple
Stick to the basic issue of disagreement. Rather than claiming your spouse is a terrible money manager, calmly point out that his or her morning coffee run is blowing the grocery budget off the chart. Instead of pointing the finger of blame, ask questions like, “Is this really important to you? Where can we spend less to cover this expense?” A productive, proactive approach is more likely to be successful than shaming the other person for spending habits you do not agree with.
Pick a Productive Time
It is usually best not to hit someone with an accusation or major problem first thing in the morning or last thing at night. Nor is it a good idea when your spouse is rushing out the door to work or worn out after mowing the lawn. Choose a time when the other person is relaxed and alert without feeling caged or cornered. Bring out some beverages to share and pick a relaxing spot like the patio or family room where the two of you won’t be bothered, possibly after dinner or over the weekend when things are relatively quiet and calm. Don’t overdo it; a few minutes may be enough to tackle the issue at hand.
Agree to Disagree
Don’t expect to reach consensus on every money-related problem. There will be times when you disagree, but you can do so amicably, remembering that you still have much in common and are still in love! When you decide to surrender, do so graciously, not grudgingly. Sometimes a playful manner can defuse tensions and help both of you to relax and resume normal activities.
Decide on His and Hers
Many couples today are divided between putting both incomes, if both work, into one household account shared by both, but primarily managed by one spouse. Other couples keep their respective paychecks but split household and family expenses. Some have three bank accounts: his, hers, and ours, with the last established for common expenses. Each couple can decide what type of budget and system works best for them.
The love of money doesn’t have to be the root of all evil in your marriage. Discuss any concerns calmly with your spouse and avoid letting your differences get the best of you. If you find that financial issues are stubbornly resistant to your management efforts, schedule financial counseling with a professional who can help you both learn how to manage your money and a budget without rancor.