How to have a productive conversation with your spouse about money

While getting out of debt can seem hard, sometimes talking to our spouses can seem even more difficult. If you’re already in a marriage where communication isn’t easy, talking about money can seem down right daunting.

How do we go about talking to our spouse about money if we are already feeling ashamed, embarrassed, nervous and frustrated with our situation? How do we talk about things that have been avoided? How do we talk about money when our spouses aren’t even willing to sit down and have the conversation?

The truth is that if you are already having communication issues, getting your spouse to sit down and talk to you about something that feels threatening is going to be harder than brown sugar when air hits it. Counseling is highly recommended in this case, simply because you need to re-open those lines and start talking with someone who can help you to establish ground rules, do it in a non-threatening way and act as moderator when the communication lines get blocked, which is probably going to happen in the beginning.

For those of you who are able to communicate openly and honestly with your spouse I have some suggestions on how to have a meaningful conversation about money that won’t feel threatening.

  1. Sit down somewhere neutral and have a few notes or bullet points about what you want to talk about. This will help you to start the conversation and not get sidetracked by other things. Don’t have more than 3 points you want to make in the conversation. And try to keep the conversation to less than 30 minutes.
  2. Listen when your spouse is speaking to you. Be willing to hear what they have to say. Even if you don’t agree with them, don’t cut them off or be disrespectful. Once they have said their piece, take a moment to think through what they said and then respond.
  3. Be patient. It can be intimidating to talk about money. You may find yourself getting frustrated, angry, overwhelmed. If that’s the case, take a step back and table the conversation. Just make sure you go back to the conversation at a later time.
  4. Be willing to admit if something isn’t working and then figure out a plan together. This may seem pretty obvious but it’s really important to remember that the money belongs to both of you. If you’re a stay at home mom who doesn’t have an income, you may feel awkward discussing where the money goes and how it’s spent. If you’re the sole income provider you may feel rather territorial about where the money goes. It’s ok to have these feelings but you need to discuss them.

These tips have proved useful in my own conversations about money with my husband and even when talking about money with my parents. The fact is that talking about money is taboo and uncomfortable for many. Hopefully these tips will make it a little easier and help you to at least try to have the conversation in the near future. And if you’re already having the conversation – you’re ahead of the game and I’m sure you’re already employing these practices.