Do you ever feel like you and your partner are never going to stop fighting over money?
Are you scared that your lack of partnership with your finances is going to prevent you from reaching critical money goals?
Those are very legitimate concerns and legitimate feelings.
A study of 4,500 couples conducted by Sonya Britt, an assistant professor of family studies and human services at Kansas State University, found that arguments about money are the top predictor for divorce.
So if money fights are an albatross hanging around the neck of your relationship, there’s a real urgency to stop fighting over money and start looking for solutions.
Why Do We Fight Over Money?
The reasons behind our relational tension when it comes to money may seem obvious, but it often isn’t so simple.
It’s not uncommon for two people to have very different money goals, different emotional bookmarks, and even completely different comprehension levels when it comes to money.
These differences aren’t a bad thing, but they can sure feel like it in the moment.
And those differences can lead to the all too popular questions that can easily start any money fight.
- “How much did you pay for that?”
- “Why did you buy that?”
- “Well if you get to buy that, then I get to buy this.”
These questions are often the trigger for a spat over money, but it’s important to understand where these questions are really coming from.
It often has nothing to do with money at all.
Money, just like any other area in a relationship, is a team sport. Neither person can be successful without the other.
Perhaps not surprisingly, money is one of the quickest ways to find out if a couple is working toward their future together or separately.
And it’s certainly no surprise that those couples that are working separately on their future, often end up separated from each other.
And when team meetings just devolve into bickering, blaming, and shouting, it’s no wonder couples give up on the idea of ever managing their money well together.
Goals Aren’t Enough
It may not surprise you that most couples struggle with having different money goals.
One person wants to buy a new car. The other person wants to save money to redo the kitchen.
Often it can feel like these differing goals are the root cause of the money fights, but differing money goals are actually completely natural.
It’s silly to expect two independent souls to completely value and pursue the exact same things with money or anything else.
No, different money goals aren’t usually the core issue behind money fights.
What may surprise you is that couples that fight often about money will usually have at least a handful of common money goals they would like to achieve together.
It could be a desire to pay down debt, or saving for a down payment on a house, or setting aside money for retirement.
But the constant fighting prevents them from making meaningful progress towards these goals either.
This teaches us something very important.
While having financial goals – similar and different – are a good thing, just having goals is not enough.
Something is missing.
A Need For Vision
Let’s say we’re working with a couple and one person values playing golf and the other person values dining out at nice restaurants.
There’s nothing wrong with each person having something different they value.
But what happens when these two people sit down to try to do a budget and there’s not enough money for both their passions?
The natural tendency is for each to justify the thing they value.
This creates an automatic point of contention, and possibly just one of many.
Often times, one person may simply give in, allowing the other person to have things their way, but that only leads to resentment and bitterness over time.
This isn’t a solution at all.
What we find with this couple is that they aren’t lacking goals. They’re lacking a vision.
The Difference Between a Goal and a Vision
Using our fictional couple from above, let’s look at a quick example to see the powerful difference between having a goal and having a vision.
Person A loves to golf.
Person B loves dining out at nice restaurants.
With the goal of reducing spending to get out of debt, the golfer thinks dining out less is a great idea.
The foodie thinks playing less golf is the best solution.
The conversation ends right there. Stalemate. Everyone loses.
But now let’s give them a vision instead of just a goal.
Their vision is to be debt-free, so they can move to a neighborhood that’s closer to many great golf courses and nice restaurants.
Now the conversation changes.
Is the golfer willing to golf less now to help pay off debt (goal), so that later they can live in a neighborhood where golfing is more convenient (vision)?
Likewise, is the foodie willing to dine out less now to help pay off debt (goal), so that later they can enjoy dining out at a wider variety of restaurants (vision)?
The vision doesn’t cater to one person or the other. It encompasses the desires of both.
A clear vision will incorporate the goals and dreams of both parties, recognizing that their different desires are part of what makes a dynamic and powerful relationship.
Where Sacrifice is Required, So is Vision
Making any kind of sacrifice in the short term is going to be hard, but when there is a shared vision, the sense of purpose in making those hard choices can also be shared.
Often, a couple with a shared vision can actually start feeding off each other.
As one person shows more sacrifice, it inspires the other to follow suit. Not because it’s a race to see who can suffer more, but because it’s a joy to be heading toward the same desirable destination together.
I constantly tell people that it’s pointless to try to have budget conversations before having vision conversations.
Unless a shared vision including both partner’s goals and dreams can be agreed upon, how each person chooses to spend money from day to day is going to be a mess.
That’s why I give away my Vision Planner Worksheet completely free.
I want everyone to create a crystal clear vision for their future, so they can then create a crystal clear plan for how to spend their money today.
I want couples to be able to honestly share their goals and dreams and truly create a vision of the future that’s exciting for each person.
So if your money talks keep turning into money fights, stop talking about money.
Instead, start talking about what you want the future to look like.
Clearly define where you are going, what you’ll be doing, where you’ll be living, how you’ll be spending your time, and what things are valuable to you along the way.
Only after your vision is crystal clear are you ready to dive into the day-to-day spending conversation.
After all, a budget is just a means to an end – and without a shared end, what’s the point?