Talking finances without the fight

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Spending differences can be traced to differing perspectives

By Doug Milem

Finances. It has the power to create stress and division in any relationship. Discussing the monthly budget can result in tension even in the best, most stable marriage.

The Huffington Post conducted a study of 1,000 married couples to explore what couples fight about the most. The results showed that 27 percent of arguments in these marriages stemmed from finances. More than in-laws, children, housing, chores, work, etc., finances ranked highest out of every topic in the entire study.

But there is hope. Having a financial discussion with your spouse does not have to result in frustration. There are some key aspects that, if recognized, can actually change this very tense subject into a positive communication experience that can even give way to dreaming and planning together for your family’s future.

To navigate this topic with ease, obstacles need to be recognized and addressed. The biggest one is that men and women view finances differently. When talking with couples in pre-marital counseling or marriage mentoring, I have the couples individually fill out a questionnaire regarding their views on money. The results are almost always the same.

Men typically view money as a way to provide and entertain. Things like saving or planning don’t fall into their natural rhythm unless there is a specific purpose attached. Men are typically excited to save when the result is a new car or house or whatever the item may be. Men are more inclined to plan and budget when there is a goal in mind.They want something to show for their saving efforts.

Women are on the other end of the spectrum. They typically view money as a source of safety and security. They want to know there is enough money to pay all the bills, provide food and have a roof over their heads at night. Women are not as likely to be concerned with saving for a certain purpose. Instead, they are interested in saving money for assurance purposes. The peace of mind that comes from having a buffer to fall back on in life is extremely important to women. Women typically cringe at the thought of watching the money they worked hard to save leave the bank account, even when it leaves for the purpose it was saved for.

Arguments surrounding finances are, many times, a result of two people speaking different languages about the same thing. When a couple can recognize this and learn to respect their spouse’s point of view, they can begin to find a middle ground between differing priorities and perspectives. When a husband recognizes that a sense of security is important to his wife, he can begin to look at finances through a perspective of providing that security. Similarly, when a woman can see that taking a risk is important to her husband, she can start looking at finances through his perspective and have some fun with it.

Finding this middle ground allows a couple to enter into the conversation of finances from a place of agreement and mutual respect. This lets a couple address finances without tension and argument. It does not mean you won’t disagree with your spouse. But it does mean that you will respect your spouse’s position when you disagree. And more times than not, this is more important than agreeing.

Doug Milem is a certified life coach and marriage mentor who lives in Phoenix, Ariz., where he is part of Axiom Church, a USMB church plant in Glendale, Ariz. He and his wife, Megan, have been married for five years and are in the process of adopting their first child.

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