My DD heard my husband and I discussing our finances and asked me why we were arguing over money. After being slightly surprised that she thought we were arguing, I thought about our exchange and had to agree that is what we were doing. We were both disagreeing about which direction we wanted to go money-wise, and both of us were presenting our point of view and not willing to give…at the time.
At first I felt bad about her having to listen to us “argue,” but then after a little thought I decided that I’m not. I think it is better to give her an example of two people disagreeing respectfully and then coming together later to resolve their differences as opposed to a relationship where one spouse decides to submissively agree with the stronger-willed one.
However, this all got me to thinking…how do you argue over money respectfully? My DH and I have undergone an evolution of arguing that has spanned 20 years so most of below comes naturally now…though it didn’t always. Here are a few of our subconscious “rules.”
Establish your money boundaries. These are your Ten Commandments of money. Lines you will not cross. The fundamental value system of your finances. Anyone outside these boundaries has to reconfigure and hop back in the arena. =) For example if your boundary is not using credit, then any discussion on using credit cards, credit lines or mortgages to finance projects will need to be re-calibrated.
Past mistakes are off the table. We’re imperfect beings. If you have agreed to forgive, then you agree to forget. Learn from mistakes, but don’t dredge them up as weapons.
Be direct and open. Don’t make your spouse guess what you’re thinking. Be clear on the why and what you wish to see.
Remember it’s not about the money. Your spouse’s perspective is not about the issue of money per se, but about what’s behind the money…security, enjoying life, past personal experiences with money, dreams, fears. Dig a little deeper. See this article by Dr Gottman.
Remember who you’re arguing with. Your partner, your best friend, the person who has your back.
Compromise. If you can’t, take a break and try again. Nothing like a good night’s sleep to soften what seemed so important at the time…and a snack.
My hope for you is that you have these money conversations often and utilize some of the above suggestions unconsciously and consciously. I’m all ears to anything you have to add. Happy money talks!