I love when my readers write in with questions. One I seem to be asked pretty often is, “How do I talk to my husband about money without fighting?” Do you find yourself wondering this too?
Of all the things they teach in school, unfortunately, practical things like money management and how to actually talk about money aren’t among them. So we end up learning a lot of our habits around money from our family. As we grow older, we sometimes find ourselves in stressful situations when it comes to finances and budgeting. What can make things worse is when your partner is raised differently around money. Trying to open up conversations around budgets might result in avoidance or fighting – neither one is an ideal situation. So where do you start when you find yourself asking, “How do I talk to my husband about money without fighting?”
I know this is a tough spot for a lot of my readers. It was for me too. Money is not one of those situations that just gets better when you ignore it. Your money situation will only change once you acknowledge where you are, where you want to go, and the steps you are going to take to get there. When you are each doing your own thing in a marriage, it can be a disaster.
If you aren’t used to talking with your partner about money at all, you might be doing what’s called, “financial infidelity.” We all know what marital infidelity is, it’s basically cheating. Financial infidelity is the same thing, it’s really cheating on your partner around money. This article from NPR explains it’s the hiding of bank accounts, credit cards, spending habits, and so on. It’s estimated about 41% of couples have this type of financial infidelity, and according to studies, it seems to be growing.
So while one person might be working hard to meet goals within the household, the other person is essentially undermining it by accumulating secret debt and responsibilities. You can imagine once this comes to light, and it usually does, it can cause a lot of fighting in marriage and distrust around the other partner and finances.
If this is you, and you have just realized your husband has been siphoning money somewhere else – or maybe it’s you who has a few credit cards on the side with secret statements being emailed to you so the bills never hit the mailbox. #beentheredonethat Either way, it’s time to start opening up the conversation about money.
My best advice is to NOT start with confrontation. This will ALWAYS lead to a fight. Instead, start with a positive discussion about what you both want from your money and your life. I suggest having a financial bucket list together as a couple, maybe even draw one up as a family. I explain it in-depth in my post, but don’t just include things like “paying off debt,” but also include things you want to do with your money like taking a vacation, helping the kids pay for college, buying a second home to use as an income property, retiring early. This is a time for dreaming, so allow yourselves to do that as a couple.
Once you have an idea where you want to go, you can figure out where you are. This is where it might get a little tense, but remember you are a couple and are functioning together as a unit. Hopefully, you’ve agreed you both want to go in the same direction as far as financial goals.
Print out the information of what your current financial situation is. What are all of your monthly expenses, all of your debts, and all of your income? I go over the basics of how to budget here, and for more support, I recommend my online Flip Your Debt course which gives you the tools for financial freedom, lasting changes, and step-by-step instructions on exactly how to do that.
Once you have everything laid out and a clear vision of your finances (I love using sticky notes for this), choose ONE short-term goal to start with. It might be something like getting current on any past due accounts, eliminating one credit card payment from your roster, using cash for your spending instead of credit cards, or setting up an emergency fund.
Up till now, it’s been assumed that you and your husband are, or can be, on the same page with money. Hopefully, you are able to agree on some common goals, the need to be transparent about finances, and about what short-term goal you can address first. From there, you can start to move forward in an honest way.
If you are really struggling to get your spouse on board with money, you may need to seek out a professional counselor. There could be issues that run deeper such as the need for control, a need they are trying to meet through unregulated spending, a gambling problem, and so on. Addressing these issues may need an outside perspective, and you need to decide that your marriage is worth fighting for and not losing over money disagreements.
Recognize that you and your husband are different people who grew up in different households which formed different attitudes about money. Since you came together as a couple, you should be able to compromise on different things and reach an agreement. Identifying common goals and being honest will go a long way. The longer things are kept hidden or you feel like you are working in different directions, this will allow resentment and distrust to build up and lead to fighting.
The steps I’ve shared will give you a start moving forward. But don’t mistake this for a one-and-done. You will need to continue to check in with each other regularly. Set budget date nights where you review your finances and goals to check-in and make sure you are on track. Make plans to celebrate afterward. I promise budgeting will improve your future.
To recap, you can take this in small steps: