The following blog post is excerpted with permission from Angela Sasseville’s award winning book, Families Under Financial Stress. Angela Sasseville, MA, LPC, NCC, is a licensed psychotherapist and life coach and Director at Flourish Counseling and Coaching in Denver. She’s spent the last ten years showing adults and couples how to strengthen their relationships and achieve greater peace of mind.
Couples have strong emotional reactions to one another. They also tend to have a lot of emotions regarding their financial situation, especially if they’re going through some financial stressors. So it’s no surprise then that it’s challenging for couples to have productive conversations about money that don’t get derailed by strong emotional reactions. Here are 4 strategies that can help:
1. Connect with Each Other Before Addressing Stressful Issues
Many adults call their partners in the middle of the workday when a new financial problem has arisen and they are feeling anxious. The partner on the other end if often caught off guard by this abrupt attempt to connect over a stressful issue. Many of these issues can wait to be addressed later, at home. If you feel the urge to connect with your partner during the day, try connecting around a positive issue. Discuss something lighthearted or humorous. Then let your partner know that there is an important issue you need to address with them later. When couples are reunited at the end of a day, whether or not they reconnect with one another emotionally can make or break the family household dynamics for the rest of the evening. Make a conscious effort to greet on another in the evening, sharing eye contact and a hug or a kiss. By pausing for a mere minute to give one another your undivided attention, you are allowing yourselves to emotionally reconnect before you are swept up in your evening responsibilities. Communication flows more easily when couples spend at least a few minutes reconnecting with one another before launching into a conversation about any stressful issue. If the issue can wait to be discussed at the dinner table or after the kids are in bed, then bench the conversation until then.
2. Request What You Do Want, Instead of Complaining About What You Don’t Want
A request such as, “Can you please help me balance the budget by cutting back on your spending?” will be better received than a criticism such as “I can’t believe how much you spent!” When you are aware of what the issue is, make a polite request using statements beginning with the word “I” to help you phrase why something is meaningful to you. If you know arguments easily ignite when money is brought up, be mindful of the words you chose. For example, “I really appreciate it when you help me pay the bills. It would be a relief to me if you would help every week.” Be wary of using statements that begin with the word “you.” They are an indicator that you may be using inflammatory language, particularly when coupled with words that blame and criticize your partner. For example, “You haven’t helped me pay the bills in weeks.” 3. Schedule Regular Money Management Meetings with Your Partner It generally serves the needs of both partners when a couple agrees to sit down and work on their finances together at regularly scheduled times. One partner often feels reassured that their partner will soon connect with them on these issues. The other will likely feel relieved that they will not be constantly ambushed with financial problems between meetings. Predetermine the days and times you will have your meetings and then put the meetings on your calendar to ensure follow through. You can meet weekly, monthly or quarterly depending on your household’s situation.
4. Define the Roles Each of You Will Have in Managing Your Money
It will serve your relationship well if you approach the situation as a team and keep one another informed. By working together, you can identify your individual strengths. Use these strengths to your advantages as you determine the roles each of you will take. Clarify who will pay the bills, manage the checking account, manage your savings and investments, etc. Then keep your word and follow through. To learn more about Flourish Counseling and Coaching, visit www.flourishcounseling.com.