By Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott
Money is a loaded issue in most marriages because it represents the ability to get the things we need and want. It tends to become an issue of power, dictating who makes the decisions and whose dreams get fulfilled. Needless to say, discussions about money, bills, and budgeting can generate some powerful emotions.
It’s not always easy to navigate money matters, especially in the early years of your marriage when you’re trying to figure out a retirement planning checklist. In today’s post, we’re going to explore some ways you and your spouse can get on the same page about your finances–and stay there.
WHICH ONE OF US SHOULD HANDLE THE FINANCES?
When it comes to handling the finances, the best decision is what works best for you as a couple. This could look like one spouse primarily handling all the finances (which is often the case in many marriages) or you could split responsibilities according to what each of you is most comfortable with handling. The most important thing is to generate positive discussion around the subject and avoid putting unnecessary pressure on each other as you hash it all out.
If you’re going to be handling the finances together, make a checklist of all the financial details that you and your spouse need to manage every month, then decide who handles each item. Create calendar reminders to keep up with payment due dates and be diligent to check in with each other to make sure all the bases are covered.
If just one of you is going to take on the bulk of the money management in your household, make sure you both agree to this arrangement and feel comfortable with it. One spouse taking the reins doesn’t mean he or she is going to be controlling your finances. Rather, the person who handles the majority of the bill-paying should primarily be taking care of recurring monthly payments and keeping an eye on where you stand financially.
However you decide to handle money in your marriage, agree together on the parameters surrounding it. It’s important to set a budget that will give each of you freedom, but also accountability; for example, you might want to decide how much spending money you each get every month that doesn’t require you to report back to each other or share every single receipt.
HOW DO WE PREVENT THE MONTHLY FIGHTS OVER BILLS AND BUDGETS?
If your regular financial check-ins tend to dissolve into ugly fights, take a step back to see how you can work together to prevent those unnecessary conflicts. Do you have different spending or saving styles? Does one or both of you hate dealing with financial matters? Does budgeting stress you out?
One easy way to prevent the monthly money fight is to make decisions about how your money gets dispersed before you ever sit down with the books. Then, figure out the non-negotiables for each of you; what items do you need every month (or every two months), and what do they cost? As we mentioned above, you might want to agree on a finite amount of money that each of you gets every month to avoid excessive check-ins surrounding purchases.
Automating some of your monthly bills can reduce the amount of work you have to do when you sit down with the finances. If one of you hates handling finances and wants to be hands-off, delegate the remaining bill-paying tasks to the other.
We all have different styles when it comes to money, so it’s important to know where you both stand and what’s going on with your money so you can make the best choices possible going forward. Some people like to spend; some like to save. Others are skilled at handling administrative tasks, while others are money-avoiders. Wherever you stand, don’t run from the subject of finances. Both of you really need to know what’s going on, whether one or both of you is ultimately handling the bills.
WHAT IF MY SPOUSE GETS DEFENSIVE EVERY TIME I BRING UP MONEY?
What do you do when you can barely broach the subject of money with your spouse? Does he or she become defensive when you attempt to discuss enacting a budget or reevaluating your finances?
A lot of people equate how much they make with how valuable they are to their spouses and families. It’s an identifiable, results-oriented way of defining themselves. If your spouse is feeling insecure about the amount of money they make, it’s possible that they could be mistakenly reading messages of disapproval from you when you bring up the topic.
It’s important to communicate to your spouse that you’re not evaluating their value as a person or a provider when you bring up financial matters. Tell them you respect them, you love the work they do for your family, and you want to strategize together so that you can both steward your money well.
If your spouse responds in a reactive or defensive way when you talk to them about money, it’s important to work together to find out where it’s coming from. Explore these issues in a natural course of conversation. How did their parents approach finances and make decisions regarding money? What were some differences between their family and yours? Maybe there are some deeply embedded beliefs in their mind that get triggered when you bring up the topic, and talking these things through could help you unravel them.
No matter what, remember that finances are an emotional issue for most couples–but don’t run from the conversation. It’s important to get on the same page with one another to create a shared vision for your future together.
If you would like help communicating about finances with your loved one, please give CornerStone Family Services a call at 614-459-3003 to talk with a counselor or coach.