Why Every Couple Should Argue About Money

Why Every Couple Should Argue About Money

Chances are, you and your spouse have a major money issue you argue about occasionally. For some couples, maybe it’s more than occasionally. These “discussions” may seem fruitless now, because you never make any progress. You have your position; they have theirs. Just mentioning the topic causes the volume to rise and tempers to flare.

This post is for you.

Whether you’re discouraged, frustrated, saddened, or confused, there is hope today. I’d like to share with you some of what I’ve learned helping hundreds of couples resolve money conflicts — some minor, some quite complicated. You might disagree about:

  • How do we come up with a budget that works for both of us?
  • How much should we spend on the next car?
  • Should we let the kids take on student loans?
  • Will we help struggling adult children financially?
  • Should we spend that much on a… fill in the blank! Boat, vacation, motorcycle, pair of shoes, watch, etc.?

And so on. The fissure in your marriage is more important than the actual issue at hand. I’ve seen the biggest fights over what seems like the smallest thing (“Who inherits the punch bowl?”).

Next week, I’ll share practical guidelines for resolving money conflicts with your spouse. First, however, let’s frame this discussion. The subject matter is so weighty: money issues and marital strife both strike hard at the heart. So before we bring up the complicated conversations, three realities to keep in mind:

Money conflicts are to be expected. If you argue with your significant other about money, you’re normal. Surveys regularly reveal that finances cause more friction in relationships than any other topic. According to Money Magazine, 70% of married couples fight about money more than they argue about chores, togetherness, sex, snoring, and dinner plans. An argument does not mean you have a bad relationship. The best marriages don’t lack money conflicts; they resolve them in a healthy way.

The best marriages don’t lack money conflicts; they resolve them in a healthy way.

Money conflicts are difficult. Money is weird, and everyone is weird about money. It touches on your deepest desires, hopes, and fears. The issues that money brings to the forefront are often highly emotional, whether you’re married or not. Now add your spouse to this equation. Limited resources mean money cannot meet any one person’s total desires; better yet, the desires of two. Money conversations always involve competing priorities and complicated power dynamics (who decides?). Often, neither spouse has all the skills or experience needed to solve the problem (such as investment knowledge). It’s no wonder that things can quickly go south.

Money conflicts are opportunities. The good news is that financial frictions are not all bad. In fact, these disagreements offer up a chance to understand each other, build better intimacy and ultimately have more fulfilling relationships. You get to explore what your spouse values and how your spouse thinks. As you work through these conflicts, your marriage could actually become stronger than before the conflict.

Regardless of the particular arguments, take heart today that what you’re going through is universal to marriage. It may still be hard to imagine how to get out of the place you’re in today, but next week, I’ll share several ideas on how to have a productive money conversation with your husband or wife.

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