By Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, The Money Coach®
Sometimes, conflict with your significant other may seem inevitable, and that includes argument about finances.
When it comes to money matters, however, frequent financial disputes can be toxic for a relationship. Research shows that couples that argue a lot over money issues have greater levels of unhappiness and are more likely to break up.
So how can you avoid economic drama and maintain financial peace with your honey? Here are three rules to avoiding money arguments with your spouse or partner.
Rule #1: Communicate, Don’t Confront
Too often, money battles start when one person accuses the other of doing something wrong, or confronts the other party in a negative way.
Be honest: have you ever said something like: “You spend too much money!” or “Why did you buy that?!” If so, recognize that such statements or questions set the wrong tone and increase the risk of a financial fight.
Even subtle statements such as: “Wow, your/our credit card bill is really high this month” may not seem very critical to you; but to your mate, such comments can come across as accusatory. Anytime you start a conversation with an accusation or a criticism (whether it’s overt or subtle), that almost always puts the other person on the defensive.
Before you know it, an argument ensues because your partner feels attacked and, naturally, wants to defend him or herself. So to avoid money arguments, bring up financial topics in neutral, non-confrontational ways.
If you want to discuss spending, or the credit card bills, for example, try saying something like: “Honey, let’s make a payoff plan to reduce credit card debt” or “How do you think we can reduce spending and increase savings?” That approach is far more collaborative and opens the door to healthy communication.
Rule #2: Get the Timing Right
Speaking of good communication, one reason some couples argue about money is one or both parties in the relationship haven’t quite figured out when it’s best to discuss finances.
The “best” time varies for all couples. So there’s no optimal day or specific time that will work in every situation. However, it is safe to say that you should only discuss important money matters when the two of you are level headed, focused and not rushing off to do something else.
In practical terms this means: Don’t bring up a financial sore spot right while you’re already in the middle of a heated discussion about something else. Likewise, it’s probably a bad idea to talk about money issues first thing in the morning, late at night, or immediately after work when one of you might be tired.
Nor should you delve into a crucial money conversation right when one of you is watching sports, or just about to head into something like a big work meeting or a family gathering.
When you need to talk through a money issue, you can raise any topic by using a simple phrase: “Honey, can we talk about (insert subject) (insert suggested day and/or time)?”
For example, if you have children who need clothes and school supplies for the fall, you could say: “Honey, can we talk about the budget for the kids’ back-to-school shopping this Saturday afternoon?”
This technique avoids the pitfall of springing a money conversation on the other person, which irritates some people and leads to tension or unproductive money discussions.
Rule #3: Use a Financial Referee
If you and your spouse or partner can never seem to have a substantive money conversation without things devolving into a huge argument, perhaps you’d be better off getting help from a financial referee – also known as a financial advisor.
Money-management professionals, including the financial advisors at SchoolsFirst FCU can help you and your mate in numerous ways.
For starters, a financial pro can serve as an unbiased third party who can objectively analyze your finances and both of your financial behaviors.
Second, a financial expert can impart key knowledge about various products, services and strategies that can help you and your significant other reach your financial goals, such as saving more money, qualifying for a mortgage, or planning ahead for retirement.
Additionally, an outside expert wants to support your economic success, but he or she doesn’t carry the same emotional baggage that you and your partner do about a host of relationship issues. So that trusted professional can provide the wisdom and clarity needed to make better financial decisions when you and your mate deadlock over an issue. In fact, even if you and your better half don’t have serious disputes over money, getting quality financial help is still a good idea.
As you can see, there are numerous ways to prevent fiscal battles from tainting your relationship or sapping your bliss as a couple. By implementing the three rules above, you’ll have better communication, fewer money arguments, and more financial harmony with the one you love.
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Extra Credit provides general information to help improve our Member’s financial lives. Every situation is different, so please contact us for guidance on your specific needs. The advice provided in Extra Credit is not intended to serve as a substitute for speaking to a loan representative, financial advisor, or BALANCE counselor who can help tailor a solution for you.
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