Tips for Successful Money Discussions with Your Spouse

How important is money in a marriage? As it turns out, very! Time and again, research has revealed that “money issues” are behind many divorces today. 

A successful financial relationship requires open, honest, and respectful communication. Here are our tips for talking money with your spouse.

Tips for talking money with your spouse

Your relationship with money is something you develop throughout life. You may have felt free to use your money however you wanted and gave little thought to the future. Or, you may have worked since you were young and learned to scrimp and save for the things you wanted. Your family may have had few financial resources, and you may now see money and the things it can buy as a symbol of your success. 

When you got married, you brought all those habits, viewpoints, and financial insecurities with you. But what happens when your financial beliefs and habits conflict with your spouse’s?

When you combine financial resources with the person you’ve vowed to spend the rest of your life with, you need to find some financial harmony. While talking about it can be uncomfortable at first, open and honest communication about money is important to the health and welfare of your financial life – and your marriage. 

Understand what each person values 

Going into a relationship with someone who has very different views on money from you can be difficult. You may be ready to spend some serious money renovating your dreary kitchen while your spouse insists on keeping your assets, debts, and net worth faithfully logged into a spreadsheet. Perhaps you would rather save up for a summer vacation at the beach while your spouse has no trouble dropping serious cash on video game components. 

If your spouse’s values differ from yours in this way, it can make you feel confused. How could someone view money so differently? Unfortunately, a lot of couples never get around to discussing money much before they get married. 

There may be a disconnect between what you and your spouse consider valuable and worth spending your hard-earned money on. And while you may both spend about the same amount of money, dollar-wise, the things you consider worth that money can be very different. Especially when money is a limited resource, it’s important to understand your differences and devise a way to find some common ground.

Talk about your finances every day

Money is a part of life. But financial problems and debt can sneak up on you when you’re not paying attention. Don’t wait until things spiral out of control to address possible issues in how you’re spending your money. 

Talk about your finances as a normal part of your everyday life. Being open and honest keeps things transparent and from becoming contentious issues. When you can talk about money as easily as you talk about what to have for dinner, there’s less potential for it to become an issue and for either of you to go into blame mode. 

Frame money conversations positively

Money can be an emotional trigger for many couples, especially when there’s a big difference in spending styles. Money conversations can quickly break down into finger-pointing if you’re not careful. 

If you and your spouse find that your spending and saving habits don’t mesh, focus on finding solutions instead of blame. Is there a balance between saving for the far future and buying things that could improve your immediate quality of life? Take responsibility for yourself, and avoid moving into criticism and defensiveness.

Consider each other's strengths. You may be better at organizing and dealing with your immediate financial responsibilities and shortfalls while your spouse is better at looking at the big financial picture. Define mutual goals, and discuss ways you can work together to bring them to life. Develop a budget considering both your priorities, and discuss ways you could both scale back. 

Understanding where the other is coming from and taking a cooperative attitude can help bridge differences in your spending patterns. It can even bring you closer as a couple. 

Listen to each others’ viewpoints

Financial conversations can feel emotional and vulnerable, especially when you feel strongly about inconsistencies in your viewpoints. Empathy may be needed to help you understand why your spouse feels and acts the way they do. 

Listen carefully to each other to see if you can find some common ground. You might even discover that your spouse’s spending habits have little to do with the things they’re buying and more to do with an emotional need. How can you help so they’ll find less need to resort to retail therapy?

Couples who positively communicate during financial conflict are much more likely to also positively communicate about other things and find ways to work through their problems.

Time vs. stuff

As humans, we often define ourselves by the stuff we own. But at some point, many of us begin to find importance in other things – things that money can’t buy. Time and money can start to feel out of balance. 

Weighing time spent enjoying life together against time spent earning money for material things can create a rift in your relationship. If the pursuit of money has taken the upper hand and one of you is spending so much time making money that you can’t enjoy the things it provides, you may need to have a “stuff” conversation. While you don’t have to go to extremes to pare down your lifestyle, it’s important to find a balance so you can both feel content.

Have your money disagreements led to divorce?

Our attitudes about money often parallel our attitudes about who we are at our core and what we consider important in life. 

Spouses who have incompatible views about money and spending sometimes find their differences insurmountable. After all, studies suggest that about 22% of divorces cite money issues as a cause. 

While you and your spouse may have decided that divorce is the next practical step, if money was a contentious factor in your marriage, it will probably be one in your divorce. You may benefit from a certified divorce financial analyst to help you work through any potential financial pitfalls and enable you and your spouse to negotiate a more effective and cooperative divorce settlement. 

If you and your spouse are navigating a divorce, the team at Hello Divorce may be able to help. We are an online divorce platform offering low-cost, flat-rate divorce plans, related professional services, and an extensive library of informational resources. Schedule a free 15-minute phone call with us to learn more. 

Suggested: 5 Ways to Recover Financially from Divorce

Divorce Content Specialist
Mediation, Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Mental Health
Candice is a former paralegal and has spent the last 16 years in the digital landscape, writing website content, blog posts, and articles for the legal industry. Now, at Hello Divorce, she is helping demystify the complex legal and emotional world of divorce. Away from the keyboard, she’s a devoted wife, mom, and grandmother to two awesome granddaughters who are already forces to be reckoned with. Based in Florida, she’s an avid traveler, painter, ceramic artist, and self-avowed bookish nerd.