Money causes more friction, heartache and anxiety in relationships than just about any other subject. Most couples report that it is often the center of their arguments. In any relationship, there will be differences based on your family history and myths about money, your earning situation, your spending patterns, and your future dreams.

Consider this from The Secret Meaning of Money by Cloe Madanes:

Everyone worries about money.  Some of us feel that if only we could have more money, our lives would be greatly improved and we could find happiness.  Yet those who have a great deal of money seem constantly worried about making more, how to spend it, and the possibility of losing it.  Everyone worries about money, and no one seems satisfied with how much they have and how they use it.

Well, with that worrisome outlook, let’s try to get a bit more creative in figuring out how to shift the conversation with your spouse around money.  Strive to make it about building collaboration (instead of competition and frustration) as you try out some of these ideas:

Make sure you have a common language and understanding as you work together through your relationship.

Both people need to know what the household monthly income and expenses are, and what the priorities are for any extra funds (pay down debt, experiences like travel or entertainment, retirement savings).  If there is a joint account to cover household expenses, consider a ratio approach based on income levels to keep it fair, rather than 50/50.  If one party has more debt coming into the relationship, this has to be factored into the discussion to be sure payments are made on time and responsibly to protect your credit ratings.

Talk openly to each other.

Discuss what you care about and consider whether the businesses where you shop and make purchases, and even where you work, match your belief system.  Having strategic intentions about your money can be empowering as you show the world what you value when you spend your hard earned resources.

Determine a set amount (for example, $100) that you promise to consult with the other person on before you spend more than this amount. 

This allows each person to make small impulse purchases without consultation or fear of judgement. However it also helps avoid surprises in the bank account or credit card statement.  This amount helps set priorities around spending on home renovations, travel, or other big-ticket expenses.  The main concept is to keep the conversation flowing about money.

Create a motivation to save or avoid spending on extras.

For example, if you need to do a "fiscal fast" and avoid dining out for a few weeks, make sure to implement an Experience Reward at the end of the timeframe.  Research has shown that when people spend money on experiences, it creates a lasting positive impact on them—often the memories and the re-telling of the stories of this shared experience keep the couple connected.  Experiences can be travel, a sporting event, a concert or play, or any other activity you both enjoy together.

Learn how to "fight fair." 

Once you've been in a settled relationship for a while, one or both of you may make a bad money decision—we’re human.  It may, or may not, have been under your control, but you may have ended up at a place where financial worries have taken over your household and trust is eroding quickly.  If you’ve built up large credit card bills, try to honestly consider how that happened—were you trying to avoid some other emotional issue and used retail therapy to ease the pain? 

In Stop Fighting & Start Talking, Ed Coambs describes the Stop, Drop & Roll method to move arguments to resolution:

STOP—Recognize that you are entering a conflict (it may show up as screaming or yelling, passive-aggressive behavior, or seething resentment)

DROP--- Drop your defenses and focus on what the other person is really upset about.  There’s a good chance that you may not fully recognize the source of their frustration.

ROLL---When you really understand where the other person is coming from, you must be ready to roll with the punches.  Ultimately, your spouse will surprise you more often than not regarding the source of conflict and the way it makes them feel.

You can read more tips like this on his website.

Think outside yourselves to build gratitude and share your abundance. 

If there is a not- for- profit where the mission speaks to your soul, work together as a couple and consider allocating a portion of your money (and time) in support of this. The gratitude research of Dr. Robert Emmons (UC Davis) found that people who regularly practice an attitude of gratitude have on average a 7% higher income than those people that don’t (and you’ll spread some good in the world).

Remember to keep your spouse’s feelings at the forefront of your thoughts (even when you’re seething about money). Money conversations are necessary to keep life moving forward, however LOVE conquers all.  To recap:

L---Learn about each other’s money beliefs and listen to the other person

O---Organize your money behaviors with limits and rewards, and patronize businesses that match your values

V---Validate each other when you accomplish a goal like saving money

E---Expand your life together through experiences and helping others—money is the conduit, not the end game.


LEESA SLUDER IS A REGISTERED INVESTMENT ADVISER. INFORMATION PRESENTED IS FOR EDUCATONAL PURPOSES ONLY AND DOES NOT INTEND TO MAKE AN OFFER OR SOLICITATION FOR THE SALE OR PURCHASE OF ANY SPECIFIC SECURITIES, INVESTMENTS, OR INVESTMENT STRATEGIES. INVESTMENTS INVOLVE RISK AND UNLESS OTHERWISE STATED, ARE NOT GUARANTEED. BE SURE TO FIRST CONSULT WITH A QUALIFIED FINANCIAL ADVISER AND/OR TAX PROFESSIONAL BEFORE IMPLEMENTING ANY STRATEGY DISCUSSED HEREIN.