“Please, will you tell him (or her) to stop spending so much money?”
I frequently receive this question from people who want my advice about their partner’s spending habits.
Invariably, I say, “No,” because what they are really asking me is to tell their partner to spend money in accordance with their desires.
This reminds me of an illuminating observation from psychologist David Myers: “The only chance of satisfaction we can imagine is getting more of what we have now. But what we have now makes everybody dissatisfied. So what will more of it do – make us more satisfied or dissatisfied?”
What can a couple do when they get stuck in a recurring conflict about spending? The solution lies in creating a shared sense of purpose – and being willing to compromise.
Beginning a conversation about money, compromise and purpose can be difficult. Approach this talk with thought and planning.
For starters, mention how you are feeling about your finances and suggest that the two of you talk at a quiet, relaxed time. This puts the topic out in the open and can prevent your partner from feeling ambushed.
Schedule a date. I suggest a weekend walk or coffee. Walking can get you out in nature and may open you to possibilities beyond material satisfaction. Your talk should include your hopes and dreams so you can begin to form a shared vision for the future.
Take care not to blame your partner. Blame can be a way for us to vent our pain and disappointment – you may be disappointed with your partner’s financial choices because they have gotten in the way of your dreams.
Instead of blaming, try to express how you feel. Being willing to take ownership of your feelings may help your partner open up and share, too.
More often than we realize, dissatisfaction in one or more areas of our life begins to creep into our finances. Is this happening to either of you?
If you can both acknowledge a desire for change, it’s time to look to the future.
My preference is to approach this type of change holistically. Consider a variety of goals: financial, physical, mental, family, spiritual, lifestyle and relationship.
Make your goals concrete by getting a journal to write them down. Each of you should take a few hours alone in a quiet place to ask yourself what has been going well in these areas, what needs improvement and how do you want to feel?
Finally, what do you want to accomplish in the next 12 to 18 months?
Then come back together to talk about what you’ve written. See how close or how far apart your perspectives are in each area.
In places where you are far apart, take time to share your ideas and listen carefully to one another, with the intent of truly understanding what your partner is saying and feeling. Talk with the goal of developing mutually beneficial goals and supporting one another.
Shared goals or dreams can be the stars that guide your relationship and guide you away from conflicts about money.