“Money never made a man happy yet, nor will it. The more a man has, the more he wants. Instead of filling a vacuum, it makes one.” – Benjamin Franklin
The number one cause for marital arguments in today’s society is money. Financial stress puts a huge strain on the relationship and, in the current economic crisis, money problems can be doing more harm than ever before. But these temporary problems need not signal the end of your relationship. In fact, working together during a difficult time will often bring you closer together.
In this post I am going to talk about a few things you can try if you are worried about money and need to talk to your wife, husband or partner. While I am no relationship counselor I am fortunate enough to be in a relationship where openness, patience, honesty and discussion are held to be very important. Because of that we have developed some really helpful solutions over the years that I hope will help some of you out there.
A man never tells?
I was recently talking to a very good friend about money worries and I asked him whether he ever felt like he shouldn’t talk to his wife about money for fear of worrying her or appearing to not be “providing” very well. He quite promptly suggested to me that those ideas are only harmful to the relationship and that, 99% of the time, your wife wants to know whats going on and would prefer it if you discussed any issues with her instead of pretending everything is okay. The more I thought about our conversation the more I realized he was right. Your wife will know if you are stressed or upset about something and as such would prefer to know what is going on in your life. I am quite certain she would rather have the opportunity to help you work through it as opposed to knowing something is wrong but not being told any information.
The sad truth is that most men never tell. Most men are under the impression that they have to provide for the family and if they have any money troubles they aren’t doing their job as a husband or a father or a man. But this stigma can be quite harmful – I know many of the men in my life who live by these rules wind up struggling with intense anxiety and are often fighting with their partners as soon as money becomes an issue. They are too ashamed to talk.
I think if you want to have a healthy relationship when money starts to become a worry you need to set some of these labels aside and really be open to the idea of talking to your partner, asking for help or at least being strong enough to admit there might be a problem.
How to talk to your husband, wife or partner about money
If you have anything to add to the points below please leave a comment as it might be really helpful to someone reading this post. Likewise, if you have an experience (good or bad) that you think might help a reader please let us know.
1. Understand that they want to help
One of the things that my friend helped me realize was that my partner would want to help. This was a very important moment for me as it freed me up a lot inside. At first I thought that I would be stressing her or placing my burden on her if I talked about money but now I was learning that she probably wanted to be a part of the solution. Try and understand that your husband or wife loves you very much and they would want to be there for you if things were getting tough.
2. Work together like a company
Having worked in business for many years I know a few little things about making money. And one of the things I know is that if a company doesn’t work together things don’t go so well. Imagine if the finance department didn’t communicate with marketing or sales – no one would know how much money they could spend or needed to make to turn a profit. It would be a very bad situation. The same is true for a relationship; you both need to understand the money situation and know how to communicate all aspects of your personal finances. Both husband and wife need to know how much is coming in and how much is going out on bills, expenses, etc.
3. Don’t judge
I remember growing up and witnessing the most intense financial arguments between my father and mother. They would go on for hours and, at the end, they wouldn’t have resolved anything. One of the things both parties used to do was be very judgmental about any spending’s that had happened over the month. Dad would be angry about Mom buying something for the house and Mom would be angry about Dad eating expensive lunches. But one thing I noticed over the years was that every time they got “told off” by the other one they hid more and more purchases. The were afraid of being judged so they would often buy things and then hide them and tell the kids, “Don’t tell your mother“.
If you want to keep the relationship open and honest it is important to be as judgment-free as possible. Don’t get angry if your husband buys something that you don’t think he needs. The same goes for your wife. Instead of getting upset try using the technique below.
4. Be gentle
One thing I have been learning lately is how we must try to be gentle and kind to other people and not use harsh words. I found a wonderful text by a great Buddhist master from Tibet called 30 Pieces of Advice from the Heart. The master’s name is Longchenpa and in that text he said something that I thought might be nice to share at this point:
“In these decadent times one may reproach the crude people around one.
Although one thinks it will be useful to them,
it is just the source of poisonous thoughts.
To utter peaceful words is my advice from the heart.
Without any selfish consideration, one may,
with affection, tell people their defects, only thinking of their own good.
But although what one says is true this will ulcerate their hearts.
To say gentle words is my advice from the heart.”
When talking to your loved one about sensitive issues I have found it is very helpful to be as gentle and diplomatic as possible. After all, you aren’t trying to make them feel bad or point out their mistakes, you are trying to find a solution to the problem. And I think those solutions very rarely come from harsh speech.
5. Make a list of discussion points aimed at a solution
I once read a quote by an anonymous CEO that said, “Don’t bring up a problem unless you have a solution for it“. He was, of course, talking about going to see your boss about issues in the workplace but I think it fits quite well into our topic. If you want to have a healthy discussion about your money troubles try making a list of points to talk about and make sure that list is aimed at a solution.
The reason we found this to be helpful is because it gives the conversation some direction. Instead of sitting around and getting stressed about all the things that were going wrong we instead talked about what we need to do in the short, medium and long term to fix it. This seemed to diffuse a lot of the tension as well, shifting the focus from the negative to the positive.
Financial stress can really eat away at you on the inside so try to remember that you have a partner who would love to help you sort through the problems. If you are open, honest, gentle and have a plan of attack there is no reason why money worries should take a toll on your relationship. In fact, working together through rough patches might just help to make your relationship stronger and more supportive.