5 steps to make it easier to talk about money with your spouse

Rachel Cruze has authored three best-selling books, including Love Your Life, Not Theirs and Smart Money Smart Kids, which she co-wrote with her father, Dave Ramsey.

Certain topics are guaranteed to cause friction in a marriage.

For some, it’s in-laws. For others, it’s work-life balance. Or the kids. Or housework. And then there’s money. When finances are mentioned, do you feel anxious and get that pit in your stomach?

If so, you’re not alone.

In late 2017, Ramsey Solutions conducted a study of more than 1,000 U.S. adults to learn how married couples communicate and relate about money.

The study found that money is the number one issue married couples fight about. In fact, money fights are the second leading cause of divorce, behind infidelity.

The good news is that money doesn’t have to be a source of friction in your marriage. In fact, money talks can actually bring you closer together instead of tearing you apart. I’ll show you how.

Tips for Improving Communication Around Money Before you start talking about specific money issues, like debt or budgeting, I want you and your spouse to take a step back and share your money stories with each other. You both come from different backgrounds that impact how you relate with money.

For example, my parents filed bankruptcy the year I was born, so debt was a four-letter word in our house growing up. My husband’s family didn’t have that same experience, so they saw finances differently. Our backgrounds have shaped how we think and feel about money, but knowing each other’s story has helped us to acknowledge our unique perspectives and find compromise as we move forward together. I promise, if you take the time to learn your spouse’s story, you will avoid a lot of miscommunication and unnecessary conflict.

Here are some more steps to improve your money conversations:

1. Be fully present

That means turning off devices (phones, laptops, tablets, TV) and focusing on your spouse. Pay attention to what they’re saying. Don’t check out and make a to-do list or wonder how your favorite team is doing. And keep showing up every time you talk.

2. Listen to understand

Most of us listen so we can give an answer. When we do that, we miss important details that could change the conversation completely. Don’t jump in with your opinions and observations unless your spouse asks for them.

3. Ask questions

You can’t always trust your assumptions. Questions help you see the other person’s viewpoint more clearly, and they show that you’re actively participating in the discussion. Questions also move the conversation to a deeper level.

4. Reflect on what you hear

Giving a reflective statement shows that you understand what your spouse is saying. Start with, “What I hear you saying is . . . ” Then summarize what they said, including any emotions you’re hearing or seeing. When your spouse feels heard and understood, you grow closer together. And that’s the end goal, isn’t it?

5. Watch your non-verbal cues

How you say something is just as important as what you say. You’ve probably heard the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” Well, the same applies to your eye contact, posture, facial expressions, tone of voice, and other non-verbal cues. You may say one thing, but your spouse may see another.

A marriage is about two people working as a team. And when you learn how to talk about money together, you’ll win as a team. Getting on the same page will unify the two of you in ways you may not have experienced before. You’ll talk about dollars and cents, but in the process, you’ll also talk about dreams, possibilities and opportunities. And that’s a conversation worth having!

Rachel Cruze has authored three best-selling books, including Love Your Life, Not Theirs and Smart Money Smart Kids, which she co-wrote with her father, Dave Ramsey.

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