Do you keep your finances separate or do you combine them when you get married? Most people ask this question in hopes that what they decide will make their finances easier as a couple. The truth is, there is no right answer when it comes to finances and your spouse.
If you have ever been married, then you understand why money is among the top reasons for marital stress and divorce. Talking about money with someone who “just doesn't get it” or who “doesn't agree” is freaking hard. It's all sunshine and rainbows when you are single and have complete control over your finances and your checking account.
Even though you want so bad to be on the same page with our spouse about finances, everyone thinks differently about spending, budgeting, and saving. This can cause some tension in any relationship, and it might cause you to take out a lot of frustration on your spouse.
So what do you do? What do you do when can't get your spouse on board with finances and arguments are starting to take over the relationship? I was married for nearly seven years, and the very first fight we ever had was about money. I would be lying if I said everything was smooth sailing when it came to discussions about money with my husband. What I quickly realized is that I got super defensive any time we disagreed. This led to me pointing an invisible finger at my spouse.
Even though I wasn't trying to lay blame on what he was doing, our conversations always ended up with me silently blaming him for our financial downfalls. He spent too much, didn't track spending the right way, didn't stick our budget well enough, and the list could go on and on.
Letting your feelings fester will lead to future blowouts, so it's important to talk to your spouse about money in a healthy way.
MAKE A COMMITMENT TO HAVE FAIR CONVERSATIONS
The first step is always the hardest. The only real time I spoke to my husband about money was when I felt like he did something wrong. This started the conversation the wrong way every time because I went into the discussion with negative feelings from the start.
The best thing you can do is make a pact with your spouse that there will be no fighting about money – period. Does this seem impossible? I promise that it's not. If your money conversations end up turning into a shouting match, you are doing something wrong. That was my first mistake. I went into the heat of the battle already fired up about something my spouse did or said.
Give yourself time to calm down and to rationally think about the situation before starting a money conversation with your spouse. Keep your negative feelings at bay so you can have the fairest conversation possible, and start each discussion calm and collected.
Remember, you might be upset about something the other person did, but that does not mean you are no longer a team. For everyone to be on the same page, you can't forget that you are in this together, from beginning to end.
YOU BOTH HAVE TO KNOW WHAT'S GOING ON
It's very common for one person in the relationship to take care of paying the bills and balancing the checkbook. That's totally fine. The problem arises when the other spouse is left completely out of the loop.
If only one spouse is responsible for the money in the relationship, how is the other spouse suppose to see the big picture? The best solution to this problem is having family finance meetings. Make it a priority to set a monthly date to sit down with your spouse and go over your bank account together. Take it one step further and pay the bills together.
This was another mistake I made in my marriage. I was such a control freak when it came to our money; I left him standing on the sideline. He had no clue how much our bills were or what we were responsible for paying. Since our paychecks were combined into one checking account, he never saw his paycheck. I allocated it and had it spent before he even knew he got paid.
It's important that both people understand what financial obligations they have every month, even if you are the one responsible for paying them. Beyond just knowing what financial obligations you have every month, make sure you discuss future large purchases. Knowing where your money is going is just as important as knowing where your money went. The feeling of resentment can easily be avoided if you discuss and understand where your money is going.
Read: 3 Tips to Improve Family Finance
USE “I” STATEMENTS
Are you pointing an invisible finger when you talk to your spouse about money? Sometimes you can be silently attacking the other person without even realizing it. I recently learned a really interesting fact about having conversations with people you care about. The funny thing, it has nothing to do with finance. Have you ever had a conversation with someone, and said, “You never pay the bills on time” or “You are always spending way too much.” These are called “you” statements and if your spouse's defenses are already up when you talk about money, things just got a lot worse.
Can you see how “you” statements can seem like you are blaming the other person for the problems that you are having? “You” statements are that invisible finger that you point at your spouse letting them know they are to blame for everything that is going wrong.
Instead of using “you” statements, the next money conversation you have with your spouse, I want you to focus on using “I” statements. An “I” message or “I” statement is a style of communication that focuses on the feelings or beliefs of the speaker rather than thoughts and characteristics that the speaker attributes to the listener. Here is an example to see the difference:
“Why do you always spend so much money on your clothes.”
“I feel stressed and worried when you go over budget to buy clothes.”
“You” statements make it seem like you are going into attack mode. Naturally, people are more willing to respond to “I” statements. The dramatic change of direction that my conversations had when I used “I” statements was unbelievable. My husband and I were able to move past the argument and focus on real solutions. The next time you sit down to have a conversation with your spouse about money, focus on how you word your feelings. It could make all the difference.
IT'S OK TO KEEP YOUR FINANCES SEPARATE
There are a lot of people out there who just assume that finances should be combined once you get married. This isn't always the case. Some couples actually handle money better together when they keep separate bank accounts and divvy up the responsibilities. It all depends on what type of couple you are.
Giving someone complete control over your money is a pretty scary thing, naturally so. So, if your spouse asks to keep things separate for the time being, stay supportive and work together the best you can. Remember, your way may not always be the best way. Take their point of view into consideration also.
What does money signify to you? This is a question that both spouses need to answer and share with each other. One of the biggest reasons I see that causes issues with talking about money is that both parties have different views on what money actually signifies.Remember, what money symbolizes to your partner has just as much validity as what it symbolizes to you.Click To Tweet Adopt a positive mindset, try to find common ground, and realize that you have to be willing to accept compromise.
Create a time at least once a month where you can both sit down and talk about your finances. I even recommend trying to get together at least twice a month. Use this time to talk about your budget, monthly spending (bills and unexpected expenses), future purchases, goals (short-term & long-term), and your overall feelings about how things are going financially.
Create financial goals together. It's a lot easier for both spouses to be on the same page if you are both working toward a common goal. Keep track of progress and make sure to share the results with each other along the way.
Work on the budget together. Most people don't realize that fights about money aren't usually because of the car payment or the recurring bills. It's the double trip to Starbucks that cost $45 last week or the $30 trip to the nail salon. Make sure set mutual limits when it comes to spending and work through it together.
Stop invisibly pointing the finger at your spouse. Pay particular attention to how you word your feelings. Using more “I” statements when you talk about money can make all the difference. You are not there to attack, but to find a solution.
Make a promise to each other to STOP fighting about money. That's right! Want to stop fighting about finances with your spouse? Then do it. Work as a team, and if things get too heated or you feel yourself getting frustrated, walk away until you can talk about things calmly and respectively. Your attitude will make a huge difference.
Do you fight about money with your spouse? Have you been able to change the money conversation in your home? Let me hear about it in the comments below.