I do not hold myself up as a paragon of financial virtue… or as the picture of a perfect marriage, either. But considering Bruce & I have three divorces between us, and we’ve managed to stay happily married to each other for almost 12 years, I figure we’ve learned a few things. So over the next few weeks, I’m going to write a few posts about marriage and money – how we do it, how other people do it, what we’ve found works, and what we know from experience has not worked for us in the past.
This is where money bloggers with good marriages can poke fun at us… and where people who’ve had money wreck a relationship may be able to relate. This week, the toughest topic of all. Agreeing Not to Fight About Money.
First off, I admire any of you who have your financial houses in order enough that when you start dating someone, before you get all serious, you can talk about money and decide if you want to continue the relationship. I’m not like that. I fall into relationships – and then try to sort out the practical things later. Sometimes this leads to incompatibility in some areas, including money. So, after one marriage that broke up, in part, over money, when Bruce and I got together, I should have known better, right? Yeah, not so much. The saving grace was, he’d had money problems too, and he had one rule.
“Fighting About Money Does Not Generate More Money”. (Also known as, the problem is still there when the fight is over.) He’s right. People rarely fight about having too much money – they fight when there isn’t enough money to pay the bills. Now, Bruce’s statement may seem like common sense, but for me, it was enlightening! He was so right – fighting wouldn’t make anything different.
What did this mean? It meant when things got tough, when we had money issues, we would brainstorm together – trying to come up with ideas of how to generate more money. Let me say that this theory is great, if there are no big money monsters hiding in your relationship. And by money monsters, I mean addictions (gambling, drugs, alcohol, they all cause money problems), wild over-spending by one partner, significant under-earning or refusal to earn on the part of one partner (and the other partner did not agree – a SAHP who became such as mutually agreed upon is not refusing to earn, IMHO). My first husband didn’t like to work. I mean, he really didn’t like to work – and so long as I had a job earning enough to cover rent, etc., he wasn’t real motivated to change his employment status. This was not something I agreed to when we started living together – thus my problem, and many of our fights.
So, if there are no money monsters in your relationship, but you and your partner fight about money, maybe you should try to agree to not fight about it. Lay out some ground rules – agree to talk regularly about money, do it in a relaxed atmosphere, try not to be judgemental. Agree in advance how long the talk should be (keep it short at first, if most “talks” become fights). Try to figure out what the root cause of the fighting is – is it a control issue? Is it fear? Are the two of you truly financial opposites, and if you are, can you find common ground to prevent battles?
Relationships are hard enough without fighting about money too – if you can agree to not fight about your finances, you can focus on squabbling over the important stuff – like who controls the TV remote.