Talking to Your Spouse About Money

I was recently asked to be a guest presenter for a webinar for investors on the psychology of money. Everyone’s heard money (along with sex and kids) is one of the most common causes of arguments in marriage. So as you can imagine, the conversation got pretty exciting as everyone told stories about conversations they’d have with their spouses about their investments, and more especially how they spent their money. I can’t tell you how many times this has come up on my couch. We get a lot of e-mails about it, too. Everybody wonders why do me and my spouse fight so much about money? Well, I got an answer for ya right here:

 

Money Means More Than Just Money

There are lots of reasons couples fight about money: power, differences in financial goals, differences in opinion regarding spending v. saving, etc. Regardless of the reason, one of the first places I start with my couples who come in to see me is to simply begin learning how to talk to each other about money. Money always has some other meaning to people. To some, money represents power. To others, money represents security. It may also represent ability to help others, play, or a host of other things. Regardless, people assign more meaning to a dollar than just the face value of it.

When couples come to me arguing about money, a lot of couples have the same problem: They have not learned how to talk to their spouse about money in ways that are important to their spouse. So they argue in an attempt to compel their spouse to agree with them and agree with their own meaning behind money. Because one spouse might believe that money is more for saving and security, and the other believes that money is for playing and luxuries, each spouse will argue back and forth trying to defend their meaning they assign to money. Not only do they defend it, they will also try to compel the other spouse to agree with them.

Talk About Meaning, Not Money

What I have found in my experience counseling couples is that instead of arguing, trying to compel the other spouse to assign the same meaning to money that you do, couples will be much more successful when they try to talk to their spouse by addressing their spouse’s meaning for money. For example, let’s say that he believes money is to flaunt to show success and she believes that money is for saving and for security.

Next time they sit down to plan a date and he plans something big and flashy with his work colleagues, instead of her getting upset with him and telling him she doesn’t like it when he spends money so irresponsibly, she could say something like “I would really prefer to tone it down for our date and save a little bit this time. That way, when you get that big chance to go out with your boss, we can go out somewhere extra nice and really impress him”. By her talking to him in ways that are important to him (assigning money to success) he is able to hear her in ways that aren’t defensive or offensive. Additionally, she also gets her desire to save a little bit more.

There are lots of different meanings that your spouse could assign to money. Since you know your spouse better than anybody, you probably already know what this is. If you don’t, it might be a fun conversation to have with them about what they think money is for (one way to do this is to ask what they would do with unlimited money). Simple conversations like this could save you a lot of capital both relationally and monetarily.

About the Author
Aaron Anderson is a therapist and Director of The Marriage and Family Clinic in Denver, CO. He is a writer, speaker and relationship expert. He specializes in helping couples overcome stale relationships, sexual difficulties and infidelity. In his spare time (whatever that is) you’ll catch him restoring his hot rod or coaching his children’s soccer games.

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