Money remains the number one thing couples argue about – but it doesn’t have to be that way, says Dr. Dale Atkins, a psychologist and author of From the Heart.
It might seem harder than ever to keep the lines of communication open in a relationship – the stress about bills and money is higher than ever and the holidays will only compound that – but Atkins suggested some simple steps any couple can take to keep the financial partnership strong even when times are tight.
For one, remember why you married them, Atkins said. Whomever you’re with, you chose to be with them for a reason - because you loved them; because they gave you a sense of security. So don’t forget that when it comes time to sit down and hash out the bills. Withdrawing rather than opening up to one another is an inherent symptom of couples with money trouble, Atkins said.
If your partner is keeping financial secrets – spending more than they should and not being open about it, for instance – communication is especially important, according to Atkins. Be forgiving, empathetic and honest with each other. It is the holiday season, after all.
When it comes to making money decisions together, many couples have disparate attitudes. Your husband of wife might be a risk-averse saver while you’re more likely to take risks in the market. These incongruent styles might have worked fine in the past, when the economic security wasn’t so fleeting, but now you may find yourself fighting over your different styles and which is best for the family a lot more often. That’s normal, Atkins said. We use money as a tool of control; if you control the purse strings, it feels like you control the family. But that’s becoming less and less true these days. The key to being partners in money as well as partners in love, according to Atkins, is to be able to make open agreements on how you will discuss and make purchases. Give each other autonomy but put limits in place as well. Working as a team will further strengthen your family as well as your wallet.