62% of couples fight over money, according to Royal London research. The most common disagreement is where one partner believes the other spends too much whilst others report that their partner is irresponsible with money or believe they are financially incompatible.
But these are causes of money arguments, they’re not the reasons.
Let’s look at what the five most common reasons couples fight over money are and how we can fix it.
We don’t argue about money, we just don’t talk about it…
1. It’s Taboo…and we’re Inexperienced
We have very little experience talking about money with anyone. In the UK we aren’t taught about finance at school and whilst we do learn our money beliefs and behaviours from parents and peers, it remains a taboo topic.
Then as adults we are suddenly expected to navigate financial conversations from a position of little experience and knowledge made more challenging by the highly charged emotions money brings.
Practice makes progress. Just start with the simple easy conversations. And make it a regular thing so you both get more comfortable in the uncomfortable money areas.
2. Money Stories…and Venn Diagrams
We have our own unique money story. We have learned and developed our own beliefs and have our own set of values. This is complex enough without now having to create a new collaborative money relationships with a partner or we unconsciously expect them to believe and act as we do with money.
I see it like a Venn diagram…you and your money relationship are one circle and your partners is the other. The part that overlaps is shared and you may have a lot of common ground or very little. This overlap is where you need to develop key shared beliefs, habits and plans.
3. Opposites Attract…with Money too
In the same way that opposites attract in a relationship this is often reflected with money too. One of you may be a spender and the other a saver. One might be thinking about the future and the other living for today. One may be more comfortable with having more and the other based in scarcity.
All of these opposites beliefs and habits can make a shared money relationship a challenge and create conflict.
But there is a reason opposites attract. Instead of judging each others habits, ask yourself what it is that attracted you to them for that in the first place? Perhaps it was their spontaneity or carefree approach or that they could plan and save. Work together on creating a compromise that works for you both.
4. Its Emotional…and Personal
Things can get heated really quickly when the topic is finance, much more so than other argument topics. Partly this is because it is so emotional and entwined with how we view and identify with ourselves.
Secondly it plays right into fear, anxiety and stress. Fear is the overarching emotion people express with money. If we feel unsafe and insecure with money then a partner is racking up debt or overspending it triggers stress and conflict very quickly.
Thirdly, because we see our financial mistakes, upbringing, choices and current position as being reflective of ourselves so take any challenge to these very personally.
Step back a little, take the heat out of the conversation. Ask yourself what’s actually upset you about this?
5. Because, it’s not really about the money….
We’ve seen bow personal and heated money can get, but money is often the excuse for a fight that is actually about something else.
We know that money tangles itself up in how we feel about ourselves. It can be an echo of our own feelings of worth and value. The fight may not be what our partner is doing with money but how we interpret that behaviour to reflect how they value and treat us.
So What Can we Do?
Here’s some suggestions to try.
- Get curious about your own money story and beliefs and how these might be the same or different to your partners.
- Get to know what’s valuable and important to you. What you can and will compromise on and what you wont.
- Make regular time to talk money, dreams and goals with each other. Keep this positive and routine so you both get into the habit of chatting money positively and working toward your short and long term financial plans together
- If it gets heated, stay calm or step away and revisit on a different occassion.
- Ask yourself is this really about money or is something else bothering me?