As comfortable as you may be sharing things with your spouse, there’s still one topic that can be uncomfortable to talk about at times. You guessed it, money. Whether you’re having these conversations for the first time, or if you’ve been together for awhile, money conversations are still hard.
Why are these conversations so hard? Well, sometimes you’re not on the same page with your goals and the things you want to be saving for. It’s possible that one partner is a “spender” while the other is a “saver.” The things you think, feel, and believe about money may be different, and emotions around money can run high. How about knowing the numbers and feeling comfortable sharing them? I know I’ve seen spouses who “hide” money from each other. No judgments here, by the way, these are just things that happen.
It’s a practice to be a better communicator with your spouse and to learn how to talk about money with your partner. Like any practice, the more you do it, the better it gets!
I want to share 5 tips that I practice in talking about money with my husband, and that you can use to make money conversations a little bit easier.
It can feel impossible at times to sit and listen to your partner’s thoughts and opinions in a money situation, especially when those thoughts and opinions make you feel some type of way. I know I’ve interrupted and cut my husband short when I don’t like when I hear.
I get it – you have something to say and you don’t want to wait, but trust that you will have the opportunity to be heard. Give your partner the chance to speak their peace, and be a leader by letting them go first.
Practice keeping quiet until they are done talking, and really hear what they are saying, even if you don’t like it. Repeat their words back to them to demonstrate that you’ve heard. There’s no need to be sitting there on your phone, rolling your eyes. Show your spouse that you are engaged and truly hearing what they are saying.
2. Seek to Understand
Okay so you have heard what your partner has to say about a money situation. Are you feeling triggered? Misunderstood? Frustrated, sad, angry? I get it. I’ve been there too, and it still happens at times. But one thing I’ve learned is that it’s better to approach what they’ve said from a position of curiosity, as opposed to going on the offense and telling them all the reasons they are wrong.
Ask them open ended questions from a place of curiosity, not judgement: “How does that make you feel, why do you feel that way, can you tell me more about that?”
Practice putting your emotions towards your spouse and the situation to the side, just for a second, and really seek to understand what it is they are truly saying.
Oftentimes, the way we interpret conversations aren’t always aligned with the intentions of our partners. Emotions are heightened during money conversations and we can assume the worst, but when you take a step back and understand where your partner is coming from, it can be coming from love, fear, anxiety, and not from a place of trying to hurt you.
Now that you have dug a little deeper with your partner, it’s time to put yourself in their position.
For example, maybe they don’t want to spend money on the vacation you want to take because they have a belief that debt is bad and only “stupid” people get in debt, and so they want to put money towards loans.
You may not share this belief, maybe not even a little, but can you understand why they feel that way? Many of our money beliefs and feelings come from our parents and our childhood, and because of that, we’re all unique and different. Can you relate to your partner’s story, and understand why they feel the way they feel?
Empathize for their situation, and make sure they know that you understand them and you feel for them. You’re on their team and you get them.
4. Express Yourself Fully
By now your partner is hopefully feeling pretty good. They feel like they have been able to express themselves, they have been heard, and they are understood.
Now, it’s your turn. Tell them you’d like to share your thoughts and feelings now. Ask if it’s okay if you can share where you’re coming from.
Make sure to express yourself in a way that speaks to your own understandings and experiences. Make it about you and your feelings. Start sentences with “I feel… when this happens I feel… or my opinion is….” That way it doesn’t come across as accusatory or judgmental.
Try to keep your voice and tone calm because yelling and screaming may take away from the message that you want to get across. You can try writing a letter if it’s hard for you to use words.
I’m sure you’ve heard this word as it relates to relationships before. It’s all about compromise in many aspects of a marriage or a relationship. The same goes for money. This doesn’t mean that you have to give up on your hopes and dreams, but it may mean that you have to balance your hopes and dreams while simultaneously supporting those of your spouse.
It may also mean that you don’t get exactly what you want, when you want it. Again, not that you can get what you want, but there has to be a balance between you both.
I know if it were up to me, we would take a lot more trips. But, my husband reminds me that we want to save for our dream home and plan for a family, and since those are also things that are important to me, I’m willing to compromise and travel a little less, so that I can also achieve goals that are important to both of us.
I hope some of these communication tips are helpful and you can start to practice them when you talk to your spouse about money. This is a practice and a journey so keep trying and don’t give up!
If you feel like you need additional help, it may make sense to seek marriage counseling, or hire a financial professional to mediate the conversation, and just because you want a mediator, it does not mean you’re doing a bad job or you need to be “fixed.” Sometimes having an unbiased third party is a great way to level the playing field and help find the best ways to compromise.
I know I do a lot of mediating! If you need help or support in this area and you want to start talking about money with your spouse, or improve your current money conversations, schedule a money chat with me, and we can talk about how you can apply these strategies with your spouse.