How to Stop Fighting Over Money
Resolve the conflict and save your relationship
Money is one of the biggest causes of relationship stress. Whether you’ve merged your finances or not, there are specific money management tips that can help you avoid future arguments with your significant other.
Everyone has their own ideas about what to spend money on, and how much to save, and what’s reasonable for basic household expenses. Finding common ground, and working to achieve your financial goals, can lead to peace and harmony in your household. At least where money is concerned.
Treat it like a business
To many, money represents power, success, and often even your value as a person, said Tina B. Tessina, PhD, (aka "Dr. Romance") psychotherapist and author of Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting about the Three Things That
Can Ruin Your Marriage.
“We consider it spiritual to take a vow of poverty, and we prosecute and convict people who get greedy. Money is serious stuff. Some believe people who make a lot of money lack character; others think poor people are morally deficient. These prejudices can cause huge troubles in marriage, including financial infidelity - where one or both parties spend money out of resentment, jeopardizing the couple's financial security,” Tessina said.
If you and your partner tend to think the business end of a relationship is not a romantic topic for courtship, you may avoid it until it causes a fight. You may not think of your marriage as a business deal, but a huge part of it is just that. Just like a business, a marriage takes in income, pays expenses, and is supposed to have a little profit (savings) left over, she said.
“As a former accountant who became a psychotherapist, the business aspects of marriage are clear to me. Just like a small business, your relationship has one or more sources of income, you have expenses, and, like a business, your marriage is supposed to make a profit - to create savings, investments and equity (which a business would call assets) and have money left over in the bank at the end of the month. As partners in a marriage you have similar financial responsibilities to partners in a business. In fact, some businesses are called partnerships, and we often use the same word for relationships,” Tessina said.
“Viewing your family dispassionately as a business doesn't sound romantic, but if you can step back from your feelings long enough to view your relationship from this perspective, your financial situation make more sense, money problems will be easier to solve, and you'll be able to discuss financial decisions with less difficulty,” Tessina said.
Build a foundation
Trust and healthy communication is the foundation that marriages must be based upon, said Dr. Fran Walfish, Beverly Hills relationship psychotherapist, author of The Self-Aware Parent, and co-star of Sex Box on WE TV.
“Flexibility is required, as well,” Walfish said. “Money comes and goes in marriages and couples. Trust needs to be a constant and stable force.”
It's easier said than done to set aside our worries when there are real stressors including money in our lives.
“People are anxious, worried, and tense. It's hard to feel romantic and sexual when you are under strain. Take turns giving and receiving a relaxing message with your partner. Turn on soothing music, lower the lights, and pour a glass of wine. Find ways to relax together, talk together, and these will lead you toward a warm, closer connection,” Walfish said.
If problems feel insurmountable, you should turn to others for support. A trusted friend, counselor, family member, priest or rabbi are often available to talk with, Walfish said.
“There are certain areas that your partner may feel too vulnerable to talk about. Get support. You may need guidance or advice from someone who is outside the line of stress. Do everything you can to nourish and nurture yourself so that you have more to give to your partner, children and family,” she said.
Walfish shared her top tips on talking about finances with your partner:
- Be kind to your partner. How we treat our significant other sets the model for how they will treat us.
- Create an open discussion. Talking is the glue that holds relationships together.
- Balance love/nurture with setting/holding boundaries.
- Build self-esteem by using words that support and motivate, rather than criticize.
- Equip yourself with coping skills to deal with disappointment. We cannot protect or prevent life's disappointments. The best we can do is equip ourselves to deal with inevitable life letdowns.
- Never engage in negotiations, bargaining, or deal making, especially when resolving conflicts. Rather, talk about what you feel and want in the moment. This is empathy. I define “empathy" as the computer chip within our personality (character) that allows us to imagine the impact of our own behavior on others. So, this not only includes knowing how the other person feels, but also imagining and anticipating their reactions to your own behavior.
- It helps to practice gratitude and generosity. The more grateful and giving we are the more positive our attitudes and the more good things come back to us tenfold.
Manage your finances
Shay Olivarria, a financial education expert and author Money Matters: The Get It Done in 1 Minute Workbook, shared her best financial tips for couples:
- The easiest way to make sure that finances don't become fights is to make sure that there are checking accounts for your money, your partner's money, and a joint account to pay bills and save for trips, etc. Agree what percentage of each person's income should go into the joint account (the percentage will be the same though the amount might not be the same) to cover the bills. Each person will have contributed equally to the home while maintaining some independence.
- Each of your should write a list of what you see as the top three financial goals for your family. Talk about the list and agree on the big three. Write the three goals down and stick it on each of your credit cards or debit cards in your wallet as well as somewhere that you both can see it daily.
- Often it's the little bills like the car insurance, newspaper or magazine subscription that you forget about that cause financial confusion. Take those small bills and pay them annually to get them out of your hair.