Many couples face financial stress these days. The circumstances differ, but the wear and tear it takes on the relationship is the same.
So, instead of fighting about money, turn these conflicts into financial conversations. By shifting your perspective from judgment to curiosity, you'll get to the root of the issue—and leave the boxing gloves at home. Trust me, it feels better to explore and accept each other's money mindsets than to fight about them. I know from experience.
My Big Money Fight
I remember sitting on the couch with my boyfriend, panic taking over. "How are we going to pay the bills?" I asked. "I don't know," he responded, "but don't worry about it." Don't worry about it?
That was all I did those days: fret over money. Will there be enough? What if there is not? What can I do to get us out of this financial mess?
In a moment of surprisingly rational thought, I did not yell at him for his laid-back attitude about our bad financial situation. Instead, I turned to him and asked, "When would you start to worry?" Taken aback by my calm demeanor and curious question, he paused for a minute and then said, "When they start repossessing our stuff."
I stared at him in disbelief—until we both broke out in laughter.
Our Differing Money Mindsets
What followed was a wonderful conversation about our different financial upbringings, money messages, and thoughts about being so in debt. For the first time, I understood why my boyfriend acted the way he did around money and how we really came from two different financial worlds.
My parents taught me from an early age to save, invest, and spend wisely. At 7 years old, my dad took me to the local savings bank, and I opened my first savings account. Each month, I traveled to the bank with my dad and my piggy bank to deposit my money. I just loved seeing the interest accumulate!
Conversely, my boyfriend never learned how to balance a checkbook, save money, or invest. His mom was busy raising two young children without a father and working long hours to make ends meet. Money was a source of stress in his house, not a source of pride as in mine. He avoided money. I obsessively focused on it.
Finding Ways To Work Together
Our different money styles and attitudes complemented each other for a while. But when faced with financial stress, our roles no longer worked. His avoidance of all things financial and my hyper-focus on money drove us both crazy. It was time to learn how to have a new relationship with money and to work together as a couple to see our way out of this mess.
We started talking more openly about our different money styles, as well as how these money mindsets caused friction in our relationship. Instead of trying to prove each other wrong, we asked ourselves the following three questions:
1. What money script is fueling my decision?
2. How is my money script similar or different than his or hers?
3. How can I be more open to my loved one's point of view?
If you're arguing with a loved one about money, take a deep breath and use these questions to focus your discussion. Learning about your partner's money mindset may seem out of character, but hopefully, it's more comfortable than fighting!