ccording to the old song, love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage. But money and marriage? For many it's more like oil and water. Not exactly a winning combination. According to Gail Liberman and Alan Lavine, personal finance experts and married-to-each-other co-authors of "Love, Marriage & Money" (ISBN 0-7931-2661-4), the key to not fighting about money is to talk (not nag), talk (not preach), talk (really talk) about it.
If you ignore money problems, they won't go away, but your marriage might. "Money is the No. 1 cause of arguments," Liberman says. And, according to Lavine, money issues cause half of divorces.
Whether money problems relate to credit, budgeting, or a saver partnered with a spender, you can point the finger of blame most justly at lack of communication. "People don't realize that festering problems in marriages often relate to money and the attitudes people have about it," Liberman says. These attitudes might be deeply ingrained: If you were raised in a poor family, worrying about money may be the norm. If you were raised as a spender, your natural tendency is to keep on buying, regardless of the checkbook balance.
Poor money management is the No. 1 problem that brings people to the Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Olympia-South Sound in Tacoma, Wash., according to counselor Yvonne Starks. "A lot of people don't have budgets--they just go from one payday to the next." The need by some for immediate gratification just adds fuel to this already-raging fire.
| People don't realize
that festering problems
in marriages often
relate to money and
the attitudes people
have about it.
in a central place,
to both partners.
|Talking the talk
"It's very important when people start to get involved that the subject of money be addressed," says Liberman. "Talking about it may help your understanding and diffuse potential arguments later on." If a couple is contemplating marriage, Liberman urges them to go one step further. "Get your credit reports so you know in advance if one of you has problems." Sound scary? Not as scary as going in blind. If you can't resolve money issues before the wedding, chances are things won't be any too rosy after the honeymoon (especially if you charged it all). Here are some guidelines:
Get organized. In order to communicate, you have to be able to find what you need to discuss. Lavine advises couples to keep financial-related documents in a central place, equally accessible to both partners. Important papers should be in a fire-safe box. It's OK to split up financial duties, as long as the other spouse is aware of what's going on and understands why decisions and choices were made.
Neutralize conflict. Before you start talking about money, Lavine says first check to see if it's a good time to talk. If one spouse has had a bad day, don't make it worse by talking about money concerns. When you do talk, Liberman suggests communicating from a "feelings" point of view. Say "I feel bad when this happens," instead of, for example, "You stupid jerk."
Get moving. "Because men tend to work things out in action," says Lavine, "going for a walk can be a good time to discuss a plan of action. Or go to a local seminar that can help loosen you both up."
Agree to disagree. Where there's talk about money, there always are disagreements, Lavine says. "Communicate that you understand the viewpoint, but say you don't agree with it." This allows the lines of communication to stay open for future discussions.
|Walking the talk
Learning to communicate and setting your goals is an ongoing process. So is changing some behaviors. Here are some things to shoot for:
If you're considering
marriage, get and
share your credit
reports so you know
in advance if one
of you has problems.
|How to Communicate
Looking to compromise on a money matter without a full-fledged fight?
|©1998 Credit Union National Association, Inc.|