What can you do to stop arguments about money from ruining your relationship?
As I mentioned in a previous post, money is one of the major sources of conflict in relationships, as I have found in my psychology practice. Both in individual and in couples counselling money and financial issues come up again and again. I find that couples get extremely “stuck” in a negative cycle when they can’t see eye-to-eye when it comes to money.
Differences in how we view and use our money reveals a great deal about our priorities in life. If you are the sort of person who likes to save money and who invests for the future you are most likely to be someone who values security over instant gratification, looking at the long-term scenario rather than just the here-and-now. However, if you are someone who prioritises the good things in life and who lives in the moment, you are less likely to value saving over spending.
The trouble comes when you have clashing priorites in your relationship.
So what can you do if you and your partner are in this position?
If you have not yet fully committed to your relationship, it is vital that you explore this issue thoroughly before you get married and/or have children, in order to work out a strategy to deal with the potential problems that may arise in the future. Go into a great deal of detail during these discussions, where you sketch different future scenarios involving money and explore how you would resolve these in a constructive and amicable way. (Most of the couples that I see who are in long-term relationships tell me that, yes, they did talk about what they wanted out of their lives together at the start of their relationship but did not really explore their discrepancies regarding core values and priorities in any depth).
For couples who are in long-term, established relationships, who are at loggerheads over financial issues, the principles of constructive communication and good anger management skills are critically important. As money tends to be such an emotive issue, couples need to ensure that they can stay calm and rational during “discussions” as once anger is allowed to escalate, there is little hope of a successful outcome as the couple will cease to really listen to, or acknowledge each other’s point of view, Couples need to be able to get to the point where they are able to empathize with their partner’s stance on an issue and accept that each person has an equal right to his/her opinion on an issue.
This is often very difficult for couples to achieve, especially for couples who have relationships where communication has become a major problem. For these couples, I would recommend that they find an impartial third party who would be prepared to act as a mediator.
Couple counselling and/or coaching is, of course, also strongly recommended.