“The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right time, but also to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.” – Unknown
Financial stress is often a leading cause of arguments within relationships. According to a study of 2,800 couples by Professor Jeffrey Dew of Utah State University, couples who argue about money at least once a week are 30% more likely to divorce than couples who only argue about money once a month.
Related article: Couples need to talk about money
A few weeks ago I spoke with a friend who had recently taken a 3 day financial course. They’ve been married for over 30 years and had long ago stopped talking about money because they just couldn’t have a conversation about finances that wouldn’t escalate into a full scale argument. The course challenged them not only to examine the beliefs and misconceptions that influenced the way they handled money but also provided a safe environment for them to have an honest conversation about things they had previously been unable to discuss without creating conflict. Their relationship has been dramatically changed as a result and so I thought I would share some of the key concepts in the hope of inspiring positive conversation about money at a time of year when spending is at its peak and money stress can also be high:
Experiences and Limiting Beliefs
The way that we feel about money and the way we handle our finances is greatly influenced by everything we have ever heard, seen and experienced in relation to money as children and young adults. Chances are, if your partner has challenges in relation to money then they will have parents and siblings with similar challenges. Understanding where these challenges are rooted allows you to stop blaming your partner for their behavior and to support them in making changes.
Related article: Limiting beliefs can limit your finances.
If you’re a Saver and your partner is a Spender or an Avoider there’s plenty of potential for conflict. Understanding how your money personality conflicts or complements your partner’s allows you to create a strategy for managing the family finances.
Related article: What is your money personality?
Great teams are built on the idea of taking responsibility for the tasks that require your strengths and delegating the tasks you don’t enjoy to someone whose strengths make them better equipped to take responsibility for them. That’s not to say that you should just let your partner handle everything but instead find a way to share the responsibility in a way that works for both of you. If you’re both Avoiders or Spenders then try to find a way to get excited about your money so that you’re more motivated to manage it effectively.
Allowing money issues to create conflict in your relationship creates a cycle that is hard to break. Money can be an emotional issue and it can create feelings of guilt or fear that can easily spark a simple comment into a huge fight. Understanding your partner’s relationship with money as well as your own allows you to set ground rules that make conversations about money constructive rather than destructive. Treat building financial security as a team project that sets you up for a solid financial future and reduces money stress at the same time. Celebrate your progress and make time to enjoy some of the wealth that you’re building along the way.
Money is a significant component in building a strong life together. Knowing that disputes about money have the ability to destroy relationships is a great reason to make the time to talk about money before getting married or moving in with someone. It’s also a good reason to commit time to making sure that money doesn’t become a destructive force within your relationship.
How do you avoid money conflicts in your relationship? How has money negatively impacted your relationships in the past? If you have tips or strategies that have worked for you, I’d love to hear them.