When Danny and I were engaged, I remember hearing a lot of people (including in a marriage class that I took) talk about “being one” with your spouse. I’d heard this concept throughout my life and never given it much thought. How could I be “one” with someone else? Doesn’t the presence of someone else really make us two? I really couldn’t wrap my head around what they meant. Someone drew this picture on a chalk board for me, and it has stuck with me ever since:
The little I represents you. The extent to which you feel sadness, hard times, trials, etc. is represented by the frowny face at the bottom of the I. Conversely, the extent to which you feel happiness, joy, success, etc. is represented by the happy face at the top of the I. When you get married, your I changes:
It grows! Like way a lot more than you could ever imagine. Now the extent to which you can feel sorrow, pain, etc is much, much greater. But, the extent to which you feel joy and happiness is also much greater. When you become one with your spouse your pain becomes their pain, and theirs becomes yours. Thankfully, your spouse’s success and joy becomes yours as well. In short, you have a greater capacity to feel things. To say the least, being “one” with another human being comes with its challenge– not the least of which is being one when it comes to money. Sharing money with a spouse is downright hard. Especially if you have one spouse who is a “spender” and one who is a “saver”– an extremely common scenario in marriage. Here’s how to get your spouse on board financially.
HOW TO GET YOUR SPOUSE ON BOARD FINANCIALLY.
Don’t label each other or accuse.
It’s easy for spouses to label each other as the “spender” and the “saver” or otherwise negatively label each other when it comes to finances. I once learned in a Sociology class about a theory known as the labeling theory. Basically, the idea was that when a person is labeled as “deviant,” that leads him or her to engage in deviant behavior. Negative labels can alter a person’s self-identity and encourage them to act in a way that lives up to their label. I think that totally applies to how to get your spouse on board financially. By constantly accusing your spouse of being a spender or nagging them about being awful with money– that’s eventually how they’ll view themselves and it will reinforce that behavior. So, keep an open mind and don’t call names.
Rather than accusing/nagging your spouse for the state of your finances, assume responsibility for the state of financial affairs in your household. I know– that seems counter-intuitive in a post that is supposed to be teaching you about how to get YOUR SPOUSE on board financially, not YOU. But here’s the thing. You cannot control another person, but you CAN control you. What can you do better in regards to your family’s finances? Could you set a budget? Or a better one if you already have one? Can you help increase your family’s income in some way? I’m not saying you should shoulder all of the blame, but looking for ways that you have erred in your finances and assuming responsibility rather than blaming will be life changing for your finances and certainly for your relationship. [Related: How to Set a Budget That Actually Works for You.]
Show your spouse why.
Many times, financial issues in marriage occur out of simple misunderstandings. Maybe your spouse doesn’t understand the interest rate on her credit card and how much those splurges at Target actually cost. Maybe your spouse doesn’t see the big picture in grabbing lunch out to eat every day and how much it’s eating out of your monthly budget. Make sure you sit down and show them your financial concerns, again, assuming responsibility anywhere you can. In our book Phased, we talk a lot about having money meetings with your spouse. These don’t need to be overly formal– but at a minimum, a few minutes that occur frequently where you and your spouse can express concerns/triumphs relating to your finances.
Choose words, tone, and timing wisely.
Another helpful way to get your spouse on board financially is to be mindful of your words, tone, and timing when it comes to discussing any money issues. I loved this Dave Ramsey post where he talks about choosing to have financial discussions with your spouse by choosing your words, tone, and timing. Don’t attack your spouse the second he/she walks in the door from work when he’s/she’s hungry and expect a conversation about finances to go well. Rather, choose a time when you are both calm. Choose a tone that is not condescending and be open to what your spouse has to say. You might be surprised.
Talk about underlying issues.
Jessica Gilliland suggests talking about issues other than money that are making money talk more difficult. “Many of the couples I see who have conflict over money are stuck in unhelpful patterns of interacting with each other, and money just happens to be one of the areas where those patterns show up. The issue is often (although not always) deeper than just dollars and cents.”
“Don’t assume that having more money will be enough to effectively resolve conflicts about finances. As mentioned above, the underlying reasons for conflict will still be there whether you have a little more money or a little less money in the bank. Get to the root of the struggle. Remember that some couples with very little money to work with have very functional interactions around finances, and some couples with a lot of money have major financial stress.” (Find Jessica’s Instagram here).
Have positive interactions with your spouse unrelated to money.
Jenny Vanfield suggests that couples have positive interactions every day that are unrelated to money to get your spouse on board financially. “I think it’s so easy to let money issues create a huge wedge between couples. One common theme I’ve heard is that some people start to dread coming home from work because they’re faced with their problems and start to resent their partner. I think one way to get a handle on this is to really promote positive family time where we don’t talk about the problems, just enjoy each other. This certainly doesn’t have to cost anything – a walk around the block, a drive, playing board games, etc. I find that if there is a designated place/time that families know they have each other’s undivided positive attention, that often a lot of the negativity subsides. I would also say the same could hold true if we have an established day/time each week where they do look at their budget and are able to do so without blaming one another. Just looking at it and approaching it from a team effort.” Jenny also mentioned having an activity that breaks tension (for ex: doing a puzzle together) as you are problem solving the puzzle which sort of serves as an ice breaker to the money tension.
Give your spouse wiggle room.
In many situations, when people feel overly restricted, they act out. Like me, when I’ve done crash diets in the past, I eventually binge HARD because I’ve felt too restricted. It might be the same for your spouse sticking to a budget. If it’s too complex and or too restrictive, it might cause them to swing on the other side of the pendulum and overspend/go crazy financially. So be sure to give your spouse a little space and room to wiggle in the budget.
Forgive and ask for forgiveness.
If your spouse does something that frustrates you financially, forgive him or her. When those issues are in the past, LEAVE THEM THERE and do not bring them up again, especially not as ammunition in a future disagreement. Similarly, if you screw up financially, ask your spouse for forgiveness. This will enable you to get back on track financially. Harboring negative feelings about your money will inevitably bleed into your relationship with your spouse.
James Phillips (find him HERE and HERE) “I think a lot of people see a problem, finance or otherwise, and begin to treat it as a symbol of the overall relationship. We all have challenges with how we might prioritize our spending together with our loved one. That’s normal. The financial struggles we have might even be very difficult and force us into austerity measures. That’s normal too. What we can do about how it influences our relationships is say, ‘Hey this is a financial problem. It’s not a relationship problem. It’s not a you-and-me problem.’
Try something different.
If something in your budget or finances generally just isn’t working for your spouse, try something different. For example, I referenced Dave Ramsey earlier. If your not familiar with the way he teaches people to budget, he recommends that couples pay for everything in cash– like literal bills. He has you put however much cash in your budget in different envelopes. This did not work AT ALL for me and my spouse. First, I’m a criminal attorney and the thought of touching tons of cash all the time with its filthy germs and traces of cocaine literally makes me nauseous. And then on top of that, I’m a lot more worried about getting mugged when I’m carrying cash. And finally, the thought of paying with cash and having to count out bills and pennies and such while my toddler is yanking all the candy off the shelves in the check out line is about enough to give me an anxiety attack. Instead, we do something different. We use a combined credit card (and earn rewards points) and pay it off every Sunday. We also use the Mint app to track our spending and we frequently look over our financial statements from our bank together. That keeps us accountable to each other and just works for us. Cash might work better for you and your spouse. The point is– don’t just keep doing the same thing because you think it’s right when it’s obviously not working for your spouse. Play around with your budget or how you are handling money and do what works for you as a COUPLE. Remember, you are “one” so if something is not working for your spouse, that means it’s not working for you.
It will take more than a couple of conversations to get your spouse on board financially, but don’t give up! Keep working at your money together, keep talking, and keep trying.
What things have helped you get your spouse on board financially? Drop a comment below!
If you and your spouse are in debt, please download our FREE Debt Payoff Starter Kit here— it’s exactly what it sounds like. It will help you get started paying off debt and will help you and your spouse get on board financially.
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