All couples argue, but what are couples fighting about the most?
According to a recent survey, money is the most common reason married or cohabiting couples fight. Of over 1,000 American adults polled in a national telephone survey, 27 percent of participants said that disagreements over finances were most likely to erupt into an argument — not children, chores, work or friends. The survey also found that couples average three arguments a month about financial issues.
Researchers believe that the conflict may stem from couples failing to discuss money on a regular basis. Fifty-five percent of those surveyed who were married or living with a partner said that they don’t regularly set aside time to talk about financial issues.
Constant fighting over money can taint even the strongest of marriages and can cause couples to lose sight of what is truly wonderful about their lives and wonderful about each other. So in this article, we’re going to begin to cover some basic strategies on how to effectively handle money; we’re going to begin to discuss “the Budget.”
Most people usually flinch when they hear this word. It can often feel constrictive and limiting. But I encourage my clients to attempt to see it as the very answer to their money disputes. It’s not that scary. The Budget is simply a mutually agreed upon outline of how much money is coming in and where it is, (or should be), going out. “Mutually agreed upon” being the most important part of this sentence: it rarely works for one partner to have the ultimate say over the couple’s finances. Primarily because most fights about money are due to a difference of opinion about where the money should go and about who should have the ultimate say. These disagreements can result in a straightforward battle for ultimate control or in an ongoing seething resentment over the couple’s financial situation.
Refer to the Budget for Financial Decisions
So, I tell couples that instead of fighting each other about money, each party should be accountable to the Budget. In other words, when a financial decision needs to be made, refer to the Budget for permission, not to each other for permission. That’s not to say that finances shouldn’t frequently be discussed between the two of you, but not from a “parent/child” perspective. One partner should not have to ask the other for permission nor should the other partner believe they must give permission. Instead, the Budget becomes the “bad guy.” If the Budget says we can’t afford the new flat-screen TV, then we can be mad at the Budget, not at each other.
To discover how to create a Budget for your marriage, check out the StrongMarriageNow System. Dr. Dana will walk you through how to get on the same page with your spouse about the future, how to resolve disagreements around money and how to fairly divide responsibilities. There are many exercises and videos to help you finally end the fighting over money.
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Dr. Dana Fillmore and Amy Barnhart