It's a common story. One partner in a marriage realizes the value of financial responsibility and starts working in earnest to improve the couple's financial situation. Meanwhile, the other partner hasn't had that epiphany and prefers to continue old financial habits.
Inevitably, these situations end up in conflict. The actions each spouse takes on a daily basis pulls their finances in opposite directions. Just like two mules pulling on opposite ends of the wagon, no progress is made and both partners become frustrated.
Arguments ensue. Frustration takes hold. Poor decisions are made. These situations can eventually cause a marriage to dissolve.
What can you do if your spouse's financial decisions are working against all your plans and efforts? Here are three approaches that are well worth trying.
Approach your spouse with love, not anger. If you are angry about your spouse's financial choices, you're not in the right mindset to sit down and talk about things. Anger will solve nothing. It merely turns the discussion into an "I'm right, and you're wrong" fight.
You absolutely have to let go of the "I'm right, and you're wrong" mindset. Instead, you need to look at your partner as someone you care deeply about who happens to have different goals and financial plans than you.
Simply having different goals and plans for the future does not make your partner "wrong," and it does not make you "right." It just means you're not on the same page.
When you sit down with your partner, keep that idea in mind. You love this person. This person simply has different views about the future -- and the steps needed to get there -- than you.
Set goals together, watch the progress and hold each other accountable. If you have different goals for the future, it's going to be hard to make progress. Instead, you need to find goals that you share. What do you both want to achieve?
One effective exercise for figuring this out is to separately make a list of 10 goals you have for the next five years. Then, sit down together and go over those lists.
Rather than fretting about your different goals, focus heavily on the ones you have in common. A married couple will almost always have at least a few goals in common.
Put those goals front and center in your life. Work out a plan that you're both happy with for achieving that goal, and then work together toward that goal.
Most of all, you should both work on keeping each other accountable. Your plan for that goal should make it clear what you each need to do to get there, and the goal is something you both want, so you always have that as a baseline.
What if you still find it difficult? If you're finding your plan is hard to stick to, you may need to revise it. It's very easy to make a plan that's too difficult to live by on a day-to-day basis because that plan conflicts with the other values in your life.
Seek professional counseling. If you're finding it difficult to have discussions without anger, or you're having difficulty finding strong, mutually shared goals, you should consider professional counseling.
Marriages without basic communication or shared goals might be troubled, but they can be saved. Often, it requires a skilled mediator who can open up those channels of communication and help both of you find common goals upon which you can build. If this feels like the right approach for your situation, it's worth your time to find a solid, reputable marriage counselor.
Regardless of your situation, a successful marriage requires commitment from both partners . If you're not both willing to take steps and work hard to save the marriage, it's not going to work. This does not mean simply giving in to all of the wishes of your partner. It means finding common ground that you're both happy with.
Trent Hamm is the founder of the personal finance website TheSimpleDollar.com, which provides consumers with resources and tools to make informed financial decisions.
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