Talking about money can sometimes be one of the most challenging aspects of marriage -- more challenging, in fact, than renovations or even in-laws. Couples with wildly different spending styles often clash on the topic of savings, credit card balances and retirement planning. It can be really hard to talk about these things with a spouse. Feelings are easily hurt, especially when there are money problems as a result of overspending. However, there is a way to be honest without being hurtful.
Communicate your love for your spouse. Share your honest belief that thoughts and feelings about financials, expressed in an open manner, can set both of you up for prosperity in the future.
Discuss honestly how you feel about the situation, whether it is skyrocketing credit card bills as a result of your spouse’s spending sprees or concern that your spouse is not following the financial plan you drafted together for your retirement income. If you are deeply fearful of falling into a financial hole, say so. Worry less about the impact of your words and focus on honestly communicating your position.
Use "I" language, and phrases like "I feel" or "I am concerned that." Avoid using language that projects blame onto your spouse, such as "you are killing our financial future with your relentless retail therapy." Keep this initial discussion focused exclusively on yourself and your own emotions.
Steer the discussion away from any potential derailments to honest communication by avoiding classic communication blockages. These may include globalizing -- you always say this, you never do that -- sarcasm, or diagnosing your spouse’s spendthrift tendencies or lack of interest in saving as reflective of his or her family’s influence.
Refrain from bringing in the opinions or words from other voices that support your position, such as your parents or your friends. Gathering support from people outside of your marriage can make your spouse feel under attack. This will likely fuel your partner’s defensiveness, and make him or her far less likely to feel safe enough to share feelings honestly.
- As Steven Reiss, Ohio State University’s Emeritus Professor in psychology and psychiatry explains, mutual understanding is essential. "The saver must understand that the spender isn't irresponsible," he says, "while the spender must understand that the saver's refusal to spend money isn't personal."
- Investor.gov: Marriage
- The Value of Money: Uncover the Hidden Wisdom of Money; Susan McCarthy
- University of Nevada: Making a Group and Individual Commitment: Communication Blockers
- Pschology Today: 5 Keys for a Successful Marriage
- Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images