Navigating Conversations About Money in Relationships

Let me tell you a little story about couples and money.

John had been traveling for a few days for work. He came home, sat down, and after he and his wife had exchanged normal greetings, one of the very first things out of her mouth was, “Hey John, Kate remodeled her kitchen, and boy, it looks great!”

Now let’s pause real quick. Just ask yourself… what did you hear?

Because what John heard was: “Hey John, Kate remodeled her kitchen, and boy, it looks great… AND THE REASON I’M TELLING YOU THIS IS BECAUSE I WANT TO REMODEL OUR KITCHEN!

Here’s where John made a mistake. He immediately stopped listening and went into calculation mode. Approximately $49,672… at 6% interest. And so, he replied with the only possible rational response: “Cori, we can’t afford that.”

To which his wife replied, “What are you talking about?”

You can probably guess how the rest of the conversation went.

“You said you wanted to remodel the kitchen.”

“No, I didn’t, I said Kate…”

“Yeah, I know… but that means you…”

“No, it doesn’t. It means you’ve been gone for four days, and this was just me trying to start a conversation, which, by the way, is now over.”

Here’s where a lot of couples make mistakes. It’s not about which gender spends money and which saves.

The point here is that this conversation illustrates how often couples talk around money instead of about it.

I think the reason we do this, the reason we talk around money instead of about it, is twofold:

1 – Nobody taught us how to do it.

2 – When we go to talk about money, it’s suddenly very emotional. We expect it to be rational, but it quickly ends up in the realm of feelings, and we say, “I’m never going to do that again.”

Here’s a better way:

1 – Ask questions. “Oh, that’s interesting. Can you tell me more about that?”

2 – Clarify the conversation. “Are we talking about buying something, or are we just talking about something?”

3 – Don’t calculate… Listen. This may be the most obvious one, but trust me, that doesn’t necessarily mean easiest.

It’s a work in progress for me, too. So if you have any suggestions, feel free to send them my way!

What has worked for you?

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