Money and Relationships: How to Talk About Money Rationally

Money and Relationships: How to Talk About Money Rationally

Everyone knows the drill: you and your spouse begin to talk money, and one of you becomes upset. Then, in response, the other person gets angry. Within moments, a simple financial discussion can become an all-out war.

These disagreements are often common in relationships. However, "common" can be defined differently in every joint venture; the occurrence of financial fights could be daily or weekly, or it could be reserved for an annual event. Whatever the case in your relationship, shadow-boxing over pesos can leave you and your spouse feeling irrational and make resolving the issue even more difficult.

So how can you and your spouse talk about money rationally? The key to discussing money calmly is to find a system that works for you both, and as we continue our "Money and Relationships" series, the following suggestions may get you started.


The first idea in approaching the "big talk" is to make sure you are both relaxed. This often means that financial discussions should take place after the briefcase is put away, the kids are put to bed, the long bubble bath is taken, a beer is in hand, etc. Whatever makes you and your spouse feel at ease should be employed before the financial spreadsheets are whipped out.

Why is this important? Often money talks can be perceived as attacks, even when they are not. If your spouse were to approach you about a charge on your statement the minute you walked in the door, for example, you may become defensive. The same is true of your spouse: give her a minute to relax, and your financial discussion can become more loving and less likely to put your spouse on the offensive.

Put Yourself in Your Spouse's Shoes

Another key to remaining rational during discussions is to consider the other person. Think about the reasons for resistance in any financial changes you may wish to make.

For example, maybe you would like to cut back on restaurant spending but your husband is resistant. Instead of employing a hard and fast "No Restaurant" rule, consider the reason behind his preference: is your husband craving lunches out with friends for the socialization? Does he like to treat you to nice dinners as a way to show love?

Whatever his desire for expensive food boils down to, finding the reason can help you both decide on a compromise. Maybe the frequency of restaurant dining could be limited to a dollar amount or maybe four star dinners could be decreased to special events only.

Don't Give In

Although at first glance this idea may seem to contradict that compromise we're aiming for, not backing down actually allows you to discuss everything rather than giving up. So when the going gets tough in a financial discussion, don't just give up on your ideals. Instead, make sure that both you and your spouse allow each other time on the floor to bring up concerns.

If, for example, you and your spouse decide to talk finances one night and the discussion is one-sided only, don't allow the discussion to be over until your concerns are voiced. Of course, you will have to compromise on some things, but you should not give in just to get the discussion over with.

However, giving in versus compromising is a fine line: what may seem to be a compromise to one party could seem like giving up to the other. Ideally, whatever financial agreement you reach should please both of you. So spend the time to discuss and really compromise: you'll both be happier for it.

Overall, financial discussions can become more rational over time. Allowing each other time to relax, considering your spouse's feelings and discussing everything until a compromise is met can help you and your spouse rationally agree upon your joint financial venture.

How about you: how do you and your spouse ensure that financial discussions remain rational?

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Newlyweds on a Budget's picture

Newlyweds on a Budget wrote:

Thu, 05/05/2011 - 21:18 Comment #: 1

Great tips! We're still learning about how to combine finances, and I'm happy to report that April was our best budget month to date! I think it had something to do with taking away his credit cards...but you's work in progress : P

Weekend Reading: Osama, Harper, and Commodities Edition | In's picture

Weekend Reading: Osama, Harper, and Commodities Edition | In wrote:

Fri, 05/06/2011 - 11:53 Comment #: 2

[...] Money and Relationships: How to Talk About Money Rationally (MomVesting) [...]

Christa Palm's picture

Christa Palm wrote:

Tue, 05/10/2011 - 16:15 Comment #: 3

Newlyweds, awesome job on having a great month! It can be rough in the beginning to find a great compromise, but a joint path in life and finances can be great in the long run!

BTW, those pesky credit cards! I had trouble with them in the past -- they're just so easy to use...I now keep my one emergency card unactivated in my wallet to make it truly for emergencies only -- and I've stuck to my no credit card purchases rule for 5 years now :-) Hopefully your husband can break the cycle, too!

Finances and Relationships - Taking on Tough Topics | MomVes's picture

Finances and Relationships - Taking on Tough Topics | MomVes wrote:

Sat, 01/21/2012 - 18:00 Comment #: 4

[...] how to talk about money is the first step towards taking control of your financial future when you are working with someone [...]