Getting on the “same page” with your spouse can be challenging. And no matter how long you’re married, there will inevitably come a time when you don’t wholeheartedly agree on finances. After all, financial history and values leave an indelible mark on your goals. Maybe opposites attract in the first place. But after the enamored “he or she is perfect” stage wears off, it is common to feel disillusioned… wondering what brought you together originally. (For related reading, see: Top 6 Marriage-Killing Money Issues.)
I’ll be celebrating my 10-year wedding anniversary in May 2017. My husband Bryan and I have very few squabbles over money. The secret to our success? Read on.
Set Savings Goals Together
This may be obvious, but it is hard to reach joint goals if you make plans individually. Even if you feel comfortable functioning as the Chief Financial Officer of the family, always get buy-in from your spouse on big money matters. Even if you deem a goal as important, he or she may consider it totally irrelevant. Simultaneously saving for numerous goals like retirement, kids’ education, vacations, tax payments, and other substantial expenses is hard. Don’t make it even more difficult by squabbling over the dollar amounts allocated to each goal. (For related reading, see: Setting Financial Goals for Your Future.)
Talk to any therapist and you probably know the most common reason relationships fall apart: communication, or lack thereof. It is easy to go on autopilot—believe me, I’m guilty too. But if you don’t take the time to re-evaluate goals, you won’t have any barometer to gauge progress. Consider setting a recurring meeting with your spouse to strictly discuss finances. Mark it on the calendar monthly, quarterly, or annually. Use your judgment on frequency. With so many family responsibilities, the temptation when you finally get time alone is to avoid financial discussions altogether. Plan separate date nights since it isn't fun to mix business and pleasure. (For related reading, see: How to Resolve Financial Friction With Your Spouse.)
Don't Assign Blame
It can be tempting to point the finger when your spouse makes a financial misstep. In times like these, I like to think back to the Biblical quote “whoever has not sinned [should] cast the first stone.” Acknowledge that no one is perfect (even you). We all have a fair share of regrets—financial or otherwise—and this is not the time to pass judgment.
Think Back to Happier Times
So you’ve been married a while and that initial love aura may be fading. That’s OK. Accept it and think back to the times when money wasn't as much of an issue. Any couple is bound to fall on hard times. It is tempting to look at the current situation and come to a complete halt in the relationship. Instead, step away to gain perspective. Perseverance and faith are key.
This may be unpopular, but I firmly believe in keeping all financial matters together as spouses. Fund joint, not individual accounts, for everything—recurring bills, entertainment, savings, etc. It keeps things simple. When there is so much complexity in this world, why settle for anything other than simple? (For related reading, see: 6 Ways Marriage Can Improve Your Finances.)