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8 Ways to Have Lower Conflict Conversations about Money

8 Ways to Have Lower Conflict Conversations about Money

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Conflict about finances is a major relationship stressor for many couples. In fact, money is one of the most common things couples argue about. Financial issues can take its toll on a relationship, and arguments about money are a leading cause of divorce. When couples fight over money, they tend to blame each other leading to anger and resentment.

Money is a touchy topic for most couples. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to deal with issues such as
unequal assets, layoffs from work, and credit card debt. Disagreements about finances are usually not
really about money but about our dreams, fears, and insecurities. For instance, growing up in a
household where money was tight, versus one where it flowed, can impact your financial style (such as
spender versus saver). It’s crucial that you understand how it matches up or contrasts from your
partner’s style.

Understanding what money means to each of us

Our relationship with money starts in childhood. We all have a story about money which includes myths,
misconceptions, and habits. When our histories, attitudes, and beliefs about money collide with our
partner, sparks can fly. If this ‘us against each other’ mindset doesn’t change to a ‘us against the
problem,’ high conflict can become perpetual and a source of chronic tension in a relationship.
Many of us were raised by families who told us that talking about money was impolite, or that our
personal finances are private and should not be discussed with others. These myths and misconceptions
may cause us to avoid discussing finances or to keep secrets about how much money we spend or our
debt.

Studies show that when couples have low conflict discussions about money and healthy financial habits
(such as spending less than they earn), the ups and downs of their relationship can be less bothersome.
They can develop a mindset of abundance rather than one of scarcity. This means that a mindset of
‘money is tight’ can be changed to ‘there is plenty of money for everyone.’

Boosting financial intimacy

One great way for you to enhance financial intimacy with your partner is to share a secret. Tell a story
about a time you had difficulty managing money, made a mistake, miscalculated, or made any kind of
financial error. It’s analogous to getting naked with your partner and exposing part of your past that
feels forbidden or dark.

Another way for you to increase financial intimacy with your partner and to learn more about their
needs, wishes, and desires, is to ask open ended questions. According to Dr. John Gottman, posing questions that require no more than a yes or no response, can kill a conversation, whereas open ended questions such as ‘What did you like about our money talk last night?’ require a deeper response that
can enhance conversation. Financial intimacy can help couples become stronger financial partners.

Having better communication about finances successfully doesn’t start and end with a single
conversation. By making a ‘Communication Pledge’ to have regular lower conflict discussions about
money, you can foster a healthy dialogue and protect your marriage against perpetual
miscommunication.

Most couples discuss money all the time as in: ‘Don’t forget to pay the cell phone bill, or, ‘The kids
need money for lunch.’ But they don’t have regular money talks that are intentional – with a goal of
improving communication about finances. Now it’s time to discuss your money beliefs and values, as
well as the details of finances such as spending, saving, giving to charity, and retirement – the core ways
money flows through your life.

8 ways to have lower conflict conversations about money

  1. Make a ‘Communication Pledge’ as a couple and set ground rules for regular check-ins about
    finances. Create ways to have productive and loving talks about money monthly. Plan a
    monthly date night to have money talks in a neutral location like a restaurant.
  2. Discuss your history with money and how it might impact your marriage. Identify and talk
    about both of your family’s beliefs about money and how they might affect your
    communication. Different perspectives need to be acknowledged and can lead to mutual
    understanding rather than friction.
  3. Start a conversation with a soft and curious tone to lessen your partner’s defensiveness. Follow this by stating how you feel, why you feel that way, and what you need to feel better in your relationship. Be specific, such as “I need for us to go over our credit bills together, once a month, when we have a money talk.”
  4. Avoid defensiveness or attacking your partner. Try to use a soft start up and ‘I’ statements for your comments such as “I feel concerned about our spending right now, and that makes me worry, can we discuss it this weekend?”
  5. Show compassion, understanding, and respect for differences. You can demonstrate this by
    asking good questions, actively listening, validating your partner’s viewpoints, and working toward compromise.
  6. Fully disclose your financial history, purchases, assets, and debts. This usually means sharing
    bank and credit card statements. Be sure to ask questions such as, ‘When would you like to buy
    a new car? Or, what are your plans for staying at your job?’
  7. Solve the differences and challenges rather than trying to ‘be right.’ You may need a financial advisor to help guide you with a financial plan. Focus on the bigger issues rather than blaming each other for past mistakes.
  8. Productive conversations about finances include taking ownership for your flaws and
    mistakes. In order to learn and practice financial literacy, take responsibility for your behavior,
    apologize when you make errors in judgment, and learn from feedback from your partner.

Final words

Using these 8 ways to have lower conflict money talks with your partner will lead to increased intimacy. Both will help you to achieve a mindset of ‘we’re in it together’ about finances and help to form the foundation for a happy, long-lasting relationship.



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