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Handling Financial Disputes with a Partner

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Money can be one of the biggest sources of stress and conflict in a relationship. Whether you’re talking about how to spend it, how to save it or who’s going to earn it, money and how you manage it as a couple can be emotional topics.

Oftentimes, we handle financial decisions the same way we saw our families approach them while growing up. In other instances, we go the exact opposite way in order to avoid the money mistakes we saw our parents make. Everyone’s experience is different, which can lead to conflicting views on how family finances should be handled.

Couples often clash over the best way to approach debt, how to handle credit and how to create and manage a budget. So how do you approach these important financial topics when you and your partner disagree on how to handle finances?

1. Start the conversation. Because finances can be a tricky topic, your first instinct may be to avoid it entirely. However, avoidance will not solve anything, and, if the issue is time-sensitive, pretending it doesn’t exist could make things even worse.

Make sure you handle financial discussions as a conversation, not as an argument or confrontation. Take some time to sit down one-on-one with your partner, with no distractions, and commit to keeping the discussion civil.

2. Be honest. Let your partner know how you really feel about the issues at hand, but don’t be aggressive or confrontational. State your case for why you think the financial situation should be handled your way. Don’t raise your voice, and don’t start picking apart the points you think your partner will make. Calmly present the reasons you think your approach is the best way to go.

3. Listen to the other side. Listen carefully to your partner’s viewpoint on the issues without arguing. If needed, ask questions to make sure you understand what your partner is saying, but don’t interrupt. Your partner deserves the same chance to make their point that you had.

4. Be open to compromise. Can you find a middle ground between your two sides? For example, if you disagree about how much money to begin putting aside for retirement, start with a number somewhere between the two amounts you suggested.

If the discussion gets too heated, take some time apart to cool off. You won’t accomplish anything by yelling at each other. Take a walk outside, watch some TV, anything to give your brain (and emotions) a break. Come back and revisit the issues in an hour or so when you’re both calmer.

5. Know when to end an argument. In a perfect world, all financial disagreements would end in a neat resolution, but the truth is there may be times when you and your partner are unable to find a mutually agreeable solution. If you reach an impasse on an important issue, it may be necessary to stop the argument and evaluate next steps.

Money disagreements often represent larger issues in a relationship, so discussing finances can get tense. You and your partner may need to learn how to agree to disagree on certain topics. In some cases, it may even be necessary to seek outside help from a financial counselor or someone with similar experience who can offer an open and unbiased opinion regarding the best course of action for both your finances and your relationship.

Financial discussions can be difficult, but they need to happen so that you and your partner can get on the same page regarding how you plan to handle your finances.

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