Money matters can derail even the strongest of marriages. Ask any couple and they’ll admit to arguing about finances at some point in their union. “Finances is one of the top reasons couples fight,” points out Dr Hana Ra Adams, a marriage and family therapist.
This topic becomes even more important after the kids come along as you have to pull your finances together to ensure you are meeting all of their needs. So instead of avoiding it, here are some wise ways to approach this sensitive subject without damaging your otherwise-loving marriage.
1. Start talking about it early in the relationship
Relationship expert Dr. Terri Orbuch notes that 7 out of 10 couples report that finances cause a strain in their relationship. This could be the reason why many prefer to skirt around the topic entirely. However, it’s not a healthy, long term solution: Broach the topic as early into the relationship as possible, ideally at the point when you think it’s leading to marriage. This will give you both ample time to work out any issues you might have and start planning for your financial future together.
However, bear in mind that not everyone is comfortable talking about money right away, so be patient but persistent.
“Be open with each other about financial obligations and talk with each other about what is a necessity versus a want.”
2. Set guidelines
Lots of arguments are sparked because one party feels the other is not pulling their weight with payments and savings. A simple way to avoid this is to set some rules and regulations that you both agree on. This is especially important if you or your spouse has stopped work to take care of the kids as there’s an additional financial strain.
“Be open with each other about financial obligations and talk with each other about what is a necessity versus a want,” suggests Dr Adams. You can also agree on a threshold amount, such as $100 to $200 where you don’t have to seek permission to spend, but anything more deserves a discussion. It might also be a good idea to set a budget every month so you can track all your spending.
3. Respect your partner's opinion
Studies show that men and women have different vantage points when it comes to money. While women see it as a form of security and stability and like to plan for possible problems, men see it as a threat to their self-esteem. In such cases, compromise is key, and disagreements are normal. However, make sure it doesn’t deter you from your overall financial goal.
4. Find a good time to talk about it
Since it’s such a sensitive topic, broach it only when you are both in a calm and happy mood. It’s also good to talk about it when you actually don’t have a money problem.
Set a time when the kids are away or in bed, break open a bottle of wine and discuss the various financial scenarios and how you would both address them. Remember to cover important topics like what will happen if someone loses a job/or has to quit, the kids’ academic future(s) and the financial burden that comes with them, plus your retirement plan.
And whatever you do, don’t start these conversations in front of company as it will make everyone uncomfortable and cause your spouse to resent you. By planning for your future early, you can later on experience more together.
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