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January 18, 2018

Why We Fight Over Money and How to Fix Financial Discussions

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According to new survey data, one-third of Canadians say they are no longer able to cover their monthly bills and debt payments — this figure represents an increase from 25 percent according to a survey conducted three months ago.

Half of the respondents report that they are within $200 of not being able to pay their bills and financial stress takes a toll on the relationship.

This morning I chatted with Jeff on Global TV’s The Morning Show about how couples can effectively communicate when it comes to finances. Check out the summary notes and video below.

1. Is it true that money is the number one cause of arguments in relationships?

It consistently tops the list along with kids, communication (not listening), family/in-laws, work, and sex.

2. Why do we fight about money?

  • Fights about money are often fuelled by underlying fears and insecurities – they’re about trust, communication, and power. When your partner is upset that you’ve spent too much, it may be triggering their fear that you’ll run out of money — and this fear may be irrational, but in a moment of high emotion, our ability to be rational is depressed. They might also be upset at the waste because of an experience or association between waste or lavishness and another vulnerable emotion. When it comes to money, we’re often hanging on to something in our past as opposed to really dealing with the present.

3. So how do we move into the present and talk more rationally about money?

  • First and foremost, if you’re among the 50% who are within $200 of not being able to pay your bills, you have to cut back.
  • But from a relationship perspective, there are two questions you can ask yourself: 1. What is my greatest fear when it comes to money? (What is the worst case scenario I imagine?) 2. What is my ultimate financial dream? (Try to avoid I’d like to win the lottery scenarios and be a bit more realistic). Write down your answer and share them with your partner. They can do the same and you can use this as a starting point for a fruitful financial discussion.

4. What should you do if you get in a fight about money?

1. Before you get in a fight, sit down and make a plan. It’s better to disagree in the planning stage than in the realization phase

2. Use the most important tool in your communication toolbox. A pause or a Hmmm… before you respond and end up in a fight

3. Accept from the outset that your financial disagreements are 50% your responsibility; everyone has the tendency to blame their partner (and we can all dig up the “evidence” that it’s their fault if we want to), but if you really want to resolve the issue, accept 50% responsibility from the onset. Let money problems be something you tackle together — couples who see a fight as something they have to conquer as a team are much happier than those who look for a winner and a loser.

4. Stop judging your partner. You are not the arbiter of what is financially worthwhile or wasteful, as financial values are subjective. Just because you don’t see value in a magazine subscription or club membership doesn’t mean you’re right, so try to find the value in their perspective.