How to Stop Fighting about Money
In this article I am going to discuss 9 simple steps on how to stop fighting about money. Learn important skills that will help you to stop fighting about money with your spouse.
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Why Do Couples Fight about Money?
Money is complicated. People can be complicated. Relationships can be really complicated.
When you put those three complex things together, it is perhaps not suprising that many couples fight about money.
Why do couples fight about money? Personally, I believe that it is largely because of these two big factors: First, money touches nearly every aspect of our lives. There is not much that you can do in our modern society that does not require spending or expending money in one way or another.
And second, and probably more important, is that how you spend (and don’t spend) your money really is a reflection of your values. What you spend your money on directly reflects what is important to you.
So if you are spending all of your money on things that really aren’t important to you, then you might want to sit down with your spouse and decide how to better spend and better manage your money. Find help with creating a spending plan (aka, a budget :)) to help you allocate your money to the things that are truly important to you in this article on how to make a budget. You can also find even more information in this beginner’s guide to budgeting.
What Percent of Couples Fight about Money?
If you are currently fighting with your spouse about money, you are probably frustrated. You probably want the situation to change and are unsure exactly what you can do to change it. You might be scared that the marriage that means so much to you might be in danger of falling apart or even coming to an end.
But one thing you are not is alone. According to a recent survey, abuot 50% (48%) of couples fight about money. But, as I discussed briefly above, given the fact that money touches nearly every aspect of our lives and that how we spend our money truly is a reflection of our values, this really is not too surprising. (In fact, given how much money affects most of our lives, maybe we should be grateful that only about 50% of couples fight about money! :))
9 Simple Steps for How to Stop Fighting about Money
Finances touch nearly every aspect of our lives, so money can cause a lot of contention if we’re not careful. Because what we spend our money on reflects to a large extent our core values, money often exposes differences that we may not have even been aware of before marrying.
Money disagreements are the number one cause of divorce in the U.S., but don’t let your marriage become another casualty! You can turn the situation around if you will work together with your spouse to bring about meaningful change. Here are 9 points that can help you stop fighting and begin to heal your marriage.
1. Listen more than you talk.
Sometimes we get so caught up in being right that we forget to work on doing right. Even if you feel that your spouse is the one to blame for your money problems and for the resulting arguments and fights, you can still be the one to start to make simple changes to make things better.
And one of the things you can start to change is to listen more and ask questions more. Not passive-aggressive questions, but true “I want to understand what you’re really thinking and feeling and where you’re coming from” questions. I love the saying that God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.
And don’t get me wrong—I know it’s hard. I’m not perfect, and my husband and I argue sometimes too (and even sometimes about money, although—very—fortunately, we are both savers at heart). So I don’t mean to be a hypocrite and have you think that my husband and I never argue. But often people think they understand a problem or an issue, when we really don’t understand the complete picture.
By asking the right questions, and really listening to the answers—and by listening to both what’s said and what’s not said—we can come to better understand each other and better work toward shared solutions.
2. Commit to being a team.
When you are upset about your spouse’s money behavior, remember his or her great qualities. Remember why you got married in the first place. And recommit to fighting together for what’s most important, not fighting against each other. Hold tight to your faith and your family. Work to compromise, to think outside the box, to prioritize, and to sacrifice to find solutions that will work for your family. Selfishness kills marriages, so even if you are the one who feels wronged, find small ways to serve and to give. This doesn’t mean that you’re a martyr or a wimp or a pushover, but from your strength find ways to help and to lift and to love.
And remember that being part of a team is being honest with each other. If there are things that you are avoiding talking about, find appropriate ways and times to bring them up. Let your spouse know you’ve got some things on your mind, put the kids to bed, and then sit down and talk about what’s on your mind—without accusations or blame and if possible without anger. Practice good communication skills by using “I” statements (“I feel frustrated/discouraged/overwhelmed when …”), looking your spouse kindly in the eyes, and reframing your spouse’s statements and answers.
3. Discuss your overall philosophies about money.
As you communicate about your finances, revisit your overall views on money. What financial values are important to you? Do you believe it’s important to save up for what you want? Do you believe in lending money to people? What are your feelings on saving for retirement? As you talk about your views on money, it’s helpful to discuss your feelings on these topics:
- Following a spending plan or budget
- Saving for emergencies
- Saving for large purchases such as an appliance, a vehicle, or a house
- Going into debt and debt repayment
- Using credit cards
- Lending money to others (especially family members)
- Paying children to do chores or get good grades
- Helping to pay for kids’ college
- Investing (such as your tolerance for risk)
- Saving for retirement
4. Work to be kind and respectful, no matter what.
As you work through your differences when it comes to your views about money or your financial habits, commit to being kind and considerate. I know there may be a lot of resentment built up from past fights and potential misunderstandings. Work very hard to let the past go and focus on the present and the future. As mentioned briefly above, practice new ways to phrase things that don’t point fingers. For example, instead of saying, “I hate it when you …” say instead “I feel anxious (hurt, overwhelmed, frustrated, and so on) when you …” or “It concerns me when we spend more than we have available for …” Work on compromising and coming up with realistic solutions rather than placing blame.
5. Focus on your shared goals and dreams.
Start to talk about what you hope to be able to accomplish in your life as you save, spend, and invest wisely. What similar and shared goals and dreams do you have? What do you want your finances to look like in 5, 10, 20, and 40 years? Would you love to be completely out of debt? What can you do to get there? Do you want to own a vacation home on the beach someday? What will it take to get there?
Would you like to help pay for or completely pay for your children’s college educations? How can you make that happen? Are you planning to retire in comfort? How much do you need to save and how long do you plan to work to reach that goal? Do you have a goal to give very generously to the causes you support? What steps can you take now to put you on the path to make that dream a reality?
For an excellent resource to help you reach your money goals and dreams (and solve your money problems), I highly recommend Financial Peace University by Dave Ramsey. It’s an awesome course that my husband and I went through and that I have also taught as an FPU coordinator.
It’s effective in helping you change your money habits because it gives simple, actionable steps you can take to reach your financial goals. Dave is a fun and charismatic teacher! But more important, this course has helped hundreds of thousands of families to get their finances in order, and it has strengthened countless couples as they have been able to work together to improve their financial situations. You can find out more and purchase the course here.
And if you want help to manage your money and keep up with your finances, you should check out the free app Personal Capital. With Personal Capital, you can see not only all of your bank checking and savings accounts and even your credit cards and other finance accounts, but you can also link your retirement and other brokerage accounts. This allows you to have a complete, overall picture of your current financial situation. And you can also view your account history to see how your accounts and overall portfolio have done over time. I love this very helpful tool and use it all the time! Sign up for your free Personal Capital account here.
6. Start with working to overcome simpler obstacles before moving on to tackle bigger ones.
If you have big financial hurdles you need to overcome, such as one spouse being a chronic overspender, it might help to start with smaller, bite-sized goals. For example, you might talk about and commit to cutting expenses in just one area—the easiest one. And then you could talk about reducing expenses in another area.
As you talk about your finances and your spending, create a spending plan to help you get organized with your money. Consider if you might be paying too much in car payments or rent, and what you can do to work together to solve that. You might talk about what you can do to earn more income. If one of you has committed to being a stay-at-home parent, you might look into work-from-home options to help make ends meet.
7. Don’t give up.
Realize that bringing about real change might not be easy—it’s probably not going to be easy. Especially if you’ve been having the same types of money fights for months (or even years), it’s going to take some time to reverse that. Be patient with yourself and with your spouse. Take baby steps. Keep moving forward, even when you backslide. Give yourself and your spouse grace. Remember that your (intact) family is the most important thing you have on this earth—and your marriage is the core of that family. So treat it that way. Don’t give up!
8. Pray for help, and read God’s Word together.
If you haven’t been praying together as a couple, start. If your spouse isn’t willing to pray, ask if he or she will join you while you do. And do the same for reading the scriptures together. Seek God’s guidance in your life—He wants to give it to you! He wants your family to succeed as much as you do. And He doesn’t want you to be hurting—He doesn’t want fighting and contention in your relationship. So ask Him to help you to heal your marriage and find solutions to your money problems. And then read your scriptures to find answers, and listen for promptings from His Holy Spirit to help you know what to do. He will help you know what to do—I promise!
9. Seek marriage counseling.
If your marriage is in severe trouble, seek counseling. Don’t be ashamed—if you had a physical heart problem, you wouldn’t hesitate to seek medical help. And you should feel ust as able to get help with an emotional heart problem. If your spouse won’t go with you, go yourself, and ask for advice on how to talk to your spouse and advice on things you can do to work on the problem from your end. In time, hopefully your spouse will come with you, or you will learn the communication or other skills you need to start resolving issues even if your spouse won’t attend counseling.
If you’re in a marriage that is struggling because of financial problems, there is hope. You can do small things every day to help your relationship and your money move in a better direction. See where your spouse is willing to compromise. Consider what you yourself can do better to help improve the situation. Don’t try to solve multiple issues at once. Take things one step at a time, and just do your best. Seek help from loved ones, counselors, and your all-knowing and all-loving Heavenly Father.
Do you have specific questions about how to stop fighting about money? What methods have you found that have worked for you and your spouse to talk about money without fighting? Let me know in the comments below! I would love to hear your best ideas and tips!
Invitation to Share
Was there something in this article that inspired you to change something about your money? Are there ideas or tips that you feel could help others? Would you please take a minute to share this article via email or social media? I would love your help to share these principles of financial well-being. Thank you!
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