Yes, money is hard to talk about, especially when you’re talking about it with your significant other and especially when those conversations get tense. Of course, there’s no perfect way to engage in conflict, but there are some ways that are significantly less perfect than others. Here are a few of the most common mistakes couples make when arguing about money.
1. They Get Passive Aggressive
If you’re going to start a conversation with your spouse about money, it’s a good not to start with any of the following phrases “I’m confused, it says here [looking at your bank account]; “Listen, I’m not mad, but”; “Don’t get all offended by what I’m about to say …”
Look, talking about money is awkward. But, how we handle our money is a sign of deeper values and issues—our pasts, our personalities, our desires and more. Confronting someone about their money habits—especially if that person is your spouse—can be deeply personal.
Don’t beat around the bush. Be direct. Be honest. Be assertive. But don’t be passive aggressive; that’s just going to make things awkward and isn’t going to set the tone you want to have to approach a serious conversation.
Looking for a way to break the ice with coming across as a jerk? Check out this app, that has a bunch of ways that you can learn to talk more about money—and your relationship—without getting all weird.
2. They Get Hypocritical
There’s a piece of ancient wisdom that says, “ First cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
In modern terms, guys, don’t get mad at your wife’s new shoes when you just spent $80 at Top Golf.
These seems basic, but good financial habits need to start with you—not your spouse. Be willing to honestly examine your own habits and values first. Money is just about how much you make, spend and save. It’s much deeper than that. Before you ask your spouse to get honest about money, be willing to look at yourself, and understand the areas where you need to improve.
3. They Remain Vague
Having a big talk about money, saving, debt and spending is a great start. Talks about money—and things we value—can often lead to even deeper discussions about core relationship issues. But, if you have tangible goals for financial lives (which you probably should), than it’s a mistake to not take the next step: Actually creating a plan.
It’s important not only address your feelings about money, but also figure out ways to make sure you and your spouse can both get on the same page. Take a course that can help you learn more about each other, and how you handle money.
(This one actually pays you $10 if you go throw it and it doesn’t help.) Take a financial assessment to learn specific next steps and know how to accurately assess your current financial situation and set—and meet—long-term goals.
Creating a plan with specific steps and goals might seem intimidating, but with the right tools, it doesn’t have to be.
4. They Aren’t Realistic
If you have a few thousand dollars in credit card debt, student loans and are still at the beginning stages of your career, it’s probably not realistic to sit your spouse down and announce your plan for you both to retire as millionaires in three years. There’s nothing wrong with being ambitious, but, failing to be realistic might lead to discouragement or even recklessness (just ask those people that bought a bunch of Bitcoin at the wrong time).
Want to eliminate your debt? Don’t commit to eating nothing but Ramen and a 15-lb tub of frozen Bagel Bites you purchased at a Costo sale (your arteries will thank you later), or attempting to build your “tiny house” in your parents driveway (the neighborhood association will thank you later). Find a tool or resource that can help you approach debt realistically and responsibly.
Want to build wealth? Attempting to master the art of card counting or winning America’s Got Talent with a by learning to juggle baby alligators might not be the most realistic strategy. Learn how to set a firm foundation with core principles, and set yourself up for long-term financial success—not get-rich-quick jackpots (though, knowing how to juggle baby alligators would be a cool thing to do at parties).