You can’t put off the money conversation with your partner anymore, and the thought of combining your finances feels overwhelming.
Maybe you’re afraid to talk about it, not sure where to start, or you don’t want to tell them about that lingering credit card debt.
Why are these conversations so hard?
It could be that…
- You’re not on the same page with your goals and where you spend money.
- You have different money personalities – one is a “spender” while the other is a “saver.”
- You get really emotional and the conversation doesn’t move forward.
- You don’t really want to look at your numbers let alone share them.
Don’t beat yourself up. There’s no shame and no judgment. These are common struggles that are very normal.
It takes 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!
Here are 5 tips for talking about money with your partner:
1. Listen without judgment
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.
- Sit there on your phone, rolling your eyes.
- Get defensive, or walk away and ignore it.
- Start attacking – you have a point to make and you don’t want to wait.
When emotions are running high, it’s hard to get anything accomplished or move forward.
Practice hearing your partner until they’re done talking. This is harder said than done when you’re feeling emotionally triggered. It may be helpful to focus on the breath to stay calm and present. You can show your partner you’re listening by reflecting what you heard back to them.
Experiment with noticing and observing the thoughts and feelings that come up. This practice will allow you to detach from emotions so that you can have a money conversation with a clear head.
When you name an emotion, “ohhhh, I’m feeling money shame right now,” it feels a little lighter, like it’s not something that defines you, or makes you a bad person, or whatever you’re feeling.
You can recognize that emotion for what it is and accept that’s how you feel, while also looking at it as an area to heal and grow in, not as something that’s holding you back.
2. Seek to Understand
You’ve listened to what your spouse has to say, but it’s still not making much sense. Your next step is to seek to understand WHY your partner feels the way they do.
Approach what they’ve said from a position of curiosity, as opposed to going on the offense and telling them all the reasons they’re wrong.
Ask them open ended questions so that you can fully understand their perspective – “How does that make you feel, why do you feel that way, can you tell me more about that?”
Oftentimes, the way we interpret conversations aren’t always aligned with the intentions of our partner. It’s easy to take things personally or make assumptions about our partner that aren’t actually true.
When you take a step back and understand where your partner is coming from, you may find that they’re coming from love, fear, anxiety, and not from a place of trying to hurt you.
3. Practice Empathy
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 believe 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 with 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. Speak your truth
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.
You may be feeling a little crazy, because you’ve been keeping it in, and you’ve got things to say! Now, it’s your turn.
It takes courage to be open and vulnerable with your thoughts and feelings about money. Especially if you’re feeling shame, or fear, or something that you don’t feel comfortable talking about.
However, without sharing your truth, you won’t feel heard and your partner won’t be able to fully support you, because they won’t know what’s really going on for you.
Practice expressing yourself in a way that speaks to your own understandings and experiences. Make it about you and your feelings. If your partner feels accused or judged, they may shut down and the conversation’s over.
Start sentences with “I believe in this… when this happens I feel… or my opinion is….”
If things tend to escalate into yelling and screaming, try to keep your voice and tone calm so you don’t 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.
5. Find a win-win solution
You’ll get a lot further in your money conversations if you’re willing to work together, make some compromises, and find a win-win solution.
This doesn’t mean that you have to give up on your hopes and dreams. It just means that you’re willing to work with your spouse to create a plan that works for everyone. Get creative here and think outside the box.
The line of thinking is “how can I…[do the thing that will make both people happy]”
There may be some areas where you give a little, and you’ll also get wins on areas that are important to you. The goal is for everyone to leave happy, regardless of the compromises that were made.
Money conversations with your partner are an art. It’s about learning to come together, expressing yourselves, understanding and supporting each other, and working to find mutually beneficial solutions.
Sometimes just making time, showing up for the conversation, and knowing what to talk about is the hardest part.
Combining your finances comes with many challenges. Having a financial planner to guide you makes this process feel much easier and you’ll get it done faster.
Learn more about being an OnRoute Financial client by scheduling a money chat here.