My husband and I never fight about money.
We always consult each other before we buy anything and always stick to our budgeted amounts for things like groceries, household items and personal allowances.
Seriously, he didn’t buy an Apple TV last week without consulting me. And I didn’t get an irritated call at work last month when he saw how much I spent on Bruno Mars tickets.
OK, not really.
Neither of us is perfect, and we both screw up sometimes. But I’m gratefully aware it could be much, much worse. Financial discord in a relationship can brutalize your marriage or even – God forbid – kill it.
I think understanding the very real danger of that is what keeps us mostly on the right path. We know that the decisions we make concerning our money go deeper than just numbers on a balance sheet – they’re an indication of the respect we have for one another and the trust we put in each other’s actions to do what’s best for our family.
Trent Hamm, author of the blog TheSimpleDollar.com, totally gets that. Like my husband and I, he and his wife, Sarah, talk about their goals often, study their finances together regularly and communicate openly about money. But there’s more to it than that.
“I believe the source of our financial and marital peace goes deeper,” he writes. “It comes from a few truths that we both hold dear and because of those truths, it is very easy to talk about money.”
Hamm offers six principles to help keep a marriage financially peaceful.
• You’re equals. There’s no “my money” and “your money.” It’s all “our money.” It doesn’t matter who earns more, or if someone doesn’t work outside the home. Every money decision you make affects both of you.
• When you go over budget, you’re hurting your marriage. When you go over your family’s agreed upon spending limits, you’re breaking a promise to the people you love.
An impromptu lunch with friends that puts you $20 over budget may not seem like much, but that $20 will have to come from somewhere else. That’s how things like resentment and a lack of trust quietly creep into a marriage.
• It’s not “nagging” if it’s necessary. I’m not saying to harp on each other endlessly, but spouses have a right and a responsibility to call each other out when someone isn’t holding up their end of the financial bargain. It’s your job to keep each other accountable. That’s what best friends do.
• If your money talk starts feeling like a money yell, take a break. Whether it’s because you’re upset about something your partner did or you’re feeling attacked about a mistake that you made, call for a 24-hour time out.
During that time, try to work logically through your emotions to understand what’s upsetting you and how to address it in a constructive way.
“Anger, tears and rage have never solved a financial or marital problem, but they’ve created quite a lot of them,” Hamm writes.
• Understand each other’s fears, even if you don’t find them scary. Even if it doesn’t bother you, it’s bothering the person you love. Listen respectfully and be understanding.
• Consider counseling. If your partner isn’t interested in communicating about money, doesn’t seem to listen to your concerns or take your household finances seriously, consider it a sign of deeper trouble and get help.