And Then Came Money

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Do you keep fighting over money and wondering how to stop? Here’s how

Money is one of the “taboo” topics that no one really knows how to talk about. We have different relationships with money that influence how we seek and spend it. Sometimes, it is hard to manage, and if you add one more person to the mix, well, it can lead to disaster, if your approach to it is wrong.  In her forward to the book The Heart of Money: A Couple’s Guide to Creating True Financial Intimacy by Deborah Price, Jamie Traeger-Muney, PhD., the co-founder of the Wealth Legacy Group, writes that money is the number one thing couples fight about “regardless of where they fall on the socioeconomic spectrum. This is not surprising given the lack of infrastructure we have around discussing money.”

Why The Fights?

A study in the journal Family Relations shows that money conflicts are more stressful and threatening than other conflicts between spouses and further explains that economic hardship is not the only source of money conflicts. “We found that couples attempting to resolve money conflicts, may be particularly likely to face a self-defeating cycle in which they explicitly attempt to problem solve, yet experience greater negativity and use of nonproductive tactics, as important and threatening money issues resurface (e.g., monthly bills) and remain unsolved… Another possibility is that money is more closely tied to underlying relational processes, such as power, touching many aspects of individual and couple functioning, or feelings of self-worth or self-esteem, perhaps especially for men,” the findings read.

Little wonder they say that conflicts are rarely about the money itself but emotions behind it. “Conflicts and disagreements aren’t always about the dollars and cents, but, rather, the emotions behind those dollars that dictate how each of us sees money and, in turn, how each spends and saves it. Few of us are equipped to manage that part of family finance…most of us just weren’t raised to talk about money,” says Jeff D. Opdyke in the book Financially Ever After: The Couples’ Guide to Managing Money.

Communicate

Lack of communication is usually at the heart of many marital problems, not just money. You’ll need to communicate about your fears, beliefs and hopes, and work as a team. “When two people work together to accomplish a goal, they can usually achieve it twice as fast as either of them would have working alone. This is certainly true when it comes to your money. The sooner you start working together, the more quickly you can dramatically improve your financial picture,” writes David Bach in Smart Couples Finish Rich: 9 Steps to Creating a Rich Future for You and Your Partner.

Deborah Price, author of The Heart of Money: A Couple’s Guide to Creating True Financial Intimacy, suggests seeking the help of a professional.  We see a doctor when we are sick and call a plumber when there’s a problem, she says; why not seek a professional with money issues?

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