Can we really stop fighting about money?
It’s another day and another fight. And over pineapple of all things. It’s just fruit and yet every single time you go to the grocery store, he is mad about something. As if you single handedly control the price of produce. He has no idea. This time it’s because you bought the pre-sliced pineapple instead of the cheapest fruit available. And you are just tired. Tired of justifying every purchase, tired of not making enough money, tired of fighting over stupid pineapple. And your friends and the internet are no help. You can’t imagine this fight for the next twenty years but is there anything else you can do?
Whether it’s pineapple or the children’s clothes or a video game or something else, this fight gets repeated over and over again amongst couples. This small repetitive fight eats away at the love and appreciation you have for each other. And in most relationships it does seem that one person is the penny pincher and the other is the one trying to enjoy the moment. That is an illusion. That belief is a consequence of time. Each of you knows how to save and how to enjoy the moment. But over time your positions have become more and more entrenched because of the WAY you talk about money. And the problem is, unlike other one time issues like in-laws or where to buy a house, this issue affects EVERY single part of your life. So if you don’t know how to talk to each other about money, the very foundation of your marriage starts to crumble.
I’m going to give you a couple of tricks and tips to change how you communicate about money. And for a lot of couples, this will be enough. But for others, a moat of resentment between you and your partner already exists and feels impossible to bridge. In those cases, I would encourage you to reach out and see a Couples Counselor. And when you are researching or consulting beforehand, ask them how they approach money conversations.
As you use these tips and change your communication , the two of you can get back to feeling like a team. The fights turn into conversations about what the two of you want. And slowly, without even realizing it, trust regrows and reappears every where and in every conversation between the two of you. One day, you turn around and realize you have the strong and resilient and trusting relationship you always knew was underneath all the fights.
Now for those tips and tricks!!!
#1 Start having a money date
Hear me out before you dismiss this idea. Part of the reason so many fights happen is because one person is anxious and freaking out and the other person has no idea this is happening or why. Having a monthly money date is really just making sure you both understand where your finances are right now, where pressure might be generated this coming month, and what both of you want to prioritize. The more consistent this date is, the more low key this becomes. And because you know it is coming up, you don’t have to carry around constant anxiety about when is a good time to talk about it. And by making it a date, you can have a little fun too. I like my money conversations over a plate of waffles on Sunday but any time and day can be great. Go out for a lunch date in the middle of the week. Take it on a long walk on the beach. If you need your legions of spreadsheets and your partner hates them, make sure you can make the whole experience more pleasant with a nice glass of wine or in a beautiful setting.
#2 Talk about priorities
In the previous point, I brought up the weekly date. Part of that date is about priorities. If one person is saving for retirement and the other person thinks the priority is to be healthy then yes, you are going to have a lot of misunderstood fights about pineapple. But if you both know and agree that retirement is important but not at the expense of health, then suddenly pineapple and tumeric and kale seem like reasonable purchases. Talking about priorities and agreeing to them can seem daunting and don’t be afraid to reach out for some specific and targeted help from a Couples Counselor to make this easier but the reality is, you are probably more aligned than you think. You’ve just stopped talking about it and you didn’t realize it. And because you’ve already started having a monthly date, it’s okay if the priorities evolve and change over the course of the year. Just because you started out caring more about retirement but halfway through realized that you needed to prioritize health doesn’t mean your partner knows this. And the previous monthly date will help keep you too aligned and not fighting.
#3 A little just for you
Everybody needs to feel autonomy and some independence. And nobody, including children, like to be told “no”. Part of the reason for the fight around that stupid pineapple or video game is because one of you doesn’t feel like you should have to justify that purchase. And, part of you, is right. And the other one is freaking out because you are not following the budget or the rules. And, part of that person, is right. So how do you get around this? Well, I don’t care how little or how much the two of you make or how much it differs between the two of you. The two of you need to design a system so at least a little money, as low as $20 maybe, depending on your income and situation, is set aside for you to spend however the hell you want it to be spent. With no check-in, judgement, or questions from your partner. You can buy whatever type of pineapple vice you want with that piece of money. And that creates enough space so that sticking to those pesky priorities above, becomes much easier and simpler.
These tips and tricks don’t solve every problem for all couples but they can take a constant fight about pineapple into a non-event. And then you have the energy and the interest to lean in and snuggle up to your partner instead of your nagging accountant.
I hope this brings a little peace into your life and relationship. If you need help with this or other parts of your relationship, don’t be afraid to reach out to me or another Couples Counselor near you.
If this speaks to you an you’re looking for help in California, please schedule a consult.