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Imagine talking with your spouse about money. Everything seems to be going normally, but then the conversation takes an unexpected turn. Now you’re at odds with the person you love the most—again.
Or maybe money conversations in your house are drama free, but there’s an underlying tension that only creeps to the surface every now and then.
Budget battles can take all shapes and sizes. It’s an expected bill that hits at just the wrong time—or a loan to a family member. It’s a purchase you just don’t think the family needs right now—or one you’re sure you do. But the source of the struggle isn’t nearly as important as knowing how to navigate the storm.
In marriage, effective budgeting means couples make time each month for face-to-face budget meetings. And those don’t happen without lots of conversation.
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Related: Find out more about our new one-night event, Money and Marriage, featuring money expert Rachel Cruze and relationship expert Dr. Les Parrott.
More communication is awesome. In fact, couples who work together on their money can see incredible results beyond the budgeting sheet. They can nurture troubled marriages and strengthen healthy marriages. But even the best budget meeting can’t eliminate all of the tensions that produce good, old-fashioned money fights.
So, since you can’t avoid occasional financial dustups, you might as well learn how to make the most of them. Here are five tips for ensuring your family’s money fights remain fair fights.
1. Recognize—and be okay with—your differences.
You already know men and women are different. But being different isn’t bad. In fact, it’s really important. So recognize you and your spouse respond to things differently—then use that to maintain balance during your money talks. And don’t just hear their concerns; really listen to them and look for the truth in what they say. As Rachel Cruze says in Love Your Life, Not Theirs, “You are not the only one with a perspective on the issues. That can be easy to forget. That’s why it’s important to listen first and speak later.”
2. Focus on the real enemy
Hint: It’s not your spouse, so stop putting a target on his or her back. Instead, zero in on the problem and work together to find a solution. Dave Ramsey calls this “budgeting from the same side of the table,” and it’s vital for making progress on money issues. Remember: You’re a team, so keep the fight focused on the real opponent.
3. Avoid wild exaggerations.
Two of the most dangerous words in any marriage fight—about money or something else—are never and always. It’s really easy to fall back on “you never do this” or “you always do that.” But most of the time, those accusations are based more on emotion than reality. Don’t fall into that trap. Keep the room temperature at a reasonable level by refusing to drift toward extremes.
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4. Don’t be afraid of compromise.
You might think compromise is a dirty word, but it’s not. While you never want to compromise your integrity or wreck your financial plan, meeting in the middle can lead to a great solution. Marriage is all about give and take, so stay on the same page by allowing a little wiggle room on tough topics.
5. Keep the end in mind.
As a couple, you know where you are right now. And you should have a shared vision for where you want to be. So don’t let the immediate conflict erase the progress you’ve made or derail your dreams for the future. Start every financial discussion with the end in mind—and never let your fights move you off that foundation.
Money is an emotional topic, and how you deal with it will affect your family tree for generations to come. You might not be able to avoid every money fight in your marriage, but you can learn to fight fair.
And that can spell the difference between moving forward and getting stuck in a budgeting rut.
Invest in a date night that could change your life! Money expert Rachel Cruze and relationship expert Dr. Les Parrott have tag-teamed to speak at Money and Marriage, our new one-night event that will help you and your spouse get on the same page about money.
Rachel Cruze is a seasoned communicator and #1 best-selling author, helping Americans learn the proper ways to handle money and stay out of debt. Her best-selling book, Love Your Life, Not Theirs, released in October of 2016. You can follow Rachel on YouTube, Facebook, or online at rachelcruze.com.
Dr. Les Parrott
Dr. Les Parrott, psychologist and #1 New York Times best-selling author, is the creator of the "game changing" Deep Love Assessment. Les has been featured on Oprah, Today Show, CNN, Fox News, The View, and in USA Today and The New York Times. Les is a professor of psychology at Northwest University and he and Leslie are the co-founders of the Center for Healthy Relationships on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University. You can follow Les on Twitter at @LesParrott, online at LesandLeslie.com, or at facebook.com/lesandleslieparrott.