Honey, ain’t money funny? Sometimes, not so much.
As Valentine’s Day came and went, a couple struggled with questions about consumerism, the meaning behind gifts, and how money affected their relationship. Whether it was financial inequality, overspending, or miserliness (a la Scrooge), humor was hard to find at a time when they were surrounded by hearts-and-happiness messages.
What can couples do to have a better relationship with money? Following are 4 ideas.
As you try each one, it’s a good idea to plan a special fun reward or celebration at the end. The more you practice at these, the easier the conversations will get. You may find your differences become predictable, manageable, and even laughable.
Idea 1: Monthly Money Date
For monthly money dates, quickies are best. These are for checking the dashboard indicators in your household finances. Agree to limit the conversations to about 15 minutes.
Build in fun and humor by focusing on your progress, positive wins, and gratitude for what you’ve got so far. For big ideas and thorny issues, make a separate date to discuss those using one of the following 3 formats. Then move on to the “real” date part!
A 2 1/2 minute video on 3-Part Money Dates can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TWFKfF0vRQ.
Idea 2: 48-Hour Relationship Conference
No you don’t have to talk about money for 2 days. What a buzzkill!
Instead, in a Relationship Conference, each partner takes a turn being a pure listener to the other partner’s issues. Being the listener in a relationship conference means saying nothing while your partner talks. You can decide on the timeframe, but make it somewhere between 15 and 45 minutes. You can take notes.
After the first partner shares, take a break from anything money-related for 24 to 48 hours. Allow thoughts and feelings to arise to reflect on what you heard. Then reverse roles. This is the first partner’s turn to simply listen. Then wait again for whatever timeframe you decide – 24 to 48 hours.
Finally, take turns to summarize what feelings and issues came up. Make sure you give space for listening to each partner’s perspective, checking in to make sure you heard them well.
Remember to have an activity planned in advance to celebrate your ability to tackle tough stuff.
Idea 3: Take Turns Active Listening
Another option is to take turns all in one setting being the active listener. Active listening means being fully present to your partner’s issues and emotions without bringing up your own responses or emotions. (Tip: This is really hard for most people who have never done it before.)
You do this by
- repeating back what you heard,
- checking in to make sure you got it all (“Did I get it all?”), and
- asking to hear more about the emotions underlying each statement (“You said you felt excluded. Tell me more about that.”) Once your partner agrees they feel completely heard and understood, then it’s your turn.
- Again, remember to have something planned in advance to celebrate and give yourselves credit for your progress with active listening about money.
Idea 4: Ask For PracticeHelp
Are there some money issues in your relationship that seem too difficult to talk about on your own?
Sometimes each of these exercises work best if practiced with a counselor first. And that’s ok. Sometimes we need training wheels before we’re ready to ride the conversation bicycle on our own. Give yourselves the gift of an enhanced relationship by getting some professional tips on how to have a healthy conversation about money.
Finally Feel Free
Remember when you learned to let go of the bike’s handlebars? Imagine feeling that free in your relationship with money and each other. One’s Scrooge to the other’s spending might actually be something you learn to laugh about for years to come.
You know you’ve arrived when you find yourselves saying, “Honey, ain’t money funny?”
For more tips on the psychology of money, subscribe to our award-winning monthly e-letter, “The View From the Porch,” at https://bit.ly/3t2uwfn.
Or, check out Holly’s book: The Mindful Money Mentality: How To Find Balance in Your Financial Future.