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Communicating about Money

Communicating about Money – We’ve heard it often enough (and it’s generally accepted) that money is one of the top three things couples fight about.  

If you find yourself constantly fighting about money with your partner, then it may be time to evaluate why.

Perhaps you are living in a financially abusive relationship but haven’t recognized that’s the situation yet. You may be able to uncover the truth behind the fighting.

If you’re in what would be called a healthy relationship, then maybe you just need to stop and figure out how to communicate better about money. Either way, pausing to evaluate what’s happening could be beneficial.

Let’s say you and your partner fight frequently about money. Start by figuring out if there is a pattern to it.  

  • Does it happen at the end of every month when the bulk of your bills come due?  
  • Does it happen just after payday because you don’t agree on what to do with the money coming in?  
  • Does it happen when you are under stress from something else in life?

Really dig in and think over the past 6 months or so. See if you can determine what the cause might be.  

If it’s always the same trigger, then you can drill into that specific issue.

For example, maybe you always fight when there is a big holiday coming up. Think it through. What do you do for the holidays? Do you always visit his family who doesn’t like you? If so, then you may be picking a fight because you’re stressed about the upcoming visit. Sit down and talk to your partner about the way his family treats you. Ask him to intervene or at least defend you if they start picking on you. This might alleviate the stress you feel and reduce your anxiety. Then you can focus on communicating more rationally about your finances.

If there’s a pattern and you can identify the root cause, then you can address the issue and talk about it calmly at an appropriate time.

If it seems that there is no logical or understandable reason for the constant fighting, then I would suggest you evaluate if he is picking fights to avoid addressing what may be real money problems.  

Sometimes, especially in a financially abusive relationship, fighting may be a way to keep the truth about what’s happening from coming out.

If you suspect there’s more going on than he’s divulging, you may want to quietly do whatever you can to determine if he is being honest with you about how money is being spent. He may be trying to hide overspending, excessive debt, or some other problem from you.

Either way, whether there is a trigger or there doesn’t seem to be, talking about money should only be done when you are both calm and emotionally available to have a conversation.  

  • Don’t jump on him the minute he walks in the door tired.
  • Don’t try to bring it up before bed when you’re both trying to relax.  
  • Don’t try to talk when either of you is impaired by alcohol or other substances.  
  • Don’t try to talk when one of you is rushing to get out the door.
  • Don’t have a conversation in front of the kids, no matter their ages.

Schedule a time that is convenient and you can both be fully present. Setting aside time when you can both focus your attention on the conversation and stay rational and calm is best.  

Don’t try to discuss the money itself; discuss why you have trouble talking about it.

Listen to one another and be open to why it might be difficult for the other person. Perhaps he was raised in a family where his parents fought about money, and he just does it out of a habit he picked up. Maybe he doesn’t even realize that it’s unhealthy or that it bothers you.

It might be that he is stressed because he is the person designated to handle the finances and things just aren’t working, but he is afraid to tell you. 

Men are ingrained to provide and if they feel like they are failing at it, it can be a real blow to their egos. So tread gently.

Communicating about Money
Communicating about Money

If you feel like you aren’t heard when you express your opinion or would feel more comfortable if you lived below your means and were able to save so you have an emergency cushion, then you need to express that. Sometimes we are afraid to express what the cause of stress for us is and if our partner doesn’t know it, they can’t possibly accommodate our needs.

By talking, you may find that you aren’t aware of each other’s money styles.  

Generally, one person is likely to be more of a spender and the other to be more of a saver. Just knowing those differences can help reduce the fighting if you can compassionately discuss the differences and compromise on how you handle your joint finances.

All that said, if you try to schedule a quiet time for a rational conversation and you get yelled at for suggesting it, then you may be looking at a deeper problem.  

Statistically, 99% of women who are experiencing other forms of abuse will also be subjected to financial abuse.

Are you in an abusive relationship? If so, then talking rationally about money will likely be impossible. If there is a bigger issue, then tackling it first will be imperative.  

Expecting to have a stable financial life within an unstable relationship is unrealistic.

Communicating about Money rationally should be possible if the relationship is healthy. Talk about your money triggers, your stress around having money conversations, and your personal money story and style. It will help you overcome most challenges faced when sharing finances. If you try but get serious resistance, then you may be facing a more difficult situation.

Sherry Lutz Herrington is the owner of Sherrington Financial Fitness, a business consulting and accounting firm specializing in strategic business planning and solid financial accounting for businesses. She is also the author of Strong Women Thriving (, a blog which focuses on empowering women to be financially savvy, particularly after experiencing financial abuse. Sherry is currently writing a new book that both shares her personal story and addresses financial abuse. She can be reached at Join our FB group

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