When was the last time you were fighting about money with your spouse? If you’re like most marriages then your answer is probably something like “yesterday.” Unfortunately fighting about money is all too common and the cause of much resentment in relationships.
According to a nationwide study conducted by Money Magazine, 70% of married couples have money fights ahead of fights over household chores, togetherness, sex, snoring, and what’s for dinner. 22% of husbands and wives have spent money they did not want their partner to know about.
The most eye-opening stat from this study is that 60% of husbands and wives check their bank accounts more often than they have sex, insane!
And people still wonder how money ruins marriages.
The top reasons for fighting about money are frivolous spending, savings, deceit, and exclusions from decisions.
After reading those stats, it seems like money and marriage go together like oil and water. Fighting about money in a marriage is extremely detrimental to the overall happiness of the relationship.
Whether you fight constantly or even just from time to time, following the steps below will help you end the conflict once and for all.
Why Do Couples Fight About Money?
I’ve gotta be honest – this is a seriously GOOD question, and it has an equally good collection of answers, some of which might surprise you.
One spouse makes more money than the other.
It’s probably true that there’s no such this as a couple where they make EXACTLY the same amount of money each year. Jobs are just too variable in their incomes for that to be the case!
But this can easily lead to resentment when the higher-earner feels like they’re “pulling more weight” in the financial department, when the lower-earner feels like they’re “less valuable” in the relationship than their spouse, or there’s a disagreement about how to handle the bills in an equal and fair manner — should you each contribute to half of the cost of the bill, or just a proportionate amount based on what percentage of the household income you generate?
They have clashing personalities.
Most people are either spenders or savers.
Pair two savers together and you’re likely looking at a marriage that will be much happier and possibly have 2 early retirement parties in it, as they sock away everything they can for a solid (and early-to-hatch) nest egg.
Pair two spenders and they’ll likely constantly be living paycheck to paycheck with a mountain of debt on their shoulders, but boy will they be happy because they’re in agreement on how to use their money!
But pair a saver and a spender? Yikes.
One partner thinks that extra income needs to be put to work (or at the very least put into a basic savings account), whereas the other half is thinking about all the things they want to spend that money on, whether it’s clothes, electronics, a new house, a pricey morning coffee, anything.
Disagreeing personalities lead to conflicting opinions about decisions, which leads to someone always being unhappy with the outcome. It’s just plain hard to be happy with your spouse when you are constantly doing things that make each other unhappy. It’s blunt, but it’s true.
They have different goals.
Those happy pairs of matching money personalities aren’t always as happy as you’d think they’d be.
Because despite, for example, both spouses being savers, when it comes to what they’re hoping to save for, things can still get dicey.
Maybe one spouse wants $35,000 set aside to buy the new car they’ve been dreaming of, but the other spouse wants that money set aside for a lavish 3-month vacation or even just put into a retirement account.
They can argue all day long about how being able to pay cash when a car eventually needs replacing is great to avoid debt, and how compound interest could massively increase their money in the next few years, but the fact is that it’s hard to come to an agreement when your end-goals differ so much.
Either someone has to give up their desires or a careful compromise needs to be reached (like putting half of the total amount they could save towards the new car fund, and the other half into the compound interest accruing account.)
What’s currently happening in their lives.
Under extenuating circumstances, anyone can switch to becoming a spender or saver — financial disagreements in relationships aren’t always money-driven.
A bleak diagnosis of illness can take a life-long “saver” and make them decide they want to enjoy their money now before they’re gone for good.
A harsh, unexpected job loss can be the reason a spender has that switch flip in their mind that makes them realize they should be socking money away for just such an unpleasant event, instead of blowing the rest of their paycheck going out with friends every Friday night.
And maybe, more importantly, life might look “pretty normal” and yet the money itself isn’t the root cause of the money fights. If one spouse is stuck in a tremendously stressful job that pays well, they might argue about how to give up that high income or “take a pay cut just because” the one spouse wants a less stressful job that pays less.
Raising kids, handling life’s ups and downs, car troubles, or plain jealousy of those around you can all be triggers that aren’t necessarily money-related, but just fray your nerves to the point that you just can’t tolerate one more bit of “adulting” today. God help your spouse if they try to bring up anything budget-related on a day like that, no matter how well you normally agree on things!
*If things are really rough at the moment, we’ve got two little pieces of advice:
- First, try to work on rekindling your romance and strengthening your marriage, because we all know how important having a solid, strong bond and partnership is.
- Second, you might consider discussing your money issue in relationship counseling, to provide a safe space for everyone to get their opinions and emotions out and have a neutral third-party listener help you keep your conversations on track instead of risking them blowing up into a screaming match. You might well discover that it’s not even a money issue at all that’s making you fight all the time.
- Third (ok, this is a bonus tip), try to remember why it was that you got married in the first place. Whether you discussed finances pre-marriage or not, what matters more than anything is that something drew you to your spouse and made you want to commit to spending your lives together. Don’t let material matters get in the way of that.
The Top 7 Secrets to Stop Fighting About Money
Regardless of why you’re fighting about money, the things you MUST prioritize are finding out WHAT you disagree on and then finding a way TO AGREE on how to move forward, together.
Your first focus as a married couple should be to stop fighting in marriage, because, well, what’s the point in marrying your best friend to spend the rest of your lives arguing about one thing or another?
1) Commit to working as a team
Marriage should be a team effort; it’s time to start acting like it!
When it comes to fighting about money it’s usually caused by both parties have different goals in mind. Many times one person is the spender and the other person is the saver. Being on different pages about money is sure to cause issues.
Knowing more about money does not matter in this case, it’s about working together. This is a difficult step to overcome, but the long-term gain is worth it! You committed your life to your partner now commit to being on the same team and stop fighting about money.
Teamwork makes the dream work!
2) Be open and honest
Everyone knows that lying and deceit are extremely toxic for a relationship. Building an unbreakable trust should be on the top of your list. Take some time to sit down and get everything out on the table.
This is your time to be completely honest with each other and discuss the issues going on. Discuss what is causing your anger or resentment towards each other. The key to getting past this step is having an open mind and being respectful to one another.
This is also a great time to organize your finances. It’s hard to make progress unless you already know your current situation.
Steps to organizing your finances:
- Collect and write down your assets and liabilities
- Calculate your net worth
- Create a monthly budget: Income vs. Expenses
- Calculate your overall cash flow
- Get a check of your FREE Credit Score
- Evaluate the overall picture
3) Figure out the “real” issues
The interesting thing about personal finance is that it is actually VERY personal. It might seem like most fights are about a certain dollar amount spent, but in reality, it is much deeper than that. Most fights are caused by the feelings associated with the disagreement, not the actual monetary value.
Is your spouse a spender or saver? Have you ever actually thought about why? In most cases, our spending habits come from our life experiences. Did they grow up in a wealthy family where money was never an issue? Did they grow up in a family that lived extremely frugal because they were stuck living paycheck to paycheck? Do they value material items over experiences?
All of these ideas should be considered when figuring out the real issues causing the fights. It’s time to dig deep and find the cause.
4) Create a plan you both agree with
If you were able to get everything out on the table and move forward now it’s time to come up with a plan together. Sit down and write out a monthly budget you can both agree on.
Create a set amount of “discretionary spending” each one of you has to spend however you want. This set amount of money will help prevent issues caused by overspending on things you disagree on. The key is both of you agree to stay within budget.
Brace yourself! This step might take some time and could trigger a fight in itself. Stick with it as a team and it will be completely worth it down the road.
5) Write down your goals
What goals do you have together? What are you saving for? Are you trying to purchase your first home?
It’s time to write down the exact goals you want to achieve together. This step should be very specific! If your goal is to attack and pay down your debt, make it happen.
Don’t get caught being too broad as with any goal you have less chance of being successful. Write down the exact numbers you have in mind and keep each other accountable along the way.
6) Review and revise often (and make a point to always do this together)
Without reviewing and revising your budget and financial goals how will you track your progress? You need to track your progress along the way to see what is working and what is not.
A budget will only work if you commit to it and follow it. Too often couples find budgets to be scary and limiting. It’s important to understand a budget is like a roadmap for your money. Everyone has different priorities in life and in order to use your money for those priorities, you must first take control of your finances.
Weekly and monthly reviews will help ensure you are staying on top of your spending. Put simply you either control your money or it controls you.
Once you have taken control of your money it might be time to start looking for other places to earn extra income. This will allow you to reach your financial goals quicker and give your marriage a good financial cushion to build off of. In today’s society, there are plenty of ways to make money online and work around your already busy schedule.
7) Appreciate each other’s differences
It’s funny how opposites attract in most marriages. Chances are you are similar in many aspects with your partner, but you also have many differences. I know this is the case for Brittany and me.
You will never be able to agree on everything, that’s the beauty of marriage. Use this to your advantage! With two different sets of ideas, values, and goals you can achieve quite a bit. Two heads always think better than one.
Take the best from both perspectives and combine them for the ultimate solution. Instead of focusing on your spouse’s weaknesses focus on each other’s strengths, it’s actually very powerful! There is no “one plan fits all” in finance. Everyone has different relationships, priorities, and goals.
Final thoughts on fighting about money
Fighting in marriage is going to happen from time to time, it’s inevitable. Taking the proper steps to minimize the arguments can have HUGE impacts on the health of your relationship.
You love your spouse with everything you have, why create resentment and anger over an issue you can resolve with a little teamwork? Follow the steps above to stop fighting about money and your marriage will become so much stronger!
Remember: teamwork makes the dream work.