Stop Spending Time Fighting About Money & Save Your Relationship

Relationship Expert: Don't Let Finances Rule Your Relationship

No one likes to fight, but most couples don't know how to stop. In fact, they often don't even know how the fight started in the first place.

Take Tom and Candy: they just got married. Their years of dating were filled with music festivals, mountain climbing, bookstores, 5K runs and clever text messages. And now they are ready to start their lives as husband and wife. They are eager to share everything — their early mornings and late nights, their tiny porch out back, the bathroom counter, the Sunday morning paper and their finances. Turns out, some things are more difficult to share than others.

Lugging her shopping bags through the apartment, Candy finds Tom in his natural habitat: hunched over the computer deep in thought. "Hi honey, I'm home. Look what I found for your mother! Am I the best daughter-in-law or what?!"

Tom looks up, sees all the bags, and says, (louder than necessary for such a small house) "What? What's all that? She doesn't need all that stuff!"

"Are you kidding? She will love this! This stuff has "Anne" written all over it!"

Tom: "What? Written all over the receipts? No. Take it back. She doesn't need all of that!"

Ding, ding: the fighting begins. The worst part? This was only the beginning of their fights about money.

They fought about: dinner at home again or somewhere new, buying a gym membership or running in the park, giving gifts or just a note, lattes at the drive-thru or a cup of joe at home, brand name groceries or generic ones, installing a sprinkler system or dragging the hose, and etc. On and on and on the list goes, and eventually days turned into years.

Would they ever stop fighting?...Will you?

Can you stop fighting and save your marriage before it gets torn apart? We say: Absolutely!

Try these three practical ways to stop fighting and save your marriage:

1. Identify your differences.

We all have our differences. And, every individual approaches money from a different viewpoint. We are born with a natural attitude toward money, hard-wired right in. 

Watch a kid with a stash of candy and you'll get an incomplete, but fairly accurate look at how they will view money. Do they give it away without much mind? Save it all for later? Consume every ounce on the spot? Orchestrate some trades for their favorites? Or completely ignore the candy in favor of cartoons or the new puppy?

Observe this and you'll see, what we call their Money Personalities: their unique, natural approach to money. Every individual thinks about money differently: we have from childhood. Mix those differences up into a relationship and people experience misunderstandings, tension, fights, and sometimes divorce. 

Luckily, it doesn't have to be that way! You can easily identify your unique approach toward money, and so can your spouse. We created a free, online scientific quiz to identify both your primary and secondary Money Personalities.

Tom and Candy took the quiz. Tom discovered he is a Saver/Security Seeker. Candy is a Spender/Flyer. They share none of the five Money Personalities. So, they may not always agree with each other, but now they understand the other is not trying to cause trouble — they just approach money from a different viewpoint.

2. Respect their perspective.

Step 1 is a great place to start: knowledge is power. The next important step is to take time to consider your partner's different perspective. Instead of jumping to the conclusion that they are nuts for viewing money like they do, respect their perspective and see what can you gain from looking at money through their eyes.

Just like Tom and Candy, we all see unique qualities in our spouse, and are attracted to those differences. Tom could learn from Candy to show the loved ones in his life they are more important to him than money. Saving is not always the only and best choice in every scenario, while Candy can learn to appreciate the benefits of Tom's long-term, cautious view of money.

With a little attention to their individual money styles, their exchange might have sounded like this:

"Hi honey, I'm home," Candy exclaims as she carries her shopping bag through the apartment and finds Tom in his natural habitat, hunched over the computer.

"Look what I found for your mother! Does she have the best daughter-in-law or what?!"

Tom looks up, eyes the bag, and says, "Shopping today? Was there a sale?"

"Yes, silly! She will love this! This vintage teapot has "Anne" written all over it!"

Tom: "Great. We're set for her birthday next month. Thanks for thinking of her, Candy."

Instead of starting off with a here-we-go-again attitude, they know where the other is coming from (Step 1) and they gain value from each other's perspectives with this purchase and all future ones (Step 2).

3. Learn how to fight fair.

Unfortunately, no matter which Money Personalities you have, you are going to have disagreements about money. What you do with those disagreements is what separates those who fight from those who "fight fair". We've found you can "fight fair" if you remember to Stop, Drop, and Roll.

Remember those fire safety demonstrations in elementary school? Those massive firefighters would pull their cool trucks up to the school and talk about smoke detectors, escape routes, and other ways to stay safe in case of a fire. They shared tons of valuable information, and one we all committed to memory was "Stop, Drop, and Roll". This advice works great for putting out emotional fires too.  Next time a situation in your household starts to heat up, try it.

Stop. Take a deep, deep breath and give yourself a chance to settle down.

Drop. Drop your assumptions. Leave the past, in the past.

Roll. Roll up your sleeves and examine your Money Personality differences to figure out why you bumped heads.

Psychology Today also encourages us to keep our cool by saying, "If you feel angry and upset with someone, before you say something you might later regret, take a deep breath and count slowly to ten. In most circumstances, by the time you reach ten, you would have figured out a better way of communicating the issue, so that you can reduce, instead of escalate the problem." Keep reading...

What if Tom zipped his lip when he saw the dizzying array of shopping bags? What if he welcomed her home, took a deep breath, dropped his she-always-spends-too-much assumptions, and joined her in their bedroom later — with sleeves rolled up — to talk about it?

"Hi honey, I'm home, Candy exclaims as she lugs her bags through the apartment and finds Tom at the computer.

"Look what I found for your mother! Does she have the best daughter-in-law or what?!"

Tom looks up, sees all the bags, and says, "I'm glad you're home. I'll meet you in our room in a minute." Deep breath. Deep breath.

A few minutes later, Tom walks into the bedroom (sounding a bit like a Great Dane with a sinus condition) gives Candy a hug, along with more deep breathing.

Candy says, "Wait. Before you say anything. Most of this goes back, but I just could not pick the perfect gift for your mom. Will you help me?"

Tom, totally relieved, responds, "Sure. But she doesn't need much. She knows we love her."

Candy, "I know she knows. But Tom, I know as a "Saver" that you hate spending money, but I'm a "Spender" and this is one way I like to show her how special she is to me. Can we compromise?”

Fight averted. They both still approach money differently, but they avoid fighting about it. They know their money differences and, respect each other's approach to it. When disagreements do arise, they remember to think like a firefighter and Stop, Drop, and Roll. You can, too!

The Money Couple helps others achieve financial freedom while putting family first. They offer services and resources to bring couples closer together, not only in their marriages, but in their finances as well.