According to surveys, money is one of the leading causes of stress in relationships. While getting a divorce might not be directly attributed to financial stress, it can certainly make an incompatible relationship even worse. After all, money touches all aspects of our lives. No matter how many “free ways to date your spouse!” Pinterest articles you may read, eventually one of you is going to shout “ENOUGH with the outside dates or staying on the couch! Can we please get a real adult-person date dinner?!”
You may be asking why a recently married person would be bringing up “the d word”, and you may be concerned. Don’t be! Almost every married couple goes through some type of strife, and arguing can be a good way to hash out problems to get to better understanding.
Since buying our new house and encountering a ton of unexpected and expensive surprises, my husband and I have been stressed out about finances and have, unfortunately, taken it out on each other a few times. Recognizing it’s not healthy, we’ve readjusted and things are getting better. Based on this experience plus talking to others in our situation, here are 4 things to keep in mind when handling money fights with your spouse.
Don’t Be Petty
When you first start fighting with your spouse about money, it might be tempting to bring up every time you’ve paid for something, or paid more for one bill than they have. Don’t do this! If you’ve set up your budget together, you probably know who pays what and why someone pays more (if you don’t split everything down the middle).
My husband and my fighting got so bad, we were arguing about a $5 jar of spaghetti sauce. In hindsight, how ridiculous is that? The reason we were arguing about $5 is because everything else had boiled to the surface and we let the little things overtake us.
Look at the long term when figuring out money fights with your spouse: is that $5 jar, or one bill you pay more on, worth it to fight about? Or can you pay it and focus on the bigger problem? You’re likely not mad about the small things, it’s the bigger things (like a family budget that’s out of control) that you need to sit down and address.
Avoid Escalating the Fight
When arguing with your spouse, it’s so tempting to go for the low blows and past mistakes they’ve made. Trust me when I say: don’t do this! Why in the world do you want to make a fight worse by bringing up something they’ve done last year?
Bringing in past arguments to escalate your money fight is not worth it and won’t help you solve the problem. If anything, it’s going to make your spouse not listen to you even more, which will prolong your fight. Escalating an argument doesn’t solve anything, so be an adult and focus on the big problem at hand: fixing your budget and ending your money fights.
Remember the Love
You love your spouse. You LOVE your spouse. Repeat it with me: YOU LOVE YOUR SPOUSE. If this doesn’t help, think about why you loved them in the first place. Are they kind, caring, positive, make you feel good, do nice things for you? Are they smart, do they push you, are they a great parent?
You’re a team and you’re going to be together for (hopefully) a long time. There’s no reason money fights should tear you apart if the only reason you’re fighting is finances. Finances can be fixed. Finding someone you love as much as your spouse is a lot harder.
Light at the End of the Tunnel
Once you’ve calmed down and stopped letting petty things escalate your problem, and once you’ve gotten that loving feeling back (to a degree), ask yourself: what in the world is your budget problem?!
Is your budget problem:
- a lack of income?
- too many expenses?
- unexpected expenses?
Once you’ve determined why you’re so stressed, tackle it! Come up with a game plan to either raise your income (side hustle!), reduce expenses (cut cable, TV, home phone, cut your phone bill down, eat out less), shore up your emergency fund, or figure out how to consolidate and address your debt.
In many money situations, there’s always something you can do to improve your finances. With today’s on-demand economy, you could literally go out and drive for Uber and get paid by the end of the week. You could post stuff for sale on Craigslist. You could contact your debt servicers and try to negotiate lower interest rates.
With a little research (you and your spouse!) you can tackle your money problems like a team and stop your money fights in their tracks.
If you really love your spouse, you won’t let money fights doom your relationship. Sure, there are a lot of relationships that can’t be salvaged, but rarely is money the ONLY reason it’s not going to work out. When handling money fights with your spouse, avoid being petty, bringing in other things you don’t like about your spouse, and remember why you love them in the first place. Also, there’s probably a light at the end of the tunnel.
After sitting down with our budget, my husband and I determined we’ll be out of the red by December, and back in black by January. That’s a great start to 2017 and, in the end, the house and everything we’ve done to it has been totally worth it. If we needed to, he could pick up another job or I could ramp up my side business, but we’re actually doing fine the way we are now. As long as you keep in mind the long term picture, you and your spouse can survive many money fights.
Have you fought with a spouse or loved one about money, and how do you address money fights in your family?