Marriage and Money. It's almost like oil and water. It seems to be one of the more complex issues couples struggle with when they're either just starting out together or when a financial crisis happens. Money seems to be at the very core of either our self esteem or sense of security, making it difficult to talk about it in rational, open ways.
Couples often differ in their view of saving vs. spending. One either feels controlled when the other wants to save or the other feels terrified and anxious when the other wants to spend.
Other couples struggle with sharing the financial burden, whether one makes more money or handles all the finances (thus the emotional load and worry). When money is tight, there is often resentment toward the other partner for not being able to "carry their weight" or at least contribute more.
When couples talk about marriage and money issues, communication often gets distorted because we're hearing each other through very strong filters -- in this case, our values and beliefs about money. It's usually based on how we grew up or some past experience that's shaped our attitudes and beliefs. Attitudes and beliefs might be things like:
"Money should be saved", "Debt is bad", "Life is meant to be lived.", "You can't take it with you.", "We need to plan for retirement.", "We need to have a safety net."
When these attitudes and beliefs conflict with each other, couples can have a very difficult time validating each others points of view, meeting in the middle or talking rationally about it.
So what to do about it? Here are some tips and suggestions when talking about marriage and money:
* Share your deepest dreams (values, beliefs, attitudes) about money. Share from your childhood experiences and about your dreams for the future. Listen to each other as if listening to a good friend. Suspend judgment for a moment and seek to fully understand your partner's dream about money. Ask lots of questions. The point here is not to find agreement, just understanding.
* After sharing your dreams, find common goals that you can align on in your marriage and money. Can you align on having 6 months of savings and still being able to go on a trip? How would you accomplish both goals? Can you make agreements about not using the credit cards but give yourselves freedom in other areas? If one person handles the finances, how can information be shared and what responsibilities does the other person have regarding the finances? In other words, how can you both have a say?
* Plan out your future goals. Do 1 year, 5 year and 10 to 20 year goals. What do you want your retirement to be like? Are both of you taking actions now that would make that a reality?
* See a financial planner or a finance coach to help you create your plan and goals. Very often, a neutral third party who's an expert at managing money can get you out of your money talk gridlock. Plus it's a great way to stop procrastinating on creating your budget and start planning for the future.
* If you're concerned about how your partner is dealing with money, talk about it. Don't attack. Share your concern. Don't let resentment and frustration build up.
If you just can't get past marriage and money struggles, seek professional help. There may be underlying issues that have less to do with finances and more to do with trust and connection.
For more information and to get help from a personal finance coach, check out
Dr. Taffy Wagner of Money Talk Matters, LLC