Some things in life are so predictable, that they’re basically a foregone conclusion.
For example, we all know that our chances of keeping our New Year’s Resolutions are zero percent (it might even be less than that), and yet each time the calendar flips, there we are promising to create less carbon emissions, lose weight, spend less time working, learn a language, travel — and the list of lofty aspirations goes on.
Or, we know without hesitation that if we need to go to the post office — which is thankfully a lot less these days than in the past — that there’s going to be a long wait, no matter what. It’s just how things are. It’s a fundamental law, like gravity or flight delays.
There is another scenario that is utterly predictable: any attempt to talk to your spouse about money is going to quickly turn into a confrontation that either leads to hours, days or maybe weeks or hurt feelings and passive aggression, or get thrown in the “let’s talk about this later” bucket — which, of course, is nothing more than joint denial (but at least nobody has to sleep on the couch, right?).
However, research shows that money woes are the leading cause of stress in relationships, and the number one reason for separations and divorces. It’s not leaving the toilet seat lid up, failing to put the cap back on the toothpaste tube, or disagreeing about whether the final season of Game of Thrones was the best thing in TV history, or the worst. It’s money madness.
And so, to help you go from saying “I do” to “I’m out,” here are five ways that you can talk to your spouse about money, when you’d rather chat about movies, sports, music, politics, cars, dental office design — or basically anything and everything else.
- Appreciate that not everyone perceives money the same way.
If you grew up comfortably middle-class or wealthy and your partner grew up economically disadvantaged (or vice versa), then you’re both bringing all of that history with you. Appreciating and understanding where your partner came from can help create empathy and understanding.
- Don’t play the blame game.
It’s tempting to go into attack mode and start listing off all of the questionable (read: crazy) things that your spouse has done. Resist this temptation, and focus on the present and the future.
- Don’t lie or keep secrets.
Ask any divorce lawyer and they’ll confirm that hiding debts or exaggerating (or just plain making up) holdings, investments and other assets — like a non-existent inheritance due from a non-existent rich uncle — is the fastest way for a marriage to hit the skids, and come to a permanent and premature end.
If at First You Don’t Succeed…
Talking about money the first time, is like working out for the first time. It’s painful and agonizing, and you can’t imagine why anyone would want to do it again. But after a while, you turn a corner and working out becomes enjoyable and beneficial. The same pattern applies to the money conversation. The more you do it, the easier and more effective it becomes. So, if at first you don’t succeed then try, try again.