6 Fixes for Marital Money Problems

Jeanne Sager
3

money on the tableMoney talks, but it turns out most of us aren't having money talks before we get hitched.

And we wonder why the divorce rate in America is a punchline?

A new survey from ZenDough.com found only a quarter of the respondents even talked about the almighty dollar before the wedding and created a budget.

So how do you actually center the conversation on dollars and cents?

The Stir asked psychotherapist Dr. Tina Tessina, PhD, a former accountant and author of Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage how to make money talks productive.

1. Treat Your Marriage Like a Business:

"If you and your partner tend to think the business end of a relationship is not a romantic topic for courtship, you may not discuss it until you can’t avoid it, and then you fight," says Tessina. "You may not think of your marriage as a business deal, but a huge part of it is just that. Just like a business, a marriage takes in income, pays expenses, and is supposed to have a little profit (savings) left over.

"Family members are somewhat like workers, when they do maintenance, chores, and homework, and somewhat like clients, who receive services from the partners, Mom, and Dad. Mom and Dad are the Chief Operating and Financial Officers, who must figure out how to allocate the funds coming in, and how to provide the necessary guidance and services to their children and to each other," she adds.

2. Don’t React -- Respond:

"Neither of you would argue with the boss, colleagues at work, or a child's teacher the way you argue with each other," Tessina points out. "Instead of saying the first thing that occurs to you, such as criticism or blaming, stop and think of a response more likely to lead to a discussion of the problem, rather than an argument."

3. Use Positive Manipulation:

Not all manipulation is deceitful, Tessina says.

"When you present an idea or solution, think about what your spouse would like about it, and lead with that," she suggests. 

For example: “Honey, you know that new car you’ve been wanting? I think I have a way for us to get it. We could take out some equity on the house to renovate the kitchen, we could get your new car, and the interest would be so much cheaper than a car loan.”

"This is truthful, thoughtful, and clearly shows the husband how both of their wants can be taken care of, so it’s more likely to get a positive response," Tessina explains.

4. Have a Formal Meeting:

"Don’t expect to be able to discuss finances successfully while you’re on the run, when it’s late at night, or while watching TV," she says. "Instead, make a date for discussing finances, and take the time to sit down together, with all the proper information, and discuss your needs, wants, and means."

5. Take Finances Seriously:

Healthy businesses keep a close eye on the bottom line. In marriage, this means being careful about your money, but also not using money as a weapon against each other, or being irresponsible about it. A successful, happy marriage requires that both partners act like grownups.

Disagreements are normal; it's how you manage them that counts.

6. Check in Regularly:

"As you do in business, have a brief check-in as frequently as possible," Tessina suggests. "In the morning or the night before, compare your daily schedules. Even if the things on your schedule don’t really involve your spouse, mention them, so that each of you will know if you’re facing anything important or challenging in the day ahead.

"When you follow these guidelines for handling money together, you’ll understand each other better, and you’ll both understand your goals and feel more motivated to follow the plans you make."

A third of the respondents in the ZenDough survey said they don't know their partner's credit score -- do you know yours?

 

Image via emdot/Flickr

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