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Are You Waiting for Your Partner to Change?

Are You Waiting for Your Partner to Change?

Trying to convince yourself to change is hard enough, but when you’re in a relationship with someone who won’t talk about money it can be exponentially more difficult to build wealth. You can’t keep hoping they’ll come around; you have to stop waiting for your partner to change.

It’s like standing at a crosswalk waiting for the other guy to push the walk button. If they don’t, you’re stuck standing there…waiting.


Image Credit: HeathBrandon on Flickr

People who are in a relationship with someone who is disinterested in money or unwilling to discuss the subject often feel paralyzed and unable to move forward. This post offers some tips on how to push the internal “walk” button and start making progress on building wealth.

First, however, it’s a good idea to figure out how you ended up in this situation.

How did You Get Here?

It’s easy to find yourself in this situation; here’s a likely scenario…

You meet someone and start dating. Openly discussing each other’s points of view on handling money, budgets and growing wealth certainly isn’t a subject for early dating. And, there are no hard and fast rules for when these discussions are to happen.

Bringing up how much debt you have would go over about as well as announcing you have four months to live. Good bye relationship. Conversely, asking your date how much debt they carry or how much in assets they’ve amassed seems a bit nosy and controlling.  So, you don’t ask because you don’t want to put off the other person.

Here we are then. We’ve fallen in love and married or moved in together without really understanding if we’re compatible in the area of money. It happens to a lot of us.

Things You Might Discover

Once you find yourself deeper into the relationship, you might observe certain money behaviors that send up red flags or uncover a debt burden that you weren’t aware of. In either case, if you start questioning these things now, you fear you’ll ignite a fight or worse lose the relationship. To avoid conflict, you keep quiet.

The pattern continues until there’s constant tension about the underlying money issues, fights erupt and either the relationship/marriage ultimately ends or one person is tortured by not being able to get out of debt and save.

You’re in it, Now What?

If this sounds familiar and you’re tired of struggling with money in your relationship, here are five actions you might consider:

  1. Examine your own money behaviors before asking the other person to engage in a conversation with you. We often don’t realize how we contribute to the problem. We sometimes see our spending as necessary while the other person appears to be frivolous. You might be surprised at what you find. Being willing to talk about your own money “ah ha’s!” can break down barriers to communication.
  2. A lot of couples keep separate accounts but share common expenses such as housing, utilities, etc. Building wealth as a couple means you need some common goals. Start mentioning to your partner that you would like transparency around the family money. You don’t need to co-mingle money but you should both have a clear understanding of income, expenses, savings, investments, retirement balances, etc. If your partner won’t agree or even engage in the conversation, continue to bring it up and be willing to share your world on paper. Modeling the behavior can be powerful.
  3. Ask your partner to join you in couples counseling. If you don’t get a commitment to go, you should go on your own. If nothing else, you may gain some useful skills to help you communicate better on this subject.
  4. If only one person handles all the bills and accounting, ask to make it a joint activity. This goes back to the transparency concept.
  5. Ask your partner to agree to track spending for a couple of months to see how money is being spent. This doesn’t sound as limiting as a budget. Once you know how the money is really being spent you’ll have the information to begin working on a joint plan to pay off debt and save.

The Good, Bad and Ugly

Muster the courage to regularly bring up the subject in a respectful and loving way. If you are met with resistance or even hostility, keep at it. You’ll learn something important—either you’ll break down barriers and begin a deeper more intimate life with your partner or you’ll discover that you are never going to create a financial life together that pleases you both.

The idea of splitting up or divorcing can be terrifying. You have to consider your children if you have small ones, how to survive financially and the emotional toll. All of that can be daunting, but if you choose to stay in a relationship that creates constant stress over money, you’re paying an equally high price—one you’ll keep paying every day for the rest of your life.

Be Brave and Have a Voice

It takes courage to have a voice. It also takes courage to do a personal accounting of our own behaviors. I find that when I honestly look at my own actions and behaviors and try to communicate without judgment or criticism, the outcome is not as bad as I might have feared.

Be Patient

Finally, if any of this resonates with you and you decide to take action, don’t expect overnight transformation. It takes a long time to change a habit and money behaviors are a combination of attitudes and beliefs, habits, fears, upbringing, etc. Be patient with yourself and your partner. Keep learning and keep communicating.

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What Can You Add to the Conversation?

Have you overcome money issues in your relationship? We’d love to hear what you did to resolve them. Are you currently struggling with being able to talk to your partner about finances? Feel free to share your story in the Comments, maybe you’ll find some inspiration to help you through.

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Having spent my young adulthood living with the stress and anxiety of money problems, I know what it’s like to live in "Dodge." Now, after learning what it takes to escape dodge and move into prosperity, I am determined to help others set themselves free. For more of my story, please click the About Me link on the menu.
  1. Jacob@CashCowCouple Reply

    As you might have guessed, Vanessa and I are really like minded with the finances. That’s a huge blessing. I can’t imagine being stressed out by someone living beyond their means. Based on who I am, I would struggle more than I can imagine in that scenario.

    Great thought provoking article!

    • Ree Klein Reply

      Hi Jacob, yes, it definitely seems like you and your wife have it together. I fear you are not in the majority when it comes to knowing your partner’s money habits, secrets and spending behaviors before getting married. Love your site and thanks for adding to the conversation!

  2. Jake Erickson Reply

    Your article brings up a lot of good points and tips on how to talk about money. Luckily, my wife and I are almost always on the same page with money. We talk about our budget/expenses a few times a week and don’t have a problem agreeing on goals that we have for our financial future. There is a reason why they say money is the largest cause of divorce, it’s not easy to talk about normally.

    • Ree Klein Reply

      Hi Jake, thanks for joining the conversation. It would be interesting to know if you and your wife talked about money while dating and if so, how did it come up?

      • Jake Erickson Reply

        We did discuss it a bit, but I did not know exactly how much money or debt she had. I picked up on her money habits by noticing what she spent her money on and how much she spent. Other than that, I think I just got lucky that she has the same mentality as me when it comes to money.

        • Ree Klein Reply

          Interesting. Your scenario sounds very common but based on statistics, most aren’t as lucky as you and your wife to find that you are so “money compatible.” I think the idea is to be observant from the beginning, be willing to ask money-related questions as things progress and for each to be completely transparent before combining households or getting married. If we all followed those simple steps I bet there’d be a lot less relationship stress and breakups! Thanks, Jake, for the follow up.

          • Jake Erickson

            Definitely agree with you and no problem!

  3. Deanna Corey Reply

    I have been married to a wonderful man for 33 years that has no interest in $ whatsoever, other than what toy it might buy him. We have struggled most of the earlier years financially because he chose for us a path of living well beyond our means. Personally I have vacillated between digging us out of debt and saving and then having periods where I felt it was my turn to get what I wanted. After all, why should his irresponsibility with money make it where none of my dreams could come true? The main issue we have always encountered is simply the fact that we have completely different dreams. Not that one of us has “better” dreams than the other…they are just completely different! So we have evolved into a world of so called compromise. I pay the bills, I save the money and I do the planning… None of which he wants any involvement with. He just wants me to allow what he wants when he wants it! Not to throw my hubby under the bus here but I don’t think I would mind as much if he chose to take care of the “investments” he desires and we purchase. He is not the greatest on maintenance so we have a lot of unusable “investments”. He gets angry now that there are big repair bills we cannot afford because we spent money we shouldn’t on “investments” we didn’t need to begin with and to be truthful don’t use very often. Its a type of viscous cycle. Don’t get me wrong…I am all for toys! But I don’t believe diversity is the key here…I like focused fun! My “mantra” has always been…lets find one way of having fun and then lets enjoy it! He sees that very differently. I can not force, entice, bait, lure, beg, or coerce my hubby into caring about money. My varied attempts just bring anger and strife between us. You cannot force another person to do something they have no desire to do. And that has to be ALRIGHT! We have done this dance for well over 20 years. It was frustrating if nothing else!! So here we are in our respective roles and in some fashion they work but they are co-dependent on my self discipline…someone has to have some of it! Lol!
    If I could add to this article any…it would be to say not to focus so much on how your future wife or husband sees and handles money but what are their dreams??? What core values do they possess??? Where do they see their lives in 20-30 years?? What are their REAL dreams? Money is just the tool to get you there…it is not the end-all qualifier in a relationship. People can learn about any given point on their journey…money is just something to manage! What does NOT change is core values!… Selfishness and impatience, truthfulness and greed… Find out your partner’s CORE values BEFORE you commit to them, because those are what will make your marriage a blessing or a curse! My husband and I will most likely always have money disagreements because our values are different, and while frustrating and somewhat limiting, I just don’t see money as a deal breaker! Money is just simply a tool. There are many tools that can construct a happy life. Frustration with another person, especially your husband or wife is just part of marriage…and it will raise its ugly head in one fashion or another. It is VERY important to do your homework BEFORE marriage. It is a commitment not to be taken lightly or one to quit simply because views on money differ. Our “troubles” do not come from money…they come from a lack of compatible dreams…which stem from our core values, which then in turn affects our money. My friends…those that have endured the long haul of marriage would tell you the same. Its those core values that get you in the end!!

    • Ree Klein Reply

      Deanna, thank you so much for your insightful contribution here. This is a topic that warrants much discussion because there are so many ways to cope with money issues in a relationship.

      I completely agree with your point that understanding each others’ values and dreams early on can give great insight into how money will factor into the relationship down the road. That type of inquiry is something you can do from the first date without sounding nosy or “too serious.” I think that is worthy of a post all by itself!

      Congratulations on your long marriage; we can all benefit from your breadth of experience.

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