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Stop fighting with your spouse about money

Posted May 11

Question:

Help! My husband and I get along great in almost every way, except money. I don’t know why, but when we talk about it, it always leads to frustration, hurt feelings and even quarrels. We love each other and we really want to stop this bickering. What can we do?

Answer:

That is a great question. For this one I turned to my friend and behavioral finance expert Martin Hurlburt to help me give you some good advice.

Even couples who are kind and loving with great relationships often struggle to see eye to eye when it comes to managing money. It’s been said that money is a leading cause of divorce. But that is not true. It is a lack of communication and respect for differences on how we view money that leads to the frustration and fighting.

Why does this happen? And what can you do to avoid conflict over money?

Martin has made it his life’s work to answer that question. He says, “Misunderstandings and frustrations between spouses when it comes to managing finances come about because each person views money differently. Each person has their own unique money personality. Your money personality is basically the lens through which you view your entire financial world. It impacts how you earn, save, spend, manage and invest your money.”

Imagine you’re driving on the freeway at 75 mph. It’s a speed you feel comfortable. Suddenly, someone whizzes by you at 90 mph. What do you think of that person? Do you praise their driving skills and ability to go fast? No! You probably think they are a danger on the streets and ought to lose their license. While you are in the middle of that thought, you come up behind someone who is driving 10 mph slower than you and you can’t get around them. What do you think of that person? Do you praise their cautious nature? No! You probably think they are a danger on the streets and ought to lose their license too.

We each tend to drive at a speed that is comfortable for us and we think that anyone who drives faster or slower than us is dangerous and wrong.

The same kind of thinking applies to the way you manage your money. You will always lean towards doing it in a way that feels comfortable to you and you can’t really understand anyone who takes more or less risk than you. You can’t understand someone who saves, spends, or invests differently than you do. But chances are pretty good you didn’t marry someone with the same views, thoughts and emotions around money as you. This is what leads to conflicts in a marriage and not the money itself.

There are five basic money personalities:

1. Spender

2. Saver

3. Adventurer

4. Steward

5. Avoider

One personality is not better than another. (Remember no human being has more value than any other — even if you disagree with them.) You should not try to change your spouse either, just recognize, understand and respect each other, because each of the personality types has its pros and cons. In fact, blending together your two unique personalities may help you make better choices as a couple than you ever could individually.

You will begin to manage your money more effectively and reduce your levels of stress when you embrace your personality rather than ignore it or try to override it. It’s simple to find out what your money personality is with a simple questionnaire on www.IfMoneyCouldTalk.com. You will find a link on the home page. Click on it and answer some questions. For each one, choose the answer that first pops into your head without overthinking it. You’ll then get a report within two business days. It will outline the strengths and weaknesses of each personality profile, including yours. The report will also give you ideas on how to better manage your money and still be who you are.

To increase understanding between husband and wife, each person should take the money personality profile on their own. And then compare the results. Many couples have reported to me that this was an eye-opening experience and well worth the time. It gave them insights that they had never seen before.

There is also a worksheet on my website about money fear and how your fears affect the way you handle money, which you might find interesting. Again both you and your spouse should fill it out and compare what money represents to each of you. Then you can create a compromise that honors you both.

Imagine that a couple is driving across country. The husband wants to drive 12 hours a day and get there as soon as possible. His wife likes to stop at places of interest along the way and enjoy the journey. Do you think that might cause some conflict? And who is right?

Neither one is right or wrong. They are just different. If they each understand and respect how the other feels, they will have a much more peaceful journey than if they each try to prove that their way is right.

An example of the compromise might look like this: Instead of three 12-hour days of driving, the husband might agree to five days of just over seven hours each. And instead of wanting to stop at every historic marker along the way, the wife might agree to plan in advance and pick just one or two places of interest each day.

If you would like to get on the road to leading a happier, less stressful and more productive life, the first step on your journey is to discover your money personality and then work together to create a win/win compromise that works for both of you. You both will have to give a little, but you will get a little too.

Make sure you are always willing to listen to your spouse and honor and respect how they feel before asking them to give you the same. If you both focus on honoring the other, you can have these conversations without conflict.

You can do this.

Martin Hurlburt is a speaker, author and personal wealth manager. He strives to help people simplify, unify and multiply their wealth. Contact him at www.IfMoneyCouldTalk.com.

Kimberly Giles is the president of claritypointcoaching.com. She is the author of the book "Choosing Clarity: The Path to Fearlessness" and a popular life coach, speaker and people skills expert.

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