Have you ever heard crazy talk coming out of your mouth but couldn’t do anything to stop it? “Why don’t you trust me?” Boom. There goes the crazy talk. I couldn’t believe I said that – out loud – to my husband, Roger.
But here’s the problem: Money makes me do and say crazy things. Whenever Roger and I try to have a nice, normal conversation about all things financial, I lose my mind. And then my nice, calm, reasonable husband wonders, “Where’s the fun, care-free girl I married and who’s this crazy woman who replaced her?” And let me tell you – crazy is not a good look on a woman. I should know. Whenever we talk about money, it’s my go-to outfit.
When a couple gets married, they each have a set of money baggage. Sadly, it’s usually not a matching set. The baggage is often handed down from our parents and probably isn’t pretty. Perhaps one of you is a saver and one is a spender. Or maybe both of you are spenders or both are savers, and that’s causing its own set of tensions. Or your husband wonders if he has three pairs of shoes and that’s good enough for him, why isn’t that good enough for you. (Answer? Because I’m a girl.)
Money can do great things in the world and can be the cause of a lot of stress in a modern marriage. So if money is a stress point in your marriage, like it is in mine, here’s my three-step plan to get past the crazy talk and experience some financial peace:
Stop talking before you say something that can’t easily be repaired. When you hear the crazy talk (accusations, exaggerations, unrealistic expectations) come out of your mouth, stop and say out loud, “I know this sounds crazy, but…” and then ask your spouse to talk it out with you.
Look and see whom else you’ve invited to your money discussion. Is it your dad, who’s always judged you about not saving enough? Or maybe it’s the girls in your life, who all have the Michael Kor’s square bag. Others may be getting an emotional say in how your family spends its money, even though they aren’t in the room.
In our money talks, I wasn’t just talking to my husband. I had unknowingly invited my ex-husband into our discussion and let his prior judgments taint my conversation with Roger. Now, my husband and I only invite God and a few outside financial management principles into our money discussions. Before we talk money, we pray. Then we consult trusted financial principles. For us, it’s Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover.
Listen to what your spouse is saying. Your partner has fears about finances, and sometimes those fears can come across in an angry or judgmental way. The one sentence that has done more good for our marriage than any other is, “What I hear you saying is…” It’s called active listening; where you listen closely enough so that you can repeat back what you understand the other person to be saying. It’s a judgement-free way of understanding and being understood.
Money talks can become danger zones in a marriage. Remember what your mom taught you whenever you enter into any dangerous situation: Stop. Look. And listen.
Kathi Lipp and her husband, Roger, live frugally in California. She’s the author of The “What’s for Dinner?” Solution: Quick, Easy, and Affordable Meals Your Family Will Love from Harvest House Publishers. Find more husband, money and food ideas at kathilipp.com.
This originally appeared in the Winter 2016 issue of Hello, Dearest. If you didn’t get a copy and would like your own, you can subscribe to get Hello, Dearest in your mailbox every season. If you subscribe, forward your receipt to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll shoot a copy of the current issue in the mail to you for free … just because we like you.