fighting about money or love

Why You Fight about Money and How to Stop

Financial conflicts can cause relationship problems OR be caused by relationship problems. Dealing with the root cause will end your financial conflicts.

financial conflicts and relationship problems
Are financial conflicts damaging your relationship? Or are relationship problems fueling financial conflicts?

Different values, different desires, and different needs are just a few of the reasons why couples argue about money. Dealing with these differences is essential to ending financial conflicts. A two step approach of: 1) working on the practical aspects of managing money, and 2) restoring the emotional connection, can restore peace of mind, and peace in the relationship. It is important to determine which of these steps to work on first to break out of a cycle that could ruin your finances or your relationship.

Determine the cause of your financial conflicts

Always treat the cause and not the symptom. Sometimes the things people fight about are the real issues, and sometimes they are not the real issue at all.

1. Are fears the cause of your financial conflict?

Jennifer’s husband wanted to put a major portion of their income into investments for their future.  The problem was that Jennifer was doubtful if they would have a future.  She wasn’t thinking about divorce, but she wasn’t happy either.  When her husband started talking about their future and investing, it brought her fears to the surface all at once. Men and women like Jennifer, who are not happy with their relationships, become very protective when it comes to money. If you have the feeling that money is more important to your spouse than your relationship, you may be right. This is a divorce early warning sign and a signal to work on your relationship.

2. Are identity issues the cause of your financial conflict?

Money is tied to self worth, security, and personal power.  Anything that threatens to take that away can cause a flare up of problems in a relationship that otherwise were just smoldering.  Many men in particular feel they were financially burned in a previous divorce.  Some of them refuse to remarry because of that.  Others may try to use up their money in a bad marriage so that they won’t have to lose it all in another bad divorce.  These fears and actions don’t exist in a good marriage. Directly trying to get your spouse to stop spending in this situation will create conflict, which actually will worsen the problem.  The relationship must be strengthened before your spouse will care enough about the finances.

3. Are differences in the way you view your future together causing financial conflict?

Even people who agree that they need to save money or invest money still argue over how the money should be saved/invested, how much money should be saved/invested, and when the money should be accessed.  Such conflicts often occur from a lack of a shared vision for how the relationship should be, both now and in the future. And, if there is any doubt that the relationship will survive into the future, such conflicts are intensified. Therefore, creating a satisfying relationship and a common vision for the future is an important first step, before making decisions about saving and investing. The more you and your spouse like each other, the easier it will be to cooperate and the more similar your goals will be.

4. Are differences in way of life vs. being secure causing financial conflicts?

The choices people make are related to the amount of risk that they feel here and now, not sometime off in the future. When they order the giant cinnamon bun and coffee they are not worried about a possible coronary years later. After all, there is still plenty of time to exercise.  People don’t want to give up their cinnamon bun and they want to give up their money even less.  If you talk with your spouse about investing money for retirement or any other purpose, you may be indirectly threatening his or her way of life.  If you think that is the case, then before talking about retirement saving, make sure you create a budget that allows for what is important to your spouse here and now, first. A part of every budget should be a regular allowance for each person that they can use as they please. Pocket money is a marriage saver.

Work to get on the same page as your spouse emotionally and financially

The overlap between financial problems and relational problems is how you both envision spending your time together, both now and in the future. Arriving at a common vision will end the financial conflicts.

1. Arrive at a common vision with your spouse

My wife and I have a common vision of our future and about how we will use our money.  How did we arrive at that vision?  We do in our relationship what we teach others to do in theirs (my wife is also a marriage coach)–we talk about our dreams for ourselves and our relationship.  How many people can say they know what their spouse’s dreams for their relationship is? But, how important would that be for you to know?  It doesn’t take money to have dreams or visions.  Dreams and visions are free.  My wife and I help each other to make each other’s dreams come true.  That is partnership and works far better for a marriage than each of us just working on our own dream.  If it is currently difficult for you and your spouse to share ideas, you can learn the skills for sharing fantasies.  It is part of good communication in a marriage.

2. Create a stable financial situation

If there is not enough income to support both a today and a tomorrow, people usually postpone saving and investing.  People are pretty good at living in denial and not thinking about the future.  But, when there is no savings, any crisis can drive a couple financially into bankruptcy or emotionally into breakup and divorce.  The typical answer to a financial crisis is borrowing and buying on credit, which adds more stress to the relationship.  When you are in debt, and especially if you are behind in your bills, it can become a really stressful experience to check the mail or hear the phone ring. When the stress reaches a critical limit, the marriage relationship suffers. Being stressed out and feeling in love do not go hand in hand.  Stress cancels out feelings of love and is one of the main reasons that people fall out of love. People in this situation, like Jennifer, are more likely to feel that part of the answer will be ending their relationship.

Two lessons for those who want a long and happy marriage

The first is that sooner or later financial crises do happen, and need to be planned for rather than hoped against.  The second is that the practical aspects of marriage cannot be separated from the emotional and relational ones.  Working too much on the practical can actually push your spouse out the door.  I have worked with many men and women who believe that their greatest contribution to their marriage was in being a good provider or homemaker, but who ended up having their spouses leave them.  The took care of their spouses practical needs, but forgot about their spouses emotional needs. Their spouses then sought to end their relationships in order to get these emotional needs filled.

Success in finances and relationships requires that you not try to fix everything in a single step

You may be far away from being able to talk about money and visions for your relationship. You need to keep in mind that every close relationship was once not even a relationship. It had to progress through stages to get where it is now.  That’s what you need to do as well.  If you just try to jump into the heavy stuff, your talking will bog down and stall.  Instead, learn how to help your spouse enjoy talking to you about the light stuff first. And, cut out whatever things you are saying now that distances you.  Those two actions together will start to build your ability to communicate with your spouse.  My free communication ebook for men, or communication lessons for women, will help you with the skills for doing that.  For most people, that is all they need to create a satisfying relationship. However, if the distance is too great in your relationship to get yourself back on track, there is still hope. Even day, men and women are using four week relationship coaching packages to rebuild relationships with even the most rejecting of spouses.

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