We learn about money in school, but not about how to talk about it — and yet, it's one of the of biggest reasons why people argue in relationships.
One dynamic we often see in relationships is when one person is a spender, and the other is a saver. The spender might have years' worth of credit card debt or student loans, while the saver might have good credit and minimal or no debt. When two people have opposing views on finances, it can easily lead to conflict.
The first (and most crucial) step to avoiding a relationship disaster is to simply talk about it. When that moment comes, make sure you avoid these five common mistakes:
Timing is everything. If one partner seems particularly stressed after work, it might not be the right time to bombard them with bills and deadlines. Finding the right time is crucial to have the most productive conversation. You know your partner better than anyone, so pick a time when you know they'll be the most receptive. This will make the discussion more productive.
When couples argue over finances, it's typically because of what hasn't been discussed — plans that were not communicated, expectations that were not explained and assumptions that went unspoken. Simply addressing your concerns can prevent a lot of these arguments. While you might touch on some uncomfortable topics, it'll hopefully lead to a deep and fruitful conversation about things like your hopes for the future, retirement goals, worries, dream splurges, and so on.
According to a recent GOBankingRates survey, about a quarter of Americans lie to their partner about their finances. Needless to say, this can be a major source of contention. Whether it's about your income, spending habits, credit score or income, when you lie to your partner, you're also lying to yourself. The saying "what you don't know can't hurt you" doesn't apply to a healthy financial relationship. Being honest with yourself and your partner is one of the easiest ways to avoid arguments and hurting each other's feelings.
What's the point of having a conversation if you're both distracted and constantly interrupting each other? Instead of making your partner feel defensive or argumentative, let them know you're completely present. Make eye contact and put the phones away. Another tip is to repeat back what you heard to your partner from time to time. It shows that you're paying attention and ensures that you understood them correctly.
We all value money differently. What one person considers a bargain, the other might call expensive. The goal isn't to judge your partner's actions and behaviors, it's to have a clearer understanding of where they're coming from. A discussion about money is a discussion about values. When you know what your partner values, you can be a bit more compassionate about their decisions. And sometimes, you can simply agree to disagree.
Elle Kaplan is the founder and CEO of LexION Capital, a fiduciary wealth management firm in New York City. She is also the chief investment officer and founder of LexION Alpha. Follow her on Twitter @ellekaplan.
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