Men and women have been arguing about money since the beginning of time. Maybe, you make a lot of money, maybe you don’t. Whether you do or not, you still have your differences about money. Is your partner more of a saver? Are you more of a spender? You can have your differences about money and still have a happy marriage.
What you first need to do is take a close look at why money causes relationship problems.
Do you avoid talking about these issues? Do you hide the credit card bill? Do you tell your child not to tell dad what you bought? If you said yes to any of these questions, then there are problems with money in your relationship.
A nurturing and supportive relationship requires honesty and understanding. Your beliefs about money go way back. You learned them from your family of origin. How did your parents communicate about money? Did they argue a lot about money? Did you feel the playing ground was equal, or did one person make all the decisions about spending. Maybe, you grew up in an environment that was chaotic, and decisions were made impulsively about spending.
The first step is sitting down with your partner and having a conversations about where your beliefs came from about money. You need to be gentle in the conversation. Don’t start with ‘you’ statements, or criticizing your partner. This will only make matters worse. If you have had arguments about money. Just hearing the topic may be painful
The goal is to be able to bring up the topic of money, without it being painful. You want to be able to come to a compromise that you both feel good about. This requires the two of you committing to a time where you can talk about it.
I want you to put it on your calendar, right now. Allow for an hour. You can’t have your cell phone nearby. That will only distract you. Make sure the kids aren’t home or they are in bed, and will not disturb you. This conversation will help build understanding around your beliefs about money. This can actually help with intimacy in the relationship, as well. Before you can solve the problem, your partner needs to feel understood.
I know you may want to jump in and solve the problem right away, but try to remain calm and listen. Sometimes, when you are listening to your partner you may feel you aren’t doing anything. But, you are actually doing a lot. Your partner may not feel heard about this issue. So, the first step may be letting your partner know that you are listening. Make sure you don’t interrupt your partner. Let your partner tell their side of the story. Don’t worry, you will also get a chance to speak.
Here are 4 tips to help you with the conversation and learn why money causes relationship problems:
- The arguments about money, aren’t about money. Sure, how much money you make will determine where you live, the car you drive and the clothes you wear. But, you don’t have to let money define your relationship. This is where you want to go beneath the surface. Start a conversation that will build understanding about your beliefs of money.
- Work on understanding one another’s beliefs about money. You didn’t just wake up one day and have your belief system about money. It started long ago in childhood. You learn your beliefs about money from your family of origin. How did your parents make decisions about money? Did your family have enough money while you were growing up? The more you talk to one another about your belief system and where it came from, the more you will understand one another. This will help diffuse the conflict and help you come to a compromise together.
- Accept there is not an easy answer. A lot of couples come into my office with this one, and they want to solve the problem immediately. Let’s be realistic, this problem didn’t develop overnight. It’s going to take more than one hour to solve it. If you are digging underneath the problem, you will uncover the real problem. Give it time. There needs to be safety and trust in the relationship to talk about underlying problems. This means when your partner opens up to you that you don’t throw it back, or laugh about it. This is when you need to take your relationship seriously.
- Express what you need. If you feel there are things you need to buy for the house, then you need to tell your partner. If you feel you are being micromanaged, then you need to tell your partner. If you feel your partner spends too much, then you need to tell your partner. If you want more help managing the finances, then you need to tell your partner. What is the common denominator? You need to tell your partner what you need. This really is the first step. I know it sounds simple. But, I have seen many couples over the years. They aren’t always expressing what they need. After you have expressed what you need, then work on a plan together. This means compromise. A compromise is something both people in the relationship feel good about.
Now, you’ve gotten through your first conversation about money. Hopefully, it didn’t lead to another argument. If it did, that’s alright. Did it at least bring a little understanding about money to the relationship? If it did, then you are on the right track. Remember, this is a work in progress. These are emotional issues and you need to give it time.
Now, you and your partner can think about the conversation. Let your partner know what you have learned. It’s important to be transparent here. You both need to know what is happening with the budget. Meaning what is coming in, and what is going out.
This may sound scary for some. Maybe, you have never been in charge of a budget or you have always had all the say with the budget. Whatever the matter, it’s time to bend. This will actually help bring you and your partner closer.
Now, what to do when you have problems because of money in your relationship.
Remember, you are like a lot of other couples out there.
This means you are not alone. You don’t want to let problems about money divide you. I have seen far too many couples end their relationship over money. Work on the underlying issues. Keep having conversations that aren’t criticizing one another about money.
You need to feel like you can be yourself in your relationship. If your partner feels you are trying to change him/her, they will feel resentful. This will eventually drive the two of you apart. This is when you need to work on acceptance. This is where understanding can help.
I know it may feel scary to talk about this. But, in the long run it’s the best thing you can do. Ignoring the problem will not make it go away. It will actually make it worse. Your partner may feel you don’t care or unloved when you don’t want to talk about your problems. It’s alright to be emotional as long as you aren’t abusing your partner. This means using a kind tone and body language. Remember, it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.
You can always table the conversation.
When you don’t feel you have to solve the problem immediately, then you can talk about it another time. This doesn’t mean you are walking away from the conversation. You can state you need time to think about it. Schedule a time to talk about it, again. Make sure it is a time you both agree on. This means you put it on your calendar and it is a priority.
Solving problems about money in your relationship, isn’t easy or quick. But, by understanding the true nature about money problems in your relationship, you will be able to rebuild the emotional closeness in your relationship. This is what you really want. You want to know that your partner has your back no matter what. You know this when you know your partner really gets you and understands you.
You are in a partnership. It’s important that you both feel heard and that you both feel equal in the relationship. You don’t want to feel miserable in your relationship, and you shouldn’t. If you find this isn’t enough, you can get help. You can talk to a professional, like myself. This is nothing to feel embarrassed about. Many couples are going through the exact same thing that you are.
If you liked, Learn Why Money Causes Relationship Problems & What To Do About It. There is more in Relationship Challenges.
I’m Lianne Avila, a Marriage & Family Therapist. Helping people just like you, work on understanding their problems before solving them. You can sign up for my free newsletter for free weekly advice about relationships. You can also call (650) 892-0357 or email Lianne@LessonsforLove.com, to learn more about me and the services I provide.