How to Navigate Tough Money Conversations in a Relationship

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Do a quick search of the most common things couples fight about and it becomes glaringly obvious what the answer is: money. Yes, there are plenty of other things to squabble over, but several studies have landed on money and finances as the common thread that binds most couples together – or, in this case, tears them apart.

Money is complicated. It goes far beyond how much you take home or how high your bills are – it’s about the intricacies of your money decisions and why you make them. They could be spurred by your childhood, your environment, your feelings of self-worth – either way, if you and your partner aren’t on the same page, or at least in the same book, when it comes to making said decisions, it could be a huge drag on the happiness level in your relationship.

So how can you navigate tough money conversations without tearing your relationship apart in the process?

Make sure it’s actually money you’re fighting about

Money seems like an easy thing to bring up in the middle of a fight because it ‘s a quick way to sidestep a bigger issue.

Often times it’s not about a minor purchase or a disagreement about how to pay bills, it’s tied to something deeper – the feeling of not being considered when it comes to decision-making, or the feeling that your needs are on the back burner. These are all valid concerns, but if it’s not tied to the actual dollars and cents of the transaction, don’t portray it as such.

Why are you upset? Is it a deeper emotional issue that needs to be addressed in another way or another setting?

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Timing is everything

And to the next point – even if  your upset is solely money-focused, don’t drop it in the middle of an argument. Arguments already have both parties on the defensive, which is not position to be in if you’re hoping to spur thoughtful conversation to spark change in your partner or your relationship.

If you have money issues, broach them during a time when you’re getting along, a time when they can actually be presented as a concern and not an attack. Timing can mean the difference between a constructive solution-finding conversation, and an all-out screaming match.

Don’t assume your way is the right way

Finding yourself in a relationship after you’ve already established your money habits can be a tough thing to navigate. Once we’re at that point in our lives, we sometimes believe our way is the only logical way.

But just like with any other area in a relationship, you have to be somewhat open to what the other person is bringing to the table in this arena. Consensus is important, but that sometimes comes from a careful discussion of what will and won’t work for each of you, and how you can land on your feet in the middle of the two.

If lack of knowledge is the gripe you have with your partner, be a trusted resource, not someone that will bulldoze them into acting a different way.

Try to understand your partner’s why

Taking every money decision your partner makes as an intentional act to hurt or harm you will not only leave you with deep scars, it will deeply scar your relationship.

Unless you’re in an already dysfunctional and vindictive relationship, you’re partner is likely making money decisions based on a variety of factors – how they grew up, their knowledge level, their money beliefs – the list goes on and on.

Try to understand what is spurring their money habits and actions. Is it something you can point out in a loving way and address together?

Sometimes it boils down to different financial priorities and lifestyle choices. If that’s the case in your relationship, it might be time to determine if you will be able to find your way to a common ground.

End the conversation with goals or next steps you both are on board with

Putting your relationship on a track where money fights aren’t an everyday occurrence can start with common financial goals and a game plan for how you will get there. The most important thing here is choosing goals you are both on board with and, more importantly, motivated or excited by.

Establishing these priorities together can help guide both of your financial decision-making in the future, curbing those money fights before they begin.

Have you been able to cut down on money fights with your partner? How did you do it?

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