When it comes to marital strife and arguments, money tends to be at the center and the leading relationship wrecker.
Money and politics might be topics to avoid in social settings, but money conversations are essential to successful relationships. The way you discuss money issues with your spouse could reduce the number of arguments--at least about finances.
“When it comes to talking about money the No.1 one tip is to schedule the conversation,” says FINRA Investor Education Foundation President Gerri Walsh. “Don’t just bring it up.”
Talking about money with a spouse or significant other can be an emotionally-charged conversation, especially if one person is a saver and the other is a spender. That’s why marriage experts recommend scheduling money-related conversations like you would a date night or doctor’s appointment. This way both parties will be expecting the conversation, which means they can prepare for it both mentally and emotionally and won’t feel attacked.
Bonnie Eaker Weil, a relationship and marriage counselor, advises patients to have what she calls a “money love language talk” once a week. These talks can be about any money-related issue such as spending, budgeting or saving. “Start with 30 seconds and eventually go up to 10 minutes,” says Eaker Weil. These weekly talks will create a neutral place that allows both parties to discuss money issues without making accusations and making the other feel bad. Eaker Weil says both members must agree to the time and place for the conversations to take place each week in order for them to work. “You have to put on a bullet proof vest and not get angry, reactive and defensive.”
Preparing for these talks ahead of time will also prevent them from turning into screaming matches. “You want to know beforehand what it is you want out of the conversation,” says Walsh. She recommends creating a list of what you want to talk about and collect any documents related to the issue in advance.
If you have any apprehension about the conversation, Walsh suggests practicing what you want to say with a neutral party. “The most important thing as far as having a conversation is to keep focused, stay positive and check your emotions at the door. The minute you make money an emotional issue you are compounding the stress.”
In addition to setting aside a scheduled time to discuss money issues, Eaker Weil recommends talking about each person’s family history of spending and budget habits. She says both spouses should sit down and draw a family tree reviewing how members spend and save money. “Which parent made you feel guilty, which one punished with money?” Eaker Weil recommends exploring. “It teaches you what you are afraid of and enables you to talk out your fears.”
Another effective strategy, according to Eaker Weil, is to create a money contract. The contract will be unique to the situation, but could include things like promising not to use money to control the other, not using it to guilt and not committing financial infidelity or hide money from the other.
“They promise they won’t keep score with money, they agree to share finances every single week for 10 minutes, and they also agree not to engage in magical thinking,” she says.