“We love each other, but when it comes to money, we just start arguing.” If that’s something you’re facing, then you’re not alone.
Money is one of the most significant causes of conflict in a relationship. According to a Stress in America survey results released in 2015 by the American Psychological Association (APA), regardless of income levels, about a third of partnered adults reported that money is a significant source of conflict in their relationship.
However, it’s not the issue of money that causes the conflict but rather the threat to what we value most that cause the conflict. These are our emotional triggers around money that are causing the conflict, not our partners.
Money means different things to different people.
We all assign a different meaning to money: for some people, money symbolizes power; for others, it could mean safety and security. When our partner’s relationship with money threatens the value we place around money, it makes us angry.
Your partner may be a big spender, and if you’re a saver, her actions could threaten your sense of safety. Or if money gives you a sense of power, any behaviour that threatens your sense of control will trigger you. Money is merely the catalyst.
Opposing views of money would make it a more contentious subject. Our families, society, and personal experiences influence our beliefs about money. When two people come together as a couple, they bring together these different views. So, what happens when opposites attract?
Here are four things you can do to avoid money arguments and get ahead financially.
1. Avoid judgment.
Nothing your partner does is “wrong” — just because you disagree with her approach to money does not make it “wrong.” Our culture is full of shame around money. We judge someone as “bad” with money or “stingy” when we see certain behaviours.
2. Seek to understand.
There are many reasons why your partner may not be comfortable talking freely about money. In many cultures, money, much like sex, is a taboo subject.
Maybe your partner came from a home where their parents fought whenever they talked about money, which could explain their resistance to openly discussing money.
3. Invite transparency.
So, instead of talking about money, why not talk about your individual goals and goals as a couple. Ask your partner how you can support them to achieve their goals — emotionally and financially.
If you are more comfortable talking about money, then broach the subject by voicing your concerns using “I” statements — that diffuses any potential defensiveness on the part of your partner.
E.g. “I’m scared about how we’re going to afford our current lifestyle when things are so expensive these days.”
4. Express your appreciation.
You get further ahead with honey. Recognize your partner’s contributions to your home — both financial and non-financial.
And where possible, tell them you appreciate how they work hard and pay the bills on time. Look for things that your spouse is doing for which to be grateful. And let them know you appreciate them.
Bringing it all together
Taking the lead in communicating openly about what money means to you will also cause your partner to open up. How you do it is crucial — stay non-judgemental, take ownership and full responsibility for your feelings, concerns and actions.
Understand where they are coming from and what they value. Remember that it’s not money you’re fighting about but the meaning behind money. And don’t forget that no matter what happens, your relationship is worth much more money than anything money could buy.