If you’re struggling to talk to your husband about money without fighting, you’re not alone. Money is one of the most common sources of conflict in relationships.
However, there are some things you can do to make the conversation go more smoothly. In this article, we offer six practical steps to get you moving in a healthy, positive direction.
Money problems are one of the top three indicators of a failing marriage.
According to a recent poll among (CDFA) certified divorce financial analyst, 22% of divorces are the result of financial problems.
Unfortunately, money problems usually come in a package with a host of other issues. One in particular is broken communication, tension, and tense arguments. These arguments are not always about money. But money issues tend to bleed over into all other areas.
If this is the case, it is often difficult to discuss financial matters with your spouse.
We offer six practical steps you can take to move your marriage – and the discussions about money – in the right direction.
6 Steps To Help You Talk to Your Spouse About Money Without Fighting
If you’re not on the same page about money, it can be tough to have a harmonious relationship with your spouse. After all, money is one of the most common sources of stress and conflict in marriages.
If you’re not sure how to approach the subject of money with your husband without fighting, here 6 practical tips to help you navigate the subject of money.
Step 1: Make An Agreement To Discuss The Issues
It’s important to start on common ground. This means you have to agree to discuss the issue in a calm, reasoned fashion.
Without agreement on this first step you end up arguing; this doesn’t resolve the issue. In fact, it only intensifies it. Find a way to get on common ground with your spouse so you can have a conversation, not a fight.
As you plan your discussion, lay out ground rules that you both agree on. Know this, there is no point system when it comes to working on marriage problems. The goal is for you to both win.
For example, if you tend to raise your voice, make a rule that if either party raises their voice, you will both take a 5 minute recess to calm down.
Your ground rules will be based on your needs, weaknesses, and desired outcomes.
Step 2: Set A Time And A Timer
Important things go on the calendar.
That’s a rule at our house.
Michelle and I have pretty busy schedules, so we make sure we have a common calendar where all the important dates, meetings, and deadlines are recorded. This helps us move forward and not miss big events.
Scheduling a time to discuss your finances is important for a number of reasons:
1. It’s set the issue as a priority.
We make time for the things that matter. It’s easy to push some things to the side and say, “We will talk about this when the time is right!” But that time never comes around and the situation only gets worse.If you don't MAKE time, you will never FIND time. So set it on the calendar as an appointment with your spouse. If you treat it like a serious issue, you will handle it properly. Click To Tweet
If you don’t MAKE time, you will never FIND time. So set it on the calendar as an appointment with your spouse. If you treat it like a serious issue, you will handle it properly.
2. You have time to prepare.
Because money issues are one the top reasons couples separate or divorce, it’s important to treat those issues as important. When you schedule time to talk about important matters (this applies to all issues that impact your marriage, not just money), it gives you time to think, pray, and plan.
This allows you to approach the issue with solutions already in mind. Or at least, you will feel prepared to talk rationally and realistically about the subject.
Also, I recommend using a timer. This may seem weird and unrealistic, but I believe it is a helpful tool.
By setting a timer on how long you will discuss the issue, it accomplishes two things:
- You can focus on the key points and not ramble
- You know it will end
Let’s look at each of these.
If I know I have 5 minutes to get my point across, it forces me to focus on the most important issue. It makes me think through what I want to say, and narrow down my comments for maximum affect.
I’m not suggesting you only talk about money problems for 5 minutes. My point is, set a timer for one hour (or whatever you agree upon), and stop when the timer goes off. This will help you discuss the most important issues first. You can always schedule a follow-up session to finish up.
The second big advantage is, you won’t get caught in an endless trap of saying the same thing over and over.
I explain in a little more detail in the video below:
If you’ve ever been in a staff meeting, company meeting, or any kind of meeting where the leader droned on and on about an issue but never really got to the point, you know what I’m talking about.
We will talk about knowing the goal of the meeting next, but for now, I want you to grasp the concept of scheduling the time to talk serious about your money matters, AND agreeing that it won’t last forever.
That way, both you and your spouse will know that the conversation won’t go on and on and be carried into the bedroom, or dinner table. It has a start and stop time. This will actually force you to keep moving.
My wife and I call this ‘self editing.‘ As writers we understand the concept of cutting out the clutter (although neither of us is particularly good at it when it comes to words), so we often remind ourselves to edit when we discuss certain topics. This helps us ‘cut to the chase.’ Or as Michelle likes to say, ‘Give me the bottom line!‘
I like that. No fluff. Just meat. It’s especially important when discussing tough issues.
Step 3: Know The Goal
Let me ask you a serious question: Why do you want to talk about this with your spouse?
I know you are thinking, ‘Duh! We have money problems.”
But that’s not what I mean. I want to ask…and you need to answer…do you want to resolve an issue that is hurting you? Or do you really want to fight?
I don’t say this in a judgmental or condescending way. In fact, a healthy fight over some things can actually help your relationship heal. As long as your marriage is based on trust and respect, these type arguments can help you resolve issues. But only if you are healthy.
I ask this because IF you only want to fight, I recommend postponing the discussion.Financial issues are one the top three reasons couples separate and divorce. Failure to come into agreement on money matters is far too unhealthy to simply fight about. You need solutions. Not an argument. Click To Tweet
Financial issues are one the top three reasons couples separate and divorce. Failure to come into agreement on money matters is far too unhealthy to simply fight about. You need solutions. Not an argument.
Once you come to terms that you actually want to find a solution to your money matters, here are a few questions to consider:
1. What do you desire?
What is it you truly want? Do your best to narrow it down and have great clarity?
You may consider exploring why financial security is important to you. Or what it would mean if you don’t find a solution.
What about your childhood? Is there something in your past that makes you uncomfortable with where you are financially now?
These questions can help you figure out what your really want. This will be important for your discussion with your spouse.
2. What outcome do you want from the meeting or discussion?
Be realistic. For example, it’s not realistic to think you can talk about it one time and suddenly you have no more debt or financial problems.
It IS realistic to think you can come to a consensus on where the problem lies and how to address it.
Before you meet or address the issue with your spouse, think about what you want to happen AFTER the meeting. When you focus on the outcome you desire, it will guide you in your discussion with your spouse. It actually helps you know where to go in the conversation.
3. What questions do you have for your spouse?
These are not meant to be accusations. I’ll discuss attitude in a bit, but when you ask a question, it shouldn’t be framed as an insult or accusation.
I’m referring to legitimate questions you might have. By the way, it is a good idea to let your spouse know you are willing to answer their questions as well. This keeps things on neutral ground.
4. Write all these down on paper.
This is a step I hope you will not dismiss. When we write things down it helps us clarify in our own mind what we want to say, and what we want to accomplish. This gives us the tools to articulate our thoughts in a better, more accurate way.
Once you’ve done all this, it’s time for an attitude check…
Step 4: Guard Your Attitude
We communicate more than just with words. Our subconscious body language sends signals we are often unaware of. But these signals are clearly picked up by others.
This is why it is important to guard our attitude.Before you discuss serious issues with your spouse, make sure you are not sending messages that will keep you from the goals you want to accomplish. Click To Tweet
Before you discuss serious issues with your spouse, make sure you are not sending messages that will keep you from the goals you want to accomplish.
4 Tips To Guarding Your Attitude
Here are four things to keep in mind when planning a serious discussion.
I’ve often told people, ‘You can say anything you want to another person AS LONG AS they know you truly love them.’
This is not a license to be rude; it is, rather, a warning that love and respect are the requirements for having deep, difficult discussions.
What do you do if your spouse doesn’t respect you or you don’t respect your spouse? Read “How To Deal With Disrespect In A Relationship.”
This goes along with respect. Where respect is an attitude, kindness is an action.
Always try to act in kindness.
This doesn’t mean you have to be a doormat for people to walk on. It simply means you choose to respond and treat people with the dignity they deserve. This goes double with your spouse.
Being kind means:
- You don’t call each other names
- You refuse to blame and belittle
- You listen when the other person talks
- You resist correcting them while they are talking
- You try to hear what they are saying
- You practice empathy by trying to see their perspective
- Remember the goal
This is a good place to remember what your goal is. It is not to fight about the problem. Fighting has only made it worse. It’s about solutions.
You’ve written down your desires, why they matter to you, what you want to see happen, etc. Now it’s time to keep those goals in mind when you are discussing the issues.
Don’t lose sight of what you are trying to accomplish.
- Seek agreement
When I tell couples this, I often hear one of them say, ‘That’s right. They need to just agree with me!’
That’s not the agreement I’m talking about. You need to seek to find ground you can agree on. This needs to be focused on HOW to change your situation. So it’s agreement on solutions, not just the problem.
It’s easy to agree their is a problem. And in your mind it may be obvious who is responsible. While it may be important to understand these things, the real agreement needs to be on the solution. So seek to find a solution that you both agree on.
Now that you identify the problem and are working on a solution, it’s time to come up with a plan of action.
Also Read: A Talk Of People With No Elbows
Step 5: Come Up With A Common Plan
Most married couples never come up with financial goals, a monthly budget, or a solid financial plan. This is the next step. And it is an important one.
I like the word common. It indicates you plan is:
- Agreeable with you and your spouse.
- Not unrealistic plan
- Is simple enough to do
A good plan focuses on what you can actually do. Don’t waste time trying to figure out how you can win the lottery to get out of debt. That’s foolish. Focus on small, simple steps you can take to move you toward your goal.
There are three things that every solid ‘get out of debt’ and ‘get your finances in order’ plan has in common. Three things you need to do to succeed.
1. Document It
As you can tell, I’m a big fan of writing things down so you can refer to them in the future. A wise man once told me, ‘The written plan is the accountability.’ By that he meant, when you have things written down and you agree to them, the document becomes your accountability. You do not have to fight or argue when someone fails. They agreed to the document, so IT holds them accountable.
Here are the steps to document your plan:
First, write it all down. List the things you agree to do to change your financial situation.
Second, date it. Assign a date to your plan. When will you do each step of the plan. By assigning a date, it holds you accountable.
Third, track it. Don’t just come up with a plan, set it shelf, and forget about it. Use it and track your progress. There are plenty of apps that can help you map out your game plan and track your progress. Pick one and use it.
I use Airtable currently. It’s certainly not the only one, but I like the layout and serves my purpose on big goals. (By the way, that is an affiliate link which means if you sign up I get a small commission.)
Fourth, Measure it. Not only are you tracking your progress, you are measuring each part of the journey. If you can’t (or don’t) track and measure your progress, it is not a plan. it is a wish. But not a plan. Plans are things you can track and measure.
Most couples fail, not because they lack desire, or don’t have clear goals. They fail because they don’t track and measure their progress.
2. Assign It
This is an important step. Once you write out your plan, you need to decide who does what. Who is responsible for what action. Maybe it’s both of you. Maybe only one of you needs to do it. But you need to assign each step or action so there is no misunderstanding.
For example, if one of your actions is to pay $50 more each month on your credit card debt, who is responsible? Who pays that bill? Once you decide, make sure you track it so it gets done. This eliminates future money fights.
3. Visualize It
I can hear some of you sigh, ‘Are you serious? What’s with the new age mumbo jumbo?’
Let me explain. I’m not talking about goofy, hocus-pocus, empty dream. There is a psychology affect that happens when we create a vision of our dreams and goals – what we truly want. It creates a dominate thought in our mind.
Since we always move in the direction of our dominate thoughts, if we keep the right thoughts in our mind, we move in the right direction.
I realize you may think this is over-simplified. In some ways it may be. But there is a lot of research that validates the idea that what we see in our mind, influences and determines our destiny.
Michelle and I are in the process of creating a vision board. There are things in our heart we want to accomplish. We want to keep those things in the forefront of our mind and heart. So we are putting them on a vision board.
There is no magic. At least not in the sense you often read about on the internet. But there is a secret. A mystery. When we consistently and constantly ‘see’ something, our mind responds by moving us in the direction of that vision.
This is why I encourage you to create a vision of what you want your life to look like – especially when it comes to your finances. Don’t just ‘see’ the debt. Deal with it. But get a picture of financial freedom.
After this, you need to get to work and work your plan. Then…you need to set a follow up time to check your progress. Together.
Step 6: Schedule A Follow Up
This is one of the most overlooked aspects of any plan. We usually don’t have trouble coming up with a game plan on changing our life. The problem is mostly in the follow-through and follow up.
I recommend putting it on your calendar and setting another time to check in and measure your progress.
Go through the same process with this appointment and meeting as you did the first. Simply revisit the steps in your financial plan again so your time is used wisely.
FAQ’s On Discussing Money Issues With Your Spouse
1. Should We Have Separate Bank Accounts?
I don’t like answers that begin with ‘it depends’ but this one does. It depends on several factors.We discuss split finances here.
Before I answer, I suggest meeting with an accountant or CPA to find out how this could impact your tax situation.
There are several questions to keep in mind:
First, are you in agreement. Anything done when you are not in agreement tends to lead to trouble. While there are times to break this rule, they are few and far between. And it usually revolves around lack of trust or a marriage in separation stages.
Second, this usually works better for couples with healthy money skills.
For example, it can cause problems if one spouse is frivolous and incurs a huge amount of debt. Regardless whether you are on the account or not, you can be held liable for the debt simply because you are married. Each state has different laws, but I can see where separate accounts can be disastrous if one spouse is irresponsible.
I would recommend the responsible spouse to control the flow of money in the house. This has it’s own set of problems, but in my opinion is is preferred over the alternative.
2. What Do I Do If We Can’t Agree?
What do I do when my spouse and I aren’t on the same page? This question comes in many forms.
I’ve laid out a game plan on how to approach this issue above. If this doesn’t work, and your spouse refuses to deal with the situation, I recommend two things:
First, talk to a counselor about your situation. Your response to this circumstance needs to be guided by someone who can help you navigate your own emotions and get a clear picture of the situation.
You can start here at Online Therapy.
Second, this may be a situation where you need to separate finances so you remove yourself from the aftermath of their spending and debt. Just remember what I mentioned above. Each state has laws that deal with spousal responsibility. So ask an attorney or CPA before you make a move.
Finally, whatever you do, keep calm and move forward.
I don’t say this to be trite or insensitive. Financial problems can be devastating to your relationship. These wounds run deep. So my advice is not meant to be uncaring. Rather, it is meant to give you counsel that will save you from further problems.
If this is your situation, please read our article, ‘How To Deal With An Angry Husband.’
Final Thoughts on How To Talk To Your Spouse About Money Problems
Knowing how to talk with your spouse about money problems can be difficult. It’s not uncommon for money to be a source of stress and conflict in marriages.
If you and your spouse are struggling to communicate about your finances, we’ve listed a simple six step plan to help you approach the topic in a healthy way.
- 6 Steps To Help You Talk to Your Spouse About Money Without Fighting
- FAQ’s On Discussing Money Issues With Your Spouse