Has this ever happened to you? You and your spouse are talking about where to go on vacation. You suggest a beach trip. Before you can finish sharing your idea, your significant other launches into a lecture on why it’s too expensive and how the two of you could go more places if you didn’t spend so much money on clothes. Or hunting gear. You get defensive, throw your hands up in defeat, and walk away. Another money discussion turned into a money fight.
If that sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone. According to a recent study, lots of other couples feel that pain, too.
Ramsey Solutions commissioned a study of more than 1,000 U.S. adults to understand how married couples communicate and relate about money. And guess what? Money is the top issue married couples fight about! In fact, money fights are the second leading cause of divorce, behind infidelity.
Debt plays a role in these fights, especially for couples who owe larger amounts. The study found that those with $50,000 or more in debt were three times more likely than couples with less than $10,000 in debt to say the tone of their money conversations is negative.
While money conversations are challenging for some, the study also showed the value of couples talking together about money regularly. People who rated their marriage as “great” were twice as likely to say they talk about money daily or weekly with their spouse, compared to those who say their marriage is “okay” or “in crisis.”(1)
So, how do you go from fighting against each other to working with each other?
In my book Love Your Life, Not Theirs, I share four steps to make those conversations more productive and less stressful—and even enjoyable!
- Share your money stories. How your family treated money when you were growing up has shaped how you think and feel about it today. The same goes for your spouse. When you get married, you both bring those histories with you. By talking about them, you understand each other more. And that understanding can go a long way.
- Don’t keep money secrets. According to the study, one-third of people who argue with their spouse about money have hidden a purchase from their partner.(2) When that happens, your spouse feels like they can’t trust you. And you can’t build a strong marriage without trust.
- Do a budget together. You need to do a monthly budget, of course, but you also need to talk about your long-term goals, like vacation and retirement. When you’re working together toward common money goals, you have a shared vision and shared dreams. In the study, 94% of those who said they have “great” marriages also said they discuss their money dreams together.(3) Dreaming about the future with the one you want to share it with can deepen your relationship.
- Listen to your spouse. I know, you’ve heard that before. But how many times do you really listen? Most of us (including me) are guilty of listening only to think up a response. And then we interrupt with our ideas and viewpoints and criticisms. Make this a rule: When your spouse is talking, you’re only allowed to ask questions. You can’t offer your thoughts until they ask or until they’re done sharing. It’ll change the conversation, I promise.
Marriage is all about teamwork. And when you get on the same page with money, you’ll start winning with money. Not only that, but you’ll also be creating a shared life together. And that’s more valuable than money itself.
If you want to stop the money fights in your marriage once and for all, check out my event, Money & Marriage. It will give you the tools and tips to have a marriage and a bank account you love!