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Everybody fights over Money

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Mark C. Weitzel

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Mark C. Weitzel

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Everybody from advice columnists to counseling experts offer advice on how not to argue about money.

A quick search of the Web turns up thousands of articles, videos, and other information on how to keep harmony in a relationship when talking about money. With all the advice, counsel, guidance, and recommendations, why does everyone still fight so often about money?

Maybe fights about money are inevitable. Or maybe the fights are about more than money. Rather than spending so much energy trying to avoid fights about money, perhaps it is better to learn how to fight properly about money.

If you are going to fight about money, then fight only about money. When you argue about money, whether it is spending too much or making late payments, keep the argument about that particular money issue.

You never resolve a money issue by bringing unrelated topics into the argument. Any other topic clouds the issue at hand and makes an emotional argument more intense. Avoid phrases that begin with “You always…” or “Every time…”

Arguing about how much cable costs or how expensive the cellphone bill is does not get to the crux of the problem. It is better to argue about ways to reduce the cable or cell phone bills. If the argument is not about money, then do not bring money into that argument. If the argument is about money, then argue only about the money issue at hand.

Fight about money as a financial couple. Look for areas where you agree and bring those up in the argument. If your goal is to win the argument then you have already lost. In any relationship the only way to really win an argument is to find a way to end it where both of you calm down and agree on a resolution.

Find common ground, look for ways to agree with some of what your partner is saying, and try to de‐escalate the argument into a conversational voice. Focusing on the root cause of the problem, like ways to reduce the cell phone bill, helps reduce the tension and anger that typically escalates in a money argument. It is important to begin thinking and acting like “one” rather than “two.” The foundation is developing your common financial goals together. That gives both of you something to argue for rather than against.

Fight for your relationship, not against it. Most couples immediately look for where they are different when fighting about money. One is a saver and one is a spender. One is trying to get out of debt and the other does not care about debt.

Instead of immediately trying to prove to each other that you are on different teams, think about how you are simply playing two different positions on the same team. Start thinking about how you can each work together, using each other’s strengths to make a winning financial team. The purpose of the argument should be about getting both of you to refocus on how to achieve the common goals you already set together.

It is extremely important to address issues as they occur. Don’t wait for the issue to disappear by simply hoping that it will go away. It is much better to discuss each issue with your partner as they come up. Otherwise, all the little frustrations and irritations build to become one great big problem. One of you becomes a powder keg waiting to explode over the slightest little thing, while the other feels blindsided.

These kinds of fights begin over an irrational reason to get so upset, but the issue at hand is really the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. Raising issues with each other as they happen helps keep the lid on what otherwise can become very heated arguments.

Ultimately, when you fight about money try to fight for the truth and do not fight to win. All too often that is what happens. The truth gets ignored and both sides fight only to win for the sake of winning. Keep in mind that you are a couple with shared goals and values — a single financial unit. If you fight to win, that means the other must lose.

Mark C. Weitzel teaches in the Finance Department in the College of Business at East Carolina University.

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