If you’re like most mamas (in heterosexual relationships), getting your man to open up about money can be a challenge. This may be true even if he’s willing and able to talk about all sorts of other topics. Money mystifies many, eh?
So, why is that? Why can you and your partner do so many hard things together, but can’t talk about money? I’ll get to that moment. But first a few words that hopefully make you feel a little better.
See, most couples steer clear of the money talk out of fear. You’ve survived thus far! Why would you want to discuss something where you’re likely to just get stonewalled or in a fight… Right? Well, unfortunately, left unresolved, money tensions become one of the biggest causes of fighting and even divorce.
The good news is that the rewards for revisiting this topic are significant. What I’ve found time and again in working with couples is that what’s actually available is greater intimacy and partnership.
Yes, from talking about money. And, of course, there’s more cash, too!
I’ve coached couples headed for divorce who turned it all around by following these steps and learning how to have healthy money talks. So stick with these tips, give them a try, and see what they do for you and your guy. (Yes, I’m aware of all the rhyming 😉)
1 – Get Some Understanding of Your Hubs
Without a feel for why he is doing what he’s doing, you’re liable to think he’s just being a jerk. It’s okay to admit it if you’ve had some choice words for him in the past, whether they’ve been shouted aloud or grumbled in your head.
Here’s the thing: having worked with many couples, and as a man myself, I can tell you that the expectations of men weigh heavily on us. Even those of us who believe in gender equality. We nevertheless have been taught in many ways throughout our lives that our job is to be the provider. That our pride is the most important thing, perhaps tied with our ability to “be a man.”
Because of this, what a money talk signals to his ego that he’s failed as a provider (for example “I think we should spend less”) and his walls are liable to go right up. This can be exasperating, no doubt. But it’s not very fun for him, either.
Beyond this common provider response, take some time to think or speculate about how his individual upbringing and experiences with money may be impacting his reactions. Remember: we are all left with baggage around finances.
So, what can you do with that knowledge? Well, I’ll get to that below.
But to start, don’t let those walls scare you. They’re just his own fears or insecurities.
And you can use your new awareness to help bring empathy, patience, and compassion to your future money conversations.
2 – Get Some Understanding of Yourself – And Take Responsibility
Yep, you have a role here, too. You also have money baggage and a money history that affect how you think about and talk about money. The more deeply you understand your own mindset, the healthier your conversations will be. And the less likely you’ll be to get triggered by something your guy says.
Think through things like how your parents viewed money, any financial stereotypes associated with your identities, and how money has gone for you in prior relationships. Perhaps journal about this. If you’d like, you can download Part I of my “Your Money & Relationships Story” handout here (it’s a lot of fun!).
Now, about that responsibility piece. How long has your man been unwilling to open up about money?
Well, that’s also how long you’ve been allowing this untenable dynamic to continue.
And I’m willing to bet it’s kindled some not-so-pleasant thoughts and feelings inside of you. Perhaps even some actions, passive-aggressive or otherwise.
It always takes two to tango in relationships, right?
So remember that even if he’s the stubborn or closed-off one, it’s something that you’ve each played a part in causing and something you each have a part in transforming.
3 – Find a Fun or Easy Way to Bring It Up
We all know that this conversation can be uncomfortable. So, I recommend starting with an easy entry. Perhaps something like sharing the money histories I wrote about above.
Or maybe sharing your hopes and dreams with each other. Ask him where he’d like to travel, what hobbies he’d like to try, or even what he’d love to do within existing hobbies!
You may feel a little awkward. Heck, it may be a little awkward. But taking the same actions predictably yields the same results. I’m inviting you to give something new a try and see where you land.
What Are Your Family Money Values?
Grab our free Family Money Values Template and create a strong foundation for your family’s healthy money habits!
4 – Try, Try Again
You probably won’t resolve all your concerns in a single conversation, so keep on trying.
Once a panel moderator asked me what to do if your guy refuses to engage about money? I said “try again.”
Moderator: “Well, what if he still refuses?”
Me: “When he throws darts, you keep throwing hearts.”
Moderator: “Okay, but what if he still refuses?”
I paused for a moment. And then I dished out some straight talk.
“Let your guy know that this is an essential conversation. It’s right up there in importance with topics like where to live, how to raise kids, etc. Draw a line in the sand. This is a top cause of divorce. Therefore, it’s essential to tackle the tension and learn how to have healthy money talks. If he continues to refuse, then you may even need to reevaluate if this relationship can succeed.”
It may seem harsh, but if you search your feelings, you’ll know it to be true.
Don’t give up, though! Hopefully this article has given you a slew of new tools and perspectives. And I’m not done yet!
5 – Prioritize, Empathize, Listen, and Ask Questions
So you’ve finally gotten the conversation started — congrats! But now what? You probably have years of pent-up fears and frustrations you can’t wait to unleash!
Hold the phone, though.
First, set a priority for the conversation. Having one focus will minimize overwhelm, which otherwise can lead to one or both of you shutting down.
Next, listen first. Asking questions from a place of curiosity will pay huge dividends, as well. And do your best to empathize with your partner, seeing things from his point of view.
This will help him feel more open to share and also allow him the space to grow on his own over time. Try not to argue with his perspective — in fact, see how it feels to give up “being right” entirely. After all, the point of all of this — including managing your finances — is to have a life and relationship that fulfills you, however that looks.
How would it feel if you bring all of this to your money talks? You may not really know, but I bet you can see that things would go a whole lot differently.
So, give it a shot. Be patient with yourself and your guy. Let it be messy. Remember why you care about him and this topic in the first place. And watch the fear, resentment, anxiety, and shame shift to love, intimacy, understanding, and partnership.
Have you struggled to talk about money with your partner? Share your experiences and questions with Adam in the comments!
For more from Adam, check out The Equal Partners Podcast: Connecting Money & Relationships. New episodes every Tuesday!