Fighting with spouse about money is normal. But it doesn’t have to be your normal.
To stop fighting about money, here’s what you need to do.
1. Take time to cool off
The first thing you can do is take time to cool off. Talking about anything when emotions are running high is very dangerous. Instead, take some time to cool off to avoid saying anything you’ll regret.
The old saying “never go to bed mad at your spouse” is actually not good advice. While you don’t want to let things go and avoid them, you also do need some time to process things. Instead of trying to solve the problem immediately, make an intentional decision to revisit the subject the next day or that weekend (make sure you set a specific date – not just “later”). By setting a specific time to come back to discuss the topic, both of you will know exactly when it’s going to be discussed again, but you both also get time to cool off and reflect. Usually, you’ll come back to the discussion calmer and more reasonable.
2. Focus on your relationship as a partnership
In order to be in a partnership, you need to be actual partners – both treating each other as equals.
In one of his posts, Dave Ramsey says:
Chances are… one of you is good at working numbers (the nerd) and the other one isn’t good at working numbers (the free spirit)… The problem is when the nerd neglects the input of the free spirit or when the free spirit avoids participating in the financial dealings altogether… Listen up, nerds. Don’t keep the money all to yourself. Don’t use your “power” to abuse the free spirit. Free spirits, don’t just nod your head and say, “Yeah, that looks great, honey.” … Give feedback, criticism and encouragement.
Ramsey sums it up quite nicely: you need to work on finances together as equal partners, even when it comes more naturally to one of you. If both of you are involved and add value to your financial decisions, you’ll view each other as partners and minimize disagreements about money.
3. Revisit your financial values (instead of the specifics) and money blueprints
When you can’t agree on a specific financial choice with your partner, whether big or small, take time to go over your financial long-term and short-term goals and your overall vision for your financial future. With this, also look at your money blueprint. When you consider how you think and view money versus how your partner does, you’ll often find that the fight stems from very different blueprints. When you take time to focus on the bigger picture (your values) and your blueprint (past experiences with money), it’s easier to be more understanding of the other person’s perspective.
4. Attend a financial course or seminar or read a finance book
If revisiting your financial goals isn’t enough, you may want to consider attending a financial seminar or course together. Similarly, reading a finance book (or listening to it on audio) is a great way to learn about money together and grow toward the same financial understanding.
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5. Let your partner win in the name of a “Spouse Tax”
If all else fails, consider giving in to your partner in the name of a “spouse tax”. On his show, Dave Ramsey calls dumb money mistakes “stupid tax” – the price you pay when you make a bad money decision but learn from it. Here, it may be that you just have to pay more than you would if you were single in the name of supporting your partner and letting him win. This, of course, works better if it’s on the smaller side (e.g. dinner) and not the bigger side (e.g. buying a car)! Usually, if the disagreement gets big enough, you have to consider whether it’s just one choice you disagree with, or if there’s a bigger financial problem between the two of you. If it’s just one choice, chances are that making a big deal about it isn’t worth the stress on your relationship and letting him win may be the way to go.