Money fights just hit different.
There are a million and one things that could stir up a fight between you and your S.O. — sex, not spending enough time together, one half not doing their share of their chores — the list goes on and on. But when it comes to the top things couples squabble over that lead to splitsville, money ranks right up there near the top.
I talked to Elle Martinez, host of the Couple Money podcast, and Megan McCoy, a financial therapist, licensed marriage and family therapist, and director of the Personal Financial Planning Masters Program at Kansas State University, to weigh in on some of the common reasons couples bicker over money, and how to get past these stumbling blocks and work toward building a life together:
Money is a taboo topic. Money topics can be so hush-hush in our culture that we simply don’t know how to navigate financial conversations, explains McCoy.
When it comes to money, arguments with your partner are just different than other kinds of fights, says McCoy. For one, they tend to get more heated faster and are more drawn out than other issues.
Opposites attract (as proven by Paula Abdul and MC Skat Kat). It’s one of those strange phenomena, but spendthrifts can tend to be romantically attracted to savers, and vice versa.
We all have different money stories that influence our behavior. In short, a money story is the set of beliefs, perceptions, and attitudes we have about the mighty dollar.
Money is a finite resource. Unlike knowledge, creativity, and cat memes (which are infinite), we might be more prone to fight about money in a relationship because it’s a limited resource, explains McCoy.
And ironically, while money can create so much stress in a relationship and lead to breakups, couples may tend to downplay money fights, points out McCoy.
Plus, money fights are actually about other things. Peel back the layers on that fight you just had on how much to spend on the holidays, and you’ll find that arguments about money are really about what you each value and prioritize, says Martinez.
So now that we’ve gotten to the bottom of why couples can fight so much over money, let’s talk about how to work past these arguments and strike a balance:
Start by having regular money convos. Because we tend to slink away from talking about money in general, we often only talk with our S.O.s about finances when there’s a 911 situation, explains McCoy. “Because we’re under duress, it tends to be a not-fun-discussion about sacrifice.”
And create a spending plan together so both of you are on the same page.
You’ll definitely want to tether your goals to your values and priorities and then give these goals a specific timeframe, adds Martinez. “Start small with a three-year set of goals,” says Martinez. “That gives you a framework to begin aligning your budget together.”
Money apps can be your friends. Just like how money-splitting payment apps like Venmo and Splitwise can make it oh-so-much easier to ask your friends and fam to pay you back, make the most of money apps that let you track spending together and create shared goals.
And if these convos don’t go as you planned or you’ve hit a wall, consider working with a financial therapist, mental health professional, or financial pro who has experience working with couples.
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