“I just can’t talk to you about this any more!” Never mind going into another room. I was on the other side of the suburb before I’d calmed down, after yet another blow up with my husband about our finances. If you’re wondering how to avoid money arguments, here’s how we learned to get past the conflict and into alignment when it comes to the money stuff.
I can still remember so vividly how it felt, that particular day. I was hurt, frustrated, and confused. I even wondered if this meant the end of our relationship.
What was most maddening was that for the most part we agreed about money. We knew we had aligned long-term goals and our thoughts about money in general were pretty similar. I knew that something had to change.
Finding a way through the financial storms
Years later, my husband and I are working in our third business together, having navigated big financial hurdles like becoming parents, moving countries, and buying property.
These days, I’m pleased to report that our money conversations always end with us both in the same room – even if we’re not always on the same page. So I wanted to share the things I’ve learned that have made all the difference in our interactions on the topic.
Whether it’s your boss, mum, best friend or partner, here’s how to have productive, effective conversations about money.
5 keys to helping you avoid money arguments
1. Be aware and gentle
For many of us, money is an area of emotional or psychological wounding. Questions of how much we earn or what’s left over at the end of the month recall unconscious judgments in our minds about all kinds of things. This is really normal – almost all of us get tripped up by this from time to time.
What that means is that money conversations start to feel really personal. Statements the other person makes can easily feel like criticism, for example, even if they weren’t intended that way.
The first step then, is to be aware that this is likely to be true. If money comes up, know that this might become a tricky conversation and check in with yourself – is now the time to talk about this? Are you already feeling tender or tense?
Put it into action:
- Understand that money can be a source of tension
- Prepare for conversations about money ahead of time
- Recognise that money talk can feel like it’s personal, even when it’s not intended that way
2. Know what’s yours
Aside from the numbers, it’s vital to know what’s yours on an emotional level. What do I mean by that? Well, a lot of the conflict that arises about money can actually come from within us. For example…
They say: “I think we should have a chat about setting up a joint account for shared bills”
You hear: “You’re terrible with money – I can’t trust you to handle your finances on your own”
You say: “Stop trying to control everything!”
They say: “How much did you say that retreat was going to cost?”
You hear: “You’re spending too much on extravagant things that don’t matter”
You say: “It’s up to me what I spend my money on – I don’t criticise you for the crap you waste your pay on!”
Hmm… it’s not hard to see how arguments flare up, right?
Becoming aware of the stuff money conversations bring up for us can open up awareness of deeper things that need healing, for example an area you feel especially defensive about, or a particular person whose criticism had a big effect on you in the past.
What’s important is that, when you are aware of these issues, you take responsibility for changing them. What’s yours to deal with? What do you need support from a coach or mentor around?
And remember, the other person might not be on this journey with you. It’s not your job to point out their limiting beliefs or identify what they need to work on. Approach the conversation with compassion, and deal with what’s yours – no more.
Put it into action:
- Discern what issues you need to deal with when it comes to money
- Seek external support where you need to – from a coach, financial expert, or trusted friend
- Recognise what’s not your responsibility, and let it go
3. Choose your timing
Remember, our first step was being aware that conversations about money can be tender. Knowing that, it’s smart to have them at the right time.
That could include being aware of your cycle, for example. Now, before you think I’m some monster who thinks women are incapable of rational thought, hear me out.
In my own life I know that 7 days before my period comes, I could swear that the world is ending and there’s nothing you, I, or anyone else can do about it. That can actually be an incredibly powerful day for me – I sure as hell get clear on the change I want to make in the world – but it’s also a terrible day for me to have a conversation with anyone.
Knowing that, if I’m aware I need to have an important conversation about something like money I’ll do my best to shift it to a day when I’m likely to be feeling much clearer.
That won’t be the same for everyone, of course, but I wonder if any of that applies to you? Do you know you’re better able to be open, compassionate or empathetic at certain times of the month? Bear that in mind when you make an appointment to discuss your finances.
And make sure you take the other person’s needs into account too – allow them to tell you when would suit them, instead of springing it on them at a time when they’re not really ready.
Put it into action:
- Choose a time when you’re both fed, rested and hydrated
- Find a space where you won’t be disturbed or interrupted
- Take into account your own rhythm and emotional needs
4. Be respectful in your communication
Sticking to some basic principles of clear and respectful communication is so important when the topic is an emotional one. Always seek to hear the other person out without interruption. You don’t want to be nagged, so don’t nag either.
And make an effort to find things to celebrate together – focus on what’s working, as well as what you want to change.
Put it into action:
- Be respectful – don’t interrupt or nag
- Notice when it’s time to take a break
- Listen curiously and give space for the other person to say what they need to
5. Be clear about what you’re looking for
Now that you’ve chosen the best possible time and place, and you’re aware of what’s your responsibility, it’s time to communicate as clearly as possible what you want to share.
For the best possible outcome, try and recognise what’s driving both of you in the conversation. One of you might be more interested in feeling connected and loved, or seeking reassurance, and one of you might be looking for problems and tasks to solve.
What’s vital is that you’re clear about what it is you’re both looking for.
Put it into action:
- Start by giving the point of the conversation for you – not the big long story that precedes it
- Ask for what you need; leave them to decide the “how” of solving it, if that’s something they’re keen to do
- Allow yourself to be receptive – if they agree with what you’re saying, there’s no need to keep on convincing them
Not being able to talk about money holds us back
It’s really important that we are able to move into more powerful conversations. In all the women I’ve coached and connected with over the years, I’ve noticed that the people who are most comfortable talking about finances tend to be the ones with the highest level of wealth.
In fact, I’d go as far as to say that your net worth increases in direct relation to your ability to talk to key people in your life about money.
How about you?
These steps have played a huge part in Greg and I sorting out our differences and getting to a stage where we can actually enjoy money conversations. Has money been a source of tension for you, and do you have an experience to share? Let us know in the comments.
If money is a problem for you – not just in conversations but also in terms of what you have or haven’t got – and you’re ready to get sorted so you can talk about it confidently, get in touch to find out about our financial training. If money feels like a challenge,we’ll help you turn it into an ally – so that you can feel truly powerful about where you are and what your next steps are.
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