How to discuss financial issues with a partner without stress
Man and woman
Man among people
Disagreements between partners are inevitable. Surviving conflicts can be very difficult, but ideally they help strengthen relationships and help find common ground. Another thing when it comes to financial relations within the couple. Who pays for what? Who treats whom to dinner? Who buys products for a week? What part of the salary can be spent “on pins”? Is it worth investing part of the family budget in your friend’s startup without discussing it with your spouse?
Psychologist Susan Krauss Whitburn is sure that if you and your partner have disagreements about how your income should be spent, this can seriously affect your level of satisfaction with your relationship. She refers to a study conducted by financial therapists.1 from the University of Kansas in 2019.
They found that talking about money ranks first among potential sources of conflict in the pair. At the same time, the stress associated with finances, as well as the frequency of conversations between spouses on this topic increase the likelihood of a divorce.
Under the influence of the “hit or run” reaction, we either attack the partner who raised an unpleasant topic, or evade the conflict
Fortunately, there are ways not only to survive an unpleasant situation, but also to bring money conversations to a more positive level. Making sure that they do not cause any anxiety among any of the participants is an important step towards ensuring that the discussion of such issues takes place in a constructive manner. And psychologists know what to do.
The threat posed by the situation makes it difficult to cope with it. Being in tension, we make decisions dictated by habits, instincts and emotions. Under the influence of the “hit or run” reaction, we either attack the partner who raised an unpleasant topic, or evade the conflict. Neither one nor the other contributes to a peaceful resolution of the situation.
Employees of the University of Kansas identify five strategic steps that will help calmly discuss uncomfortable issues, including those related to money.
1. Practice active listening
Use “I-messages” in a conversation: “I feel,” “I think.” So you “turn off” the aggressive, offensive tone, and the partner does not have to defend against you. Do not avoid the hottest topics, but try to understand the interlocutor and not attack him.
2. Recognize the role of stress in communication
Remember the last time you and your partner felt a tension in a relationship. Remember the financial quarrel. Analyze how you behave in such situations. And how does a partner cope with stress? What are you both doing to get rid of painful experiences?
3. Realize your values
It is important for you as a couple to understand how you feel about money and why you have chosen this strategy. Do you prefer to save, and your partner loves new things? Or are you both seeking to save more money and take a mortgage?
Remember how your family treated the money. Perhaps instability reigned there, and adults sought to save every penny. And your partner’s parents didn’t skimp and thought that you only need to buy the best. A careful study of your own past will help you understand how the strategies of parents (or maybe even grandparents) affect you today.
4. Reflect on the future
Are you worried about what you will live on after 20, 30 years? Do you save for retirement? Have you opened a savings account for children? It’s not particularly fun to talk about the future, which is usually a little scary, but it’s worth discussing an action plan. And this conversation is much more important than trying to choose the right restaurant for tomorrow’s date.
5. Plan your budget
Budget is the foundation for any undertaking. Perhaps at work you had to take part in approving the budget. If not, most likely you are in one way or another dealing with financial issues in your organization. So why not extrapolate this experience to your own family?
Perhaps you are avoiding too emotional discussions about your spending. But scientists from the University of Kansas are confident that sharing revenue and expenses in a spreadsheet or notebook will help both of you see how you spend money, that is, how you apply strategies developed by your parents in your own life. And to see and call a spade a spade is to get an opportunity to agree among themselves.
Ideally, talking about money should not bring tension to the relationship. If you and your partner try to implement the above actions at the same time, you will not only endure a difficult conversation with dignity, but also strengthen your relationship.
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