A financial coach’s three steps to making peace with your partner (and your finances).
Do you have the same argument with your partner, repeatedly?
If so, it’s likely that repetitive argument is based on money, especially if your opinions on finances totally different.
Is he a spender, and you are more cautious? Or vice-versa?
Other differences may be situation. For instance, he may want to help his parents every month, but you think they spend money on unnecessary goofy things. Do you argue about braces for the kids? Home improvement purchases? Vacations? Your emergency fund?
When constant bickering becomes normalized in a household, the residents — pets and kids, primarily — often run for cover to avoid collateral emotional damage. It’s not good for the ones doing the bickering, either.
The collateral damage might not be visible, but it is cataloged in your emotional library and will surface later as disguised anger, self-esteem issues, or self-sabotage.
How constant conflict causes chaos
Bear with me as I share three seemingly unrelated quick anecdotes to help you understand my theme.
There was a television show back in the ’70s called the Newlywed Game. On that show, three couples were asked a range of questions that were about habits.
The questions were borderline intimate but always revealed what one did not know about their partner.
In 1992 Gary Chapman, a marriage counselor, wrote a book about the five languages of love.
The love languages model is more popular than ever, and couples are thrilled because there is something out there that helps them crack the code of tricky communication.
In 2015, Daniel Jones wrote about a Harvard professor, Arthur Aron, who did a study on the possibility of accelerating the courtship phase by asking a list of personal questions.
Why are these three anecdotes important to the subject of fighting about finances?
Rarely did questions in the Newlywed Game focus on money. Similarly, the Chapman book and the Jones list of questions were not financially focused.
Money is (sometimes) the root of discontent
Yet, according to a recent survey on marital conflict in the United States conducted by YouGovAmerica, money is the second-most common topic of arguments among married people. The most common topics for arguments are the tone of voice or attitude.
According to the survey, 28 percent of couples fight about money — and it’s even more prevalent (32 percent) among 18-44-year-olds.
Arguments about money are the second-leading cause of divorce in the U.S., behind only infidelity.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Paying attention is the most profound form of love. Being present tells your partner, sibling, friend, or child, you hear them — they matter.
Being heard and then respected for those concerns is the cornerstone of a solid relationship, regardless of its nature.
It astonishes me how some couples, even when they’ve been together for 40-plus years, still argue over the same issues.
What it means when couples consistently fight over money & other issues
1. There’s comfort in familiarity
They need to fight over money or something else because it is known territory, predictable and part of their identity in that relationship. Think: “the devil you know, vs. the devil you don’t.”
2. They are afraid of something new
Change is scary. They are fearful of crossing some invisible tripwire that will forever alter their relationship.
3. They long for control
They believe that external control is more important than honesty. The status quo is comfortable. Why else would the expression “don’t rock the boat” exist?
Often, the money squabbles are really masking deeper issues.
What are the deeper issues and how do you ‘fix’ them?
1. Pay attention
Listen. Be still. Hear with your eyeballs. It’s critical in any relationship because it’s about choosing to show up in that moment. It takes practice, but it is a choice within your power.
2. Be present
It’s about being your authentic self at this moment, this time threshold. Being present requires that you have a clear mind and can cocoon your fears so that you can listen with an open heart.
It requires that you stay calm, acknowledge your anger, and stay open so that you maintain control and can take a step back and have a new perspective.
3. Be honest
The adult you hold dearest is your life partner, the person you committed yourself to, forever.
If you skipped the financial pre-marital chat, as I call it, it’s not too late to come clean and try to get on the same page about money.
Frankly, it will do wonders for your sense of trust and intimacy.
If he doesn’t share his feelings about his money triggers, you have a potential train wreck that was going to happen anyway, someday.
I originally published this on YourTango, it’s reprinted here to share it with you!