When was the last time you had a disagreement or argument about money? Money conflicts are normal in any relationship, however with most couples it’s how they handle the fight that makes the difference between continuous harmony or disharmony.
When working with couples, I often find that it is how they are communicating about money issues that causes the friction. Most of the time butting heads can be avoided if the couple simply worked on better communication.
Here are some tips to help you work through those heated discussions so that you are working together instead of against each other. This guide will not only will help you improve on your communications about money but it will also help you with your discussions on non-monetary issues as well.
1. Timing is Everything:
When a fight is ensuing, often it can be attributed to your own emotions in the moment as opposed to what your partner did or did not do. Maybe you had a bad day at work, or your kids are on your nerves, or you are just feeling under the weather. Being drained, tired, or irritable is not the best place to be in when discussing money with your partner. When you are in a relatively calm and positive state, with less on your mind, is a better time to chat. If the time is not right or fighting has begun, the best thing to do is tell your better half to take a break and return to the discussion at another time. This can be as simple as the sentence: “Let’s take a break, and set up another time to discuss this.” Instead of walking away or storming out of the room, end with an agreed time where both of you can return to the issue at hand. Remember: abandonment is not what your love signed up for.
2. Use of Technology:
Technology allows information to travel to us at lightning speed. Are we better off with smart phones, Facebook, texting, and emailing? The answer depends on how it is used. Although technology generally has had a positive impact on basic communication, it tends to be better to discuss contentious money issues in person. When discussing a hot money issue, texting, messaging on Facebook, or emailing are not your communication tools of choice. (And yes, people actually air their dirty laundry on Facebook.) Think about it: you don’t know how someone is really feeling by a few words in a message. Let your fingers do the walking by dialing the phone. How much quality is there in a text or email? You need to hear their voice. Quality comes from spoken words, connecting with one another and talking it through. It is time to get back to the old faith form of communication: Talking to each other.
3. Identify What is Really Bothering You:
Money alone is not always the issue. Most of the time there is something else that is contributing to the problem. Maybe you don’t know the full reason why your spouse made a certain decision, and you jumped to conclusions. Or maybe you felt left out or left in the dark about how money was spent. Or something occurred that triggered memories of a childhood experience or a past relationship which has nothing to do with your honey. Next time you are feeling upset about a money issue, take a look within and assess the whole range of things that are bothering you before lashing out.
4. Focus on the Problem:
When things have reached the tipping point, emotions fly and sometimes people bring up prior problems within the relationship, both momentary and otherwise. Remember: you want to move forward not backwards. Reverting to the past can unnecessarily complicate matters with other issues that don’t necessarily help solve the problem at hand? Focus your energy only on resolving your single money issue. Agree that you both can meet and discuss other issues another day. You want to build momentum and confidence that will allow you to get through one issue. So focus on the problem at hand and create solutions together.
5. Create Solutions that have Options:
When I work with couples, I like to create several different options so they can choose which one will work best for them at the time; that way you can always move to Plan B if Plan A is not working. This allows couples to make the best choices for their unique relationship. Did you see the movie, Argo? Ben Affleck played the real life character Tony Mendez who went in front the top brass of the United States government and said there are no good options, there are only bad options. Affleck said, “This is our best bad option.” That best bad option rescued 6 American citizens out of the hostile Iran back in 1980. Brainstorming and creating options will do wonders for your relationship and help you build a skill-set to solve future problems. This shows that you are working together which is important in any relationship.
So take these 5 Couples Financial Counseling tips and the next time you find yourself in a heated battle with your spouse or significant other remember them. They will allow the heat to settle so that you can cool-headedly brainstorm together and find solutions to your money problems. Going forward, invest in your relationships by fighting fair.