Over and over, I hear that money is the primary reason for divorce. That is wrong.
Money is not the issue. Money is a tangible example of what a person values and in turn what a couple values. When it is viewed through that lens, it takes some of the emotional explosiveness out of the equation. The real discussion is not about money, but about goals and values.
Step 1: Determine what you want.
When I work with couples, we don't talk about money, we talk about goals. As a couple, try sitting down, across from one another, without distractions. What are your one-year and five-year goals? Is it to have enough money for a vacation each year so that you can connect more with your family? Is it to not have the stress of a credit card? Is it to have an emergency fund so that you feel more secure?
Do you see how each of those questions is not about the money, but instead about the emotion behind the money?
Step 2: Nagging does not stop spending.
Once you have come together and identified a longer-term goal and the emotions behind it, it is easier for couples to make new decisions with their money. Say you decide to save $1,000 for an emergency fund then that delicious $5 latte seems a little less appealing. What happens is you start to realize that you're choosing an immediate pleasure (a fancy coffee), for a feeling of insecurity (not having an emergency fund).
Step 3: Reward yourself.
When my wife and I were paying off debt, we'd reward ourselves when we paid something off. For example, if we were paying $250 extra on our car, the month after we paid off the car we spent $250 on us. It was fun, motivating, and it brought us together as a couple.
When couples view money, paying off debt, and saving as something you both are working on, it can bring you together. Remember, budgets and planning how you spend your money are not chains to enslave you; rather, you are telling your money where to go. It is freeing and if done correctly, will bring you together as a couple.
Joseph R. Sanok is a counselor with Mental Wellness Counseling where he provides individual, couples and family counseling. For more marriage and relationship resources, including a step-by-step guide to improving your marriage, go to www.mentalwellnesscounseling.com.