How to Have a Healthy Conversation About Money with Your Spouse

Have a healthy conversation about moneyWhether you’re preparing to get married or you’re celebrating your silver wedding anniversary, money will always be a challenge in your relationship. It can be the source of hurt, but it can also be the source of enormous growth. That growth begins with one healthy conversation about money at a time.

Did you know that the number one source of conflict in the first few years of marriage isn’t in-laws, children, or religion? It’s money.

Also, the more debt brought into a marriage, the greater potential for strife. How many young couples do you know who are crazy about each other, but they’re tying the knot with six figures worth of combined student loan, credit card, and/or auto loan debt?

Perhaps that describes you? Now, you may be wondering how you’re supposed to tackle such a mountain, let alone develop healthy communication skills about finances. Here are seven nuggets of thought that you can use to mentally prepare for your next conversation about finances.

7 Ways to Have a Healthy Conversation About Money with Your Spouse

1. Be honest.

It turns out 31% of people who have combined finances with their significant other admit they’ve lied to that person about money. Another one-third of that group report they’ve been lied to about money in the past.

So, what’s the solution? Always keep your money separate? Some choose that option, but I’m a firm believer in joining everything in a marriage. Making your home a blessing. You spoke the vows and became united on your wedding day. If you keep your money separate – especially out of fear – then where will it end? What other parts of your life will you keep from your spouse and vice versa?

To have a healthy conversation about money with your spouse, you need to be open to what you both bring to the table – even if that means admitting your fears and taking things slowly at the beginning.

2. Consider what NOT to say.

I can’t tell you exactly what to say that will do the best job of showing your spouse how much you respect and support him or her. I can, however, suggest what you shouldn’t say.

  • “Here are all the things you’ve done wrong this week.” Consider how your spouse would feel if he or she suddenly realized you’ve been waiting for mess ups to happen just so you could rub it in his or her face later on.
  • “You always  _________. I never ________.” Absolutes are so tempting to use when you’re emotional, but they’re rarely accurate. I once heard a mental health specialist wisely say, “Feelings aren’t fact.” By laying all of the blame on your spouse, you’ve stretched the truth into something of your own making to make yourself feel better. And the scary part is that if you entertain the thought long enough, you’ll start to believe it.
  • “Fine, do whatever you want.” Mentally checking out from your role in the finances may seem a lot easier than sorting things out one by one, but it’s a short-term gain and a long-term loss. No matter how confident or number-savvy your spouse seems, he or she needs your input and support. If you wave your hand and say, “Do whatever you want with the budget,” then go swipe your debit card 20 times, you’re doing whatever you want with the budget – not your spouse.

3. Use “we” more than “you” and “I.”

A healthy conversation about money focuses on both parties of the discussion. Support goes both ways.

For example – what not to say: “You overspent our food budget again. How am I supposed to make this budget work when you keep ordering Jimmy Johns for lunch every day?”

Instead, try saying, “Could we set a time to go over our food budget, please? I’m concerned we won’t have enough for the next grocery trip, but we might if we try making sandwiches and packing lunches at home more often. What do you think?”

4. Actively listen.

I recently had a come-to-Jesus moment about my listening skills – or lack thereof. Pridefully, I thought of myself as a great listener before that.

Then, I heard a speaker challenge her audience to actively listen to others. She said if you’re thinking about your response while the other person is still speaking, you weren’t listening.

Doh.

A healthy conversation about money happens when both parties feel heard. To hear the other person, you have to stop dwelling solely on what your response will be.

A healthy conversation about money happens when both parties feel heard. To hear the other person, you have to stop dwelling solely on what your response will be.

To become a more active listener, focus on the following:

  • Make eye contact.
  • Don’t interrupt.
  • Ask questions.
  • Shut up.

I’m quite imperfect at each of these…most of the time…but I’m aware of that. Therefore, I am growing.

The most humbling and motivating part of this for me was the day I realized my husband already practiced these skills when speaking with me.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Found out what it means to me.

5. Create a time limit.

I give credit to Dave Ramsey for this tip. When you’re first trying to have intentional discussions with your spouse about money, the odds are one of you will outlast the other. By that, I mean one of you could talk for an hour; the other is scratching the walls to get free.

Compromise by setting a timer for how long you’ll talk. Ten to 15 minutes would do. Then, respect that limit when it’s done. This will establish a healthy boundary for both of you whenever money becomes the primary topic of discussion.

6. Commit to a plan, together.

One of the healthiest steps my husband and I took was to invest in a financial class together. We took Financial Peace University in 2011 and climbed our way out of debt because of our plan. Whenever we got mad about our situation or what we had to live without, we didn’t point fingers at one another. We got mad at the plan.

It worked, though. Having the middle ground established became the framework for our future plans together like saving for emergencies, buying our first home, and now our most recent plan: Paying off the mortgage in 10 years.

7. Celebrate your progress.

My favorite tip for having a healthy conversation about money with your spouse is to celebrate the victories. Rejoice in your progress. Step back and acknowledge what’s working. Put aside some fun money to enjoy those moments.

Even the most devout penny pinchers need a night out on the town every now and then.

For example, the next time you completely pay off a debt, treat yourselves to something fun (and within reason). Positive incentives can grow your motivation and help you prepare for the next stretch of frugal living.

What are a few ways you create healthy financial conversations with your spouse? Share in the comments below!

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