The topic of “finances” may be one of the most stressful conversations that a couple will encounter in their relationship. It can be difficult to talk about money, especially if you find that your partner is making financial decisions without your input. If you share a joint account, you may constantly worry that your partner will be careless with the money you share. This can lead to resentment and anger if it is not addressed early. The following steps will help you approach your partner about his or her spending habits and find a satisfying compromise for both of you.
• Encourage a productive atmosphere. It is completely normal for you to feel upset about your partner maxing out a credit card or making a large purchase without your input. However, try to be as calm and civil in your approach as possible. Wait until you have had a chance to cool off from your initial reaction. If your partner feels “attacked,” it will only create a wall between you and make matters worse. Ask your partner to give you a chance to speak without interruption and promise the same in return.
• Outline your concerns. Give your partner specific examples of when his or her spending has been upsetting to you and how you have noticed a negative trend. Explain why his or her spending habits must change for the benefit of your relationship. Avoid statements like “you always…” or “you don’t care…” Rather than being accusatory, describe how it makes you feel by using statements like, “I felt frustrated when you used money out of our savings account without asking me.” This approach will allow for a more productive conversation.
• Listen to his or her perspective. Your partner listened to your concerns, right? Now it’s time to let your partner have the floor. Let him or her explain why the decision to spend money was made and how he or she feels about the concerns and frustrations you raised. It may be that your partner felt that he or she had a good reason to spend the money, or didn’t realize the effect it would have on your joint financial situation. No matter what your partner has to say, it is important that he or she is provided the opportunity to be heard also.
• Develop a plan and put it into action. Now is the time to take all that you hashed out, and make a plan. Discuss a budget and let your partner come up with ideas for how he or she can change his or her spending habits to fit within the budget. Your potential solutions will depend on what the problem area is. If, for instance, your partner spends too much money eating out, encourage him or her to pack a lunch instead. If maxing out credit cards is the problem, maybe your partner should leave certain ones at home so he or she won’t be as tempted to use them. Some couples budget for a set amount of “play” money, giving you both freedom to have a limited amount of indulgences without overspending. Whatever the plan, you will need to make sure it is something your partner can follow and is a satisfactory compromise to you both.
Conversations with your partner regarding finances and spending habits may not be the most enjoyable, but are necessary nonetheless. You will likely need to continue the conversation at a later date to check-in and see if your plan is working for both of you and to discuss any changes to be made. The most important thing is to make sure you are working together as a team so that spending habits don’t get in the way of a healthy and satisfying relationship.