We all know that money can be a source of tension in the relationship. What you may not realize is that a differences in spending habits is far and away the most common cultural challenge that couples face, bigger even than the battle of the sexes or ethnic differences.
“Statistically, people from different socio-economic groups tend to have the most challenge over any other difference culturally,” psychotherapist Jeremi McManus told me during the taping of a recent episode of my show, Talking Love. “That is why money is such a loaded topic.”
Even if you marry someone in the same income bracket, differences in spending habits still can arise. Value systems around money usually develop in childhood, and not always in line with our parents or peers. Our money habits also can evolve over the course of our lifetime as we make our way through the world; a decade alone and single, for instance, will change how we view and spend money.
“What I tend to see the most is that you’ll have one person who is a little bit more of a spender, and likes to enjoy the money they are earning, the other person is more of a saver, and tends to be a little more conservative,” Jeremi noted during our talk. “So inevitably, they’ll butt heads.”
That’s why identifying with our partner is so important.
We talk a good game during our wedding ceremony about how our union is two people coming together as one. Most of us don’t actually work on building this union, however. Instead, we stay separate as two people who have partnered on a life together—we are two as two, not two as one. That is because we don’t know how to come together with our partner on the level we mentioned in our wedding vows. So, we don’t even try.
This is setting the bar too low. It opens the door for many bad things in the relationship, including money fights.
The best defense against money problems in your relationship is learning the skill of genuinely coming together as one. It not only brings more joy and love to the relationship and helps you grow as a person, it also addresses the countless differences that can crop up between you and your partner that cause tension.
One school of thought suggests you just live with these differences in spending habits. You compromise. You move on. This can work, yes. But it never is satisfactory; it is series of never-ending compromises. A better approach is harmonizing your spending habits so you are not working at cross-purposes. This is possible and not hard. It just takes time and a shift in thinking (and a good relationship coach helps, too).
“The theme you are hearing, empathy, is really what I work on cultivating with my couples,” Jeremi told me during our talk. “What I often find is that over time, when one partner listens and really deeply understands what their partner’s needs and priorities are, they want to join their partner in those priorities.”
Watch Jeremi and I discuss how you can start to move together with your partner on spending habits and money priorities, curbing those money fights. Just watch the video above or click this link.
Then, when you’re ready, talk with me and we can discuss how you and your partner can come together more completely on not just money issues, but on all significant matters.
Coming together with your partner is a choice and a daily habit–and it makes everything better.
Peter is founder of Kowalke Coaching. He also is founding director of the Philia Mission, a small charitable organization. Contact Peter.