Finances is one of those things most couples prefer not to talk about. Rare is the finances convo that doesn’t involve some sort of argument…or just silent rage. But if you haven’t gotten on the same financial page with your spouse yet, now is the time. I know, I know. It’s easier to just ignore it and hope your spouse will change without any collaboration or compromise, right? Ha. You’re funny. But really, why do we always think that’s going to work? Maybe someone can enlighten me.
Statistics show that the majority of divorces are a result of financial problems, but along with all the other reasons for divorce, it’s not the financial situation or even disagreements about finance. It’s selfishness. And I don’t know if you haven’t noticed it yet, but it’s that unwillingness to agree, compromise, collaborate or change yourself to improve your relationship that causes most of your problems. If you haven’t noticed it yet, you’re welcome.
There are a lot of different scenarios we could talk about, but here are just a few:
- Person A has a spending problem, and no matter how often his wife tries to get him to curb spending, he brushes her off as being too stingy, that it’s not a big deal. He doesn’t see a problem with what he’s doing and refuses to see the effect it has on his marriage and his family’s financial security. All he can think about is why his wife won’t just accept his judgment.
- Person B is very frugal and savings-minded and isn’t thrilled about his wife’s love for shopping. He gets upset every time she shops, but is unwilling to listen to her reasoning. Rather than trying to understand her point of view, all he can think about is how much more they could save if she would change.
- Person C has gotten so fed up with his wife’s spending that he starts to hide money from her and cuts off her cash flow. He has decided that she will never change, so he has taken the matter into his own hands.
It makes me sad to think how common each of these scenarios are (and a lot more like them). In each of these, one or both spouses are blind to the background, habits and needs of the other. It’s even more sad when one spouse is willing to work at it while the other remains selfish and blind. So here are a few ideas I have about how you can get on the same page as your spouse:
- Budget together – The main reason I put this as #1 is that in order to budget together, you need to communicate with each other. This is the best time to talk about those things because it’s not in the moment. It’s still possible that there will be arguments, but it’s better for it to happen in a neutral situation than in the heat of the moment when more damage can be done. Budgeting together also shows a willingness to work together, so you’ve got to have that mindset going in. You can’t have your way on everything, but be honest about how you feel. Don’t just talk about what you want, but why you want it. Your spouse can’t read your mind.Another reason why budgeting can be good is that when one of you wants to make a purchase that isn’t in the budget, it’s not the other spouse who is saying no, the budget did. And you both set and agreed upon the budget, which makes it a little harder to blame the other.
- Learn to compromise – Your spouse’s spending and savings habits are largely a result of their experiences and perceptions growing up. That being said, those habits are going to die hard. It takes a lot of understanding and compromise to come to an agreeable situation. For example, I hate spending money on clothes. My wife, on the other hand, loves new clothes. When we first got married, I had mucho problemos with it. But after a lot of
discussionssilent rage (on my part), we talked about it and I realized that she was actually quite responsible about it, and as we averaged out how much she spent on a monthly basis, it really wasn’t that much. So it wasn’t a problem of her spending. In fact, her spending wasn’t a problem at all. It was just the difference between our perceptions, and when we learned to compromise, we communicated better and it was no longer a problem.
- Set common goals – It’s a lot easier to talk about why you shouldn’t spend money on something when you both have a goal that you’re excited about. So spend time talking about your dreams. Talk about what you would love to have for yourself, but also what you would love to have/do together. Once you do so, you’ll realize that you aren’t going to realize these dreams unless a change is made, and that’s a change you’ve got to make together.
- Get help – If you are relatively new to all this, working with a financial advisor can help you set goals and work together to establish good behaviors. And depending on how dire your disagreements are, you may need to work with a marriage counselor. A counselor can help by facilitating healthy discussion and can act as a sounding board so that both sides can be understood. Remember that the problem isn’t finances, but selfishness. A counselor can help you see and solve the root of the problem rather than trying to focus on the branches.
What are your experiences with getting on the same financial page as your significant other?