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How to stop fighting about money

Clare Seal
Written by  Clare Seal
3 min read
Updated: 15 Jan 2024

Differing styles of money management can spark serious conflict within relationships. Talking it through may seem difficult but read on for a few tips on how to make it easier.

Money can be such a huge source of conflict in relationships, whether romantic partnerships, family connections or friendships.

Because it’s a subject that many of us find embarrassing or shameful - especially if we’ve made financial mistakes - talking about it can be incredibly difficult, and we can get defensive when we feel we’re being criticised or patronised, even if the other person is trying to help.

On the other side of the equation, it can be frustrating to feel that someone you care about is behaving carelessly with money, in a way that might hurt them, or you, or both of you. 

There’s no perfect way to communicate about money - it is often awkward or tense - but there should always be space to find some common ground and have a discussion without descending into an argument.

Here are a few tips for communicating with someone you care about on the subject of money: 

Remember that money can be emotive, and everyone has their own story 

Ideally, we would have conversations about money early on in our relationships, but this often isn’t the case.

Whether you’re hitting your first financial challenge as a couple, such as saving to buy a home, or you’ve had this same argument about money many times before, empathy can really help to soothe things.

We can often lose sight of the fact that we haven’t all had the same exposure to money or financial education, which can mean that we fail to understand or appreciate why our partner does certain things or feels a certain way. 

Try to relate to your partner’s past with money, and put any frustrating habits or actions into context. You likely have your own financial quirks, too! 

business money

Be open and honest 

We are all used to keeping our cards close to our chest when it comes to money, because any perceived failure is often harshly judged.

But sometimes, if you put yourself out there and are honest and vulnerable, it can help you to get on the same page as a partner, make a friend understand that you’re not in the same position as them, or encourage a relative to be more empathetic. 

Honesty about money is important in romantic relationships, particularly if you share financial responsibilities or have children together.

If you have something that you’ve been keeping secret or quietly worrying about, sharing it with your partner might be painful at first.

They may be angry or not understand, but most financial problems can be worked through, and they might have ideas or solutions that hadn’t occurred to you. 

Try to find some common ground 

Resolving any kind of conflict usually involves seeking a compromise or mutual understanding, and the same is true of conflicts about money.

Leave space for each of you to share your opinions and experiences, and then work together to set some shared goals and create a plan for how to reach them. 

If you’re struggling to find common ground, start with shared needs and ambitions that are very basic or relatively small. Discuss what you each need to make you feel safe, then move on to what will make you happy.

If you design your lifestyle together in this way, you’re less at risk of inadvertently working against each other and creating fodder for an argument. 

Set clear boundaries - and enforce them 

Arguments and ill feeling are so often stirred up because of unclear or non-existent boundaries, and one of the ways we can prevent conflict is by being clear and consistent.

If you’re in a couple, be transparent about what you need and expect from one another when it comes to money. 

These boundaries can be emotional - such as not judging or dictating each other’s spending habits - but they can also be practical.

Having a clear structure for how you manage your finances together is absolutely key, so make sure that you are on the same page with how much you each contribute to shared costs, who holds the responsibility for what admin and which goals you are working towards as partners. 

Have any tricky conversations on the move 

If you are really struggling to communicate about money, or you have something difficult that you need to discuss, a face-to-face sit-down can feel daunting and awkward.

It’s hard to know how to have difficult financial conversations, but often trickier financial talks are best had on the move. Find some time to go for a walk, with your partner and have your chat in motion, side by side.

This will remove some of the intensity, and relieve some of the physical symptoms of stress and anxiety that can arise when you’re talking about something that’s been worrying you. 

Stay connected 

Once you’ve managed to open a dialogue about money in your relationship, make sure you keep that line open.

It’s all too easy to solve the problem at hand and then return to old, closed-off habits, but the key to avoiding future arguments is to communicate regularly, nip any issues in the bud and stay aligned on your goals and actions. 

Having a monthly ‘life admin’ catch up, including diary syncing, budget planning and an amnesty on financial issues or worries can be a great idea. Block it out in your calendars and stick to it every month - you can even make it fun by adding snacks and drinks.

Think of it as a way to stay connected with your partner, rather than something overly formal or boring. 

Money can be a difficult thing to navigate in your relationships, and differences of opinion are bound to happen, but conflict isn’t unavoidable. 

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