A poll conducted by Money Magazine discovered that 70% of couples argue about money—more than they argue about household chores, togetherness, sex, snoring, and what’s for dinner.
Even though money fights are relatively universal, they still suck. Here are a few of the most common reasons couples fight about money and a few thoughts on how to prevent these fights. (And yes, there is a difference between an emotion-driven fight and a controlled but intense discussion.)
Not Understanding Each Other’s Money Mindset
This is one of the biggest reasons for conflict over money. Studies show that money arguments predict divorce more than fights over children, sex, or in-laws, so it really pays to be on the same page with your money goals. Everyone has a personal relationship with money, and that means that their spending values may differ from those of their partner’s.
For example, one partner may value spending on name-brand home products, while another may buy generic groceries and cleaning supplies but splurge for date nights and vacations. Soon there are two fights brewing—one partner is upset because someone paid $8 for Robitussin cough syrup, when the CVS brand has the same ingredients and only cost $6, and another partner is angry that someone booked a four-star hotel when a two-star is perfectly fine.
How to Prevent the Fight (And Have More of a Controlled Discussion)
First, remember to listen and be understanding when discussing money. Perhaps your partner’s views are vastly different than your own. Ask about their childhood relationship and concerns with money and what they deem splurge-worthy. These questions at least get you to the same starting point. Here are where cliches come in—remember “do unto others” and “walk in someone else’s shoes?” Regardless of the circumstance, be a good listener and try to wrap your mind around your partner’s rationale when it comes to spending habits.
Frivolous spending can lead to terrible fights. Each partner is going to have different views on what constitutes wastefulness. If you see your partner buy something that doesn’t align with your money values, it can feel insulting.
How to Prevent the Fight
Rather than just accusing your partner of frivolous spending, start by asking them calmly why they made that purchase and what enjoyment it brings them. This may open a window for you to learn about their money values and provide you with an opportunity to talk through your concerns about shared money management.
If you’re the one being accused of frivolous spending, take a moment to think about where your partner might be coming from, based on their money values. The key is to control your emotions and keep your partner’s feelings in mind.
This is especially pertinent for couples who are new to living together. If you have yet to discuss a household budget, know the journey may be filled with potholes. The good news is, once you’ve set the terms and done the upfront work, the challenges are less emotional. From there out, it’s mainly about disciplining yourself to adhere to that budget.
How to Prevent the Fight
Join forces on creating that budget ASAP. This will relieve so much stress later on. If you have a household budget, and one or both parties has trouble sticking to it, it’s a good indicator that you might need to adjust the budget to make it more realistic. A good maintenance step is to set up a regular review schedule and periodically acknowledge any new budget issues that may arise.
Credit Card Debt
Another issue that plagues couples is that of credit card debt. There may be shame and guilt from one party and blame and resentment from the other. Another unfortunately common issue is that many partners hide their debt from each other. According to a report by CreditCards.com, approximately 7.2 million Americans (4.4 million men and 2.8 million women) have hidden a bank or credit card account from their live-in spouse or partner. If debt is being hidden, that can worsen other trust issues.
How to Avoid the Fight
The first thing is to have patience. If your partner feels ashamed, they may not want to talk. Come from a place of understanding and acknowledge that managing credit cards can be tough if you’re not paying close attention.
If you are the debtor, be open and honest with your partner about how much debt you have and how you plan to pay it.
Not Having Enough Emergency Savings
Couples often fight about how to save and how much they should be saving.. According to a 2016 GOBankingRates survey, 69% of Americans have less than $1,000 in their savings accounts, and 34% have no savings at all. Even if you both understand the importance of saving, you need to be on the same page about how much to save.
How to Prevent the Fight
Make saving an automatic payment from your account, just like any other bill you pay. If you do not have an emergency savings account for your household, it may be a good idea to open one. These accounts can be a huge relief if your water heater dies or insurance doesn’t cover the full cost of a natural disaster. Make a plan for both parties to put something, no matter how small, into an emergency account. If you have disagreements on how much, meet in the middle. If you are saving together, you are already doing better than 34% of the population.
Remember that fights will happen, but if you’re communicating about money, they will happen less frequently.