Thursday, April 5, 2018

Resolve Money Arguments

Fighting over money isn’t unusual. In fact it’s more common than you think.  Surveys have attested to this fact.  Concocting the ideal recipe, to repair a couple’s relationship broken because of money, isn’t easy. Certain methods are required to create meaningful conversations in order to make any progress. The ultimate goal is to live in peace and harmony without money woes to disrupt the home. If you find yourself in a stressful relationship, hunt for the secret ingredient that helps resolve arguments about money.  Here are a few thoughts and ideas.       

1.  Schedule a meeting in advance.  You might scoff at this crazy idea but think about it.  If spontaneous conversations about money haven’t worked in the past, always ending in the same result -- an argument -- wouldn’t this crazy idea be worth a shot?  Isn’t it better that everyone is prepared?   Emotions erupt when people are caught off guard.  Imagine opening a credit card statement. Suddenly your eyes detect an unexpected transaction for $300 to a clothing store or an automotive shop.  Or imagine the shock when your bank phones to advise that your joint chequing account is overdrawn.  Most likely you “hit the roof”.  Having a rational discussion at this point would hardly be the time. You need time to calm down.  Seeking rather than demanding an explanation will be well received by the accused when your emotions are in control rather than out of control.  When a meeting is scheduled and the agenda is known, people are not as likely to be on the defensive.  Consider creating an agenda about the issues that are tormenting your finances.  The first meeting will feel somewhat awkward.  You need to keep ironing the creases, meeting after meeting, until they run smoothly.  Attempt to schedule a meeting once a month to discuss the cost of current expenses, review bank and credit statements, and plan future expenditures.   Is the dishwasher on the fritz?  Does the truck need new tires? What’s the synopsis for the children’s tuitions?  Like any organization meeting, the agenda includes both old and new business.  I am certain you will never run out of things to talk about but you will run out of time to discuss all the things. All the more reason to table items for the next month’s meeting.

2.  Identify your beliefs about money and their origin.  Some beliefs stem from childhood experiences. You repeatedly may have been told by your parents, “Do you think money grows on trees?” leading you to believe money is scarce.  If money was continually lavished upon you, the belief may be you can buy whatever you want when you want. Imagine your spouse growing up in a totally different home environment than yours.  Can you see how your views about money can differ? Resolve to develop joint beliefs, the ones worth keeping in your relationship.  A simple detail may be calling your “budget” a “spending plan” because you dislike the connotation of budget, causing you to feel restricted.  A more complicated notion may be that your belief is vacations are a waste of money yet both may agree that in exchange for a vacation a hot tub will provide endless enjoyment all year around.  You may also conclude that “stay-cations” could be as much fun.

3.  Discuss your money management to determine what works and doesn’t work.  When managing your monthly expenses, read the blog, Do Joint Expenses Require Joint Accounts?  Discuss whether a change is necessary to the way you presently handle your finances. Try a new approach; review the process in a few months. If it’s not working, change the process again.  Learn as you go.  If one spouse cannot be trusted to manage the finances, then don’t put yourselves in that predicament. Recognize each other’s strengths and weaknesses to benefit both of you.

4.  Learn to be assertive. Assertive means respecting yourself and other people.  It is the ability to clearly express your thoughts and feelings through open honest and direct communication. This means learning how to talk appropriately. I had to learn this new approach. Start your sentences with the unselfish “I” statements.
I feel afraid we won’t be able to handle an emergency.
I am worried we are not saving enough for our children’s educations.
I am thrilled we saved for the down payment on our new home.
I am angry because I feel money is spent on needless things.  
If you would like to learn more about Assertiveness Training, click here.

5.  Consider writing a letter to your spouse. If you can’t express yourself verbally, try writing your feelings. Men and women are created differently.  If you are sincere about learning how to express your feelings, John Gray has a unique way to deal with your emotions.  

In a Feeling Letter, you want to be able to express your feelings of anger, sadness, fear, regret, and then love. My format allows you to fully express and understand all your feelings, so you can communicate those to the other person in a loving focused way.

6.  Provide a mutually supportive and positive learning environment.  This advice is part of the Toastmasters’ mission statement where people come together to develop their communication and leadership skills. If we are instructed to create this unique setting with strangers, then the same should be true in relationships with our loved ones. Most times, building relationships with strangers is easier than with our spouses. We don’t live and communicate daily with the new people on our block the same way we do with our better halves.  We may have been disappointed, angered, or provoked by their foolishness.  These repeated events lingering in our memories are difficult to erase. Therefore, being supportive under these conditions is difficult.  If we feel like that, is there a chance our partners may feel the same? Maybe we could do ourselves a favor.   One of the steps in Twelve Steps Recovery Program is to make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.  Is there some housecleaning we need to do within ourselves?  Do we harbor any resentment? Why do we become so easily angered? Are we approachable about money matters?  In order to create a supportive environment, we need to begin with ourselves.

Communication involves expressing your views about money clearly, discussing without any hidden agendas, and understanding your differences could be the “recipe” to strengthening your relationship. Your significant person has thoughts about how life should be enjoyed and how money should be spent.  As long as you can agree on certain specific points, you may release the remaining points and agree to disagree about the way every last penny should be spent.  Striking a balance between keeping your finances and relationship in check (or is that “in cheque”) is important.  Don’t stop hunting for the secret ingredient until you find it. When you do, please share.    

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