Money and Relationships


Dear Linda,
I know that the economy stinks right now, and that my husband and I have it easier than most. However, our squabbling over money is driving us both over the edge. I’m more a spender, and he’s more a saver, but it generally works out after we talk it through. But lately we have to talk through what we do about everything around money. Is this normal? Any advice?

Dear She, I sympathize with your situation. It is stressful to have money woes, and to fear that you *may* have money woes, and also disconcerting to be watched closely, especially around money. Here are some suggestions on how to work with your husband to ease things up.
1. Come to general agreement on necessary and discretionary budgets based on current salary.
2. Agree on what you could do collectively or independently to increase overall salary, but make a plan based on what you’re making now. You may also elect to make plans for what you would do with more discretionary monies, once additional monies flow in.
3. Be fair and even generous in listening to your spouse and what’s important to him. And be clear and direct about what’s important to you. Don’t put his needs first, but don’t put your own first either.
4. With money and relationships, there is always a history. When working through what you want to do now, its normal to have old upsets and feelings come up. Listen to yourself and your spouse and let the old issues come out. Current agreements should support both parties and help everyone put past issues in the past.
5. This conversation may lead you to realize that you are not living within your means, going into debt for expenses you may or may not need. If this is the case, accept it and work with it. Find a way to increase income and decrease outgo. It might take some belt tightening or even some drastic measures to correct things, but better to realize and deal with the problem than to bury it and act like nothing is wrong, until money squabbles arise.
3. Sometimes an object or possession holds charged emotions for one party or the other. This may or may not arise with the conversations and with reflections, but if it does, deal with it head-on and work together to resolve the issue.
4. If you have been with your spouse a long time, you might find that one party or the other has changed his or her perspective around money. A spender might become more of a saver going into middle years, for example. So the other party might be expecting past perspectives and behaviors and feel surprised and even betrayed by the change in outlook and behavior.
5. Share money earning or spending goal together, and build a new collaborative bond around money.
6. Celebrate successful communications and ongoing achievements, not necessarily in an expensive way, but in a meaningful way so that you feel in alignment with your spouse on money goals.
7. The big picture is that money impacts our view of ourselves, and how we see our lives. Working with the spouse to get on the same page around money is critical to your personal health, that of your spouse, and that of your relationship overall. So find a way to be fair to both parties around all money issues.

This is a difficult and ongoing issue for many relationships. I hope that the advice above helps you with yours.

This is a letter on Money and Relationships, an Excerpt from Chapter Three: Money Issues, from our upcoming Ask Linda e-Book

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