Money creates strong emotions in many of us. The way we spend, save and otherwise use our money impacts in many ways. When we have differences in philosophy with a life partner, though, things can get even more heated. The way we view and use money is at the core of who we are as people, and that can create challenges when it comes to discussing finances. If you don’t want your financial discussion to turn into a fight, here are some things to keep in mind:
Understand that it’s Not Just About the Money
First of all, realize that our money attitudes aren’t just about money. Concerns about security, feelings of control and experiences from our past can all color our feelings about money and the way we feel things should be done. As a result, it’s important to take a step back and understand that you might not be disagreeing about a specific purchase or about how much should be going toward paying down debt.
Look at your own biases and try to get to the root of why you feel a certain way about money, and how you want to use it. Then, try to understand your partner’s feelings. Often, differences arise because you are bringing different experiences and expectations to the discussion. If you can understand yourself and understand your partner, and you are both willing to acknowledge some of these deeper issues, it will be easier to discuss your money differences calmly and come to a rational solution that you can both be reasonably satisfied with.
Start from a Place of Shared Goals and Values
When you start your money discussion, make sure you affirm your shared goals and values. It’s easier to talk about your differences when you understand that, ultimately, you are on the same side and that you are working toward the same things. Acknowledge your shared long-term expectations and hopes, and review your common goals. This will help you feel better toward each other. When you find yourselves focusing too much on differences, return to your shared goals, and then look at how you can both contribute to those. It will make compromising on your differences a little bit easier.
Use a Third Party
In some cases, a mediator can help you keep your focus. A third party can enforce rules of civility since you’re less likely to say something mean in front of someone else. This can prevent the situation from degenerating. Additionally, an outside party can help you stay focused on what really matters in the discussion, as well as provide insight that neither of you might see because of your biases.
Use a third party that you can both trust, such as a financial planner, spiritual adviser, or some other person that is well-qualified to help you discuss matters constructively.
Pay Attention to the Physical Situation
Your physical state can impact how fruitful financial discussions can be. If you are hungry or tired, you will be more likely to take offense and become irritated. Your surroundings can also influence the situation. When you know you are going to talk about money differences, or about working out a financial plan, schedule a time that and agree to a place that is comfortable. Make sure that you are both reasonably well-rested and that you have eaten recently. While you might not be able to create perfectly ideal conditions for these types of discussions, you can at least make an effort to avoid having these talks when you are physically stressed already.
If you need to take a break from the discussion, do so. It can make sense to step away and take a walk or relax for a little bit. Stop for a bite to eat or a nap. Whatever you need to remain civil to each other, and then approach the situation fresh should be done.
Be Ready to Compromise
When you have money differences, you are going to have to compromise. This means that neither of you is like to get exactly what you want. However, you can both concede in some areas and come to a solution that works reasonably well.
Working through money differences can be done, but it isn’t always easy. Plan ahead and be prepared and you’ll most likely reach an agreement that works for your finances and your partnership.