How to Get You and Your Partner on the Same Financial Page

You and your significant other have been bickering for weeks about money. Finally, there’s a knockdown, drag out argument until midnight about who is spending on what, for what reason, and about “who’s right”.  It leaves the two of you exhausted, angry, and bitter towards each other with no resolution to the $10,000 question: Where is our money going?

Sound familiar?

I’ve been there and done it. Over and over again.

According to an article from The Insider, arguing and money problems are 2 of the top 5 reasons married couples file for divorce…. and the 2 seem to go hand in hand don’t they? Lol 😊

How Money Problems Can Amplify Marital Problems

The consequences of not being on the same page is vast, broad, and can lead to divorce. IMO, money problems can augment problems that already existed in the relationship. On the flip side, resolving the money problems can actually improve the overall marital relationship.

How is that?

The reason for this is the skills the couple learns to resolve the money problems can be applied to other parts of the marriage.

For example, if the couple is having issues communicating with each other about simple things (i.e. who is supposed to wash the dishes tonight), you can bet there a strong probability that they are also having issues deciding the priorities for how money is to be spent. It’s likely each person has their own views on what is “important” and strong opinions why they are “right”.  This doesn’t mean that each person is incorrect in having their own opinion or if that opinion is right or wrong. The $10,000 question that should be asked by each person is, “Am I doing what’s right for us?”

Most Important Lesson I Learned

The most important lesson I learned about marriage came from a marriage counselor we worked with. Early in our marriage, my wife and I struggled alot with communication and priority setting. As a result, not only were our finances a mess, our marriage was in shambles. Finally, we knew that we needed some professional help so we decided to work with a marriage counselor.

The first thing she did in our first session was to sit each of us down on a separate couches that made us face each other about 10 feet apart. In this open space between us, the marriage counselor then sat in a chair and started talking.

She explained that when a couple exchanges vows and commits to marriage a 3rd person is created which she called “the marriage”. It’s like the “1st baby” every couple creates when they get married. 😊

“The marriage” needs to be treated as a separate entity in which each person is responsible for nourishing, maintaining, and protecting it. Like a baby, “the marriage” needs love, nurturing, and understanding to grow and thrive. Without it, the marriage will die.

If “the marriage” dies, each person is responsible for this occurring and each person needs to be held accountable. End of story.

This perspective was a game-changer and completely changed our mindset. No longer was it about “me vs you”, it was about “how do we take care of the marriage”?

Now, things weren’t instantly “magical” or even rosy right away. We still fought and argued for awhile. We still had problems but slowly, surely, things started to change for the better.

My mindset started to change from what I thought was the right thing for me to do to “what is right for us to do”. I noticed my wife started to change as well. No longer was I hearing the constant nagging and criticizing. Instead she started to ask for clarification and wanted my feedback. In our own ways, we were admitting to our mistakes and stepping up to make things right.

This mindset change trickled into how we managed our finances. My wife became more interested in hearing my ideas on right-sizing the mess we found ourselves in. She became more invested in how we managed our money instead of placing the responsibility on me. Through some trial-and-error, we developed a system for managing the finances that is working for us. I manage the bulk of the finances except the groceries/gifts/ clothing portion of the budget. She manages that portion since she does the majority of the shopping for these items.

I firmly believe that if we hadn’t sought marital help, we wouldn’t have resolved our financial issue or wouldn’t be a couple today.

The Benefits

Taking care of “the marriage” has a lot of benefits.

Learn to Listen

One of the first things I noticed was that we started to listen to each other more intently. We listened to understand instead of to defend our respective position and assign blame. Learning to listen leads to understanding what is important to each other and understanding each other’s point of view.

Attuning to Each Other’s Needs

Another benefit of taking care of “the marriage” is attuning to each other’s needs. Looking back on our marriage, I honestly had no idea what my wife’s needs were. I assumed I knew but I really didn’t. What I really was doing was reflecting what my needs were onto her assuming we had identical needs. We didn’t. In hindsight, she did the same thing too! 😊

Getting attuned to each other’s needs enabled us to vocalize what each of us needed to be successful, to be appreciated, and to be heard.

Development of Common Goals

A final benefit is having alignment towards common goals. During this process, I realized that my wife’s goals were much different than my own. I realized that part of the problems we were experiencing was that we weren’t aligned in our goal setting. We were on 2 totally different pages.

I wanted to retire early, buy an RV, and travel the country. I have literally worked my entire life and have not had the opportunity to travel and see the world. This was really important to me.

She wanted to go back to school and get a PhD. She didn’t want to travel the country since her parents did that with her (with an RV no less! 😊) when she was growing up.  Getting her PhD was more important that traveling the country.

A trickle down effect of getting on the same financial page also meant that we had to align our goals. Aligning goals was a natural consequence for us since it forced us to understand the others’ point of view, to ask for clarification for things we did not understand, and to respect each other’s opinions.

We didn’t necessarily like what the other person had to say but to align on our goals we learned that we needed to appreciate what the other person had to say.

How To Get On The Same Page

Getting on the same page sounds easy but can be REALLY hard and frustrating especially if the couple has had unsuccessful attempts in the past. Here’s my advice for working together to get on the same page:

Take Care of “The Marriage”

As I mentioned earlier, the first thing a person needs to realize is that there is you, your spouse / partner, and the relationship (to be consistent, we will call it “the marriage”). “The marriage” needs to be protected at all costs. It needs to be treated like an infant that needs nurturing and protecting from both parents in order to grow and blossom.

I’m not going to lie, it was a HUGE mentality shift for the both of us. We still struggled and fought for awhile. However, slowly and surely, change occurred. Give yourself the latitude to try, to make mistakes, to learn from them, and then try again. Persistence is the key because it’s a process. It won’t be perfect right away. Keeping working at it to get “the marriage” where it needs to be.

Understand Each Other’s Communication Style

Understand your partner’s communication style is paramount to success. Miscommunication or misunderstanding a person’s communication style can lead to conflict, unmet expectations, and inconsistent direction. That’s why it is important to know how to communicate with them.

This was one of our biggest stumbling blocks. It took me years to figure out my wife’s communication style. For years, I thought her learning style was strictly verbal. She acted like she was understanding our discussions and only after some deep talks did I realize that it wasn’t making any sense to her.

Once I discovered that she was more of a visual learner, things really started to click. I made up a spreadsheet summary that showed what we were making and what we were spending. Once I showed her the in’s and out’s of our finances, she really started to understand the situation. Take the time to learn your partner’s communication style to alleviate those communication barriers.

Learn How Partner Handles Stress

Something a lot of people do not talk about when assessing how to get on the same page with your partner is how they handle stressful situations. Everybody is different and reacts in different ways. Sane and rational people can turn into irrational lunatics when under stress. On the flip side, unfocused people can develop laser beam-like focus when under stress.

The keys to handling stressful situations with your partner is to first understand what triggers them, how they react to stress, and how to ensure the situation doesn’t escalate to that point. Let me start first by saying that this also took a lot of trial and error and I was unsuccessful in identifying her stress triggers for a long time.

Once I did figure it out though, it helped our relationship tremendously. Let me give you an example. Under stress, my wife will go into what I call “ostrich-mode”. She will literally bury her head in the proverbial sand hoping the problem will go away by itself. This caused us to have some “financial quarrels”.

Understanding this and knowing the triggers helped us to have fruitful conversations and avoid the pitfalls we kept on reliving over and over again.

Understand Each Other’s Motivations

Lastly, understanding yours and your partners motivations are vital for success because each person need to be vested and together take responsibility for the situation that has occurred. Motivation is the key to owning the situation and working towards resolution. Think about what’s most important to each of you and how money can help accomplish what you want.

Money is tied to our most basic survival instincts. Learn how to use this to your advantage. Be vested in getting out of the situation you are in and own it. The two of you got yourself in this situation and together the two of you can get out of it. Unifying around the problem that was created as well as the solution that was developed can be a powerful motivating tool that can literally move mountains.

Understanding each other’s motivations also indirectly attunes to their needs as well.

Wrap Up

In order to have a great relationship with finances, a couple needs to have a great relationship with each other.

If partners are not on the same page, they end up either working towards conflicting goals or traveling very different paths toward the same goals. Being on differing paths precipitates unhappiness and culminates into fighting, arguing, and overall dissatisfaction with the relationship.

On top of that, spouses will have more difficulty solving problems and coping with life’s challenges when they are on different pages.

Making a great relationship relies on taking care of ”the marriage”, understanding each other’s communication styles, how each of you handle stress, and understanding each other’s motivations.

If both sides of the relationship understand how to think of the other first, then half of the battle is won.

Remember, our greatest difficulties bring us closer together because we are supposed to help heal each other.

Live the Life You Love, Want, and Deserve! 😊