How to Not Fight About Your Finances
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Money Talks1 of 11
By Annabelle Gurwitch and Jeff Kahn, real-life married couple and authors of You Say Tomato, I Say Shut Up: A Love Story
We’ve recently tightened our budget and had a throwdown about what to cut back on. That was not our favorite moment in our marriage. While talking about money can drive couples crazy, not talking about it is worse. Here’s what we’ve learned.
Send Out a Warning2 of 11
He says: Don’t bring up the subject of money without proper notice. If you say, “Hey, hon, we need to talk about our finances,” the response should be, “OK, let’s meet and do it in an hour.” Then you can both use the hour to get to the higher “moral ground” you’ll each need when the argument hits.
Timing is Everything3 of 11
She says: I truly believe regular talks are important, but I've learned it’s best not to bring things up when you or your spouse is, say, heading to a job interview. And late at night can lead to tossing and turning. I’ve found the least risky time is early in the day. That way the anger/denial/mourning/acceptance of your finances can work through your system.
Don't Be Rash4 of 11
He says: Do not sell your house, buy an RV Winnebago and drive around the country together. Instead, watch Albert Brooks' Lost in America and have a laugh together before you go back to fighting and crying about the state of your financial reality.
Watch What You Cut5 of 11
She says: One of the last luxuries people are willing to relinquish is haircuts. I think that is wise. While I've abandoned ship on my super-pricey cut-and-color, now spending half as much as I used to, I once attempted to cut my own hair, and while the first side came out pretty damn good, the second side…looked like I'd a fight with a juicer. (And the juicer won.) I ended up spending twice as much to have it fixed.
Forget About It6 of 11
He says: Don’t dwell on the memory of money-spent past. Sure, if you didn’t fritter away all that cash on a nanny for your kid until he was 25 or had instead bought the house in the once-decrepit crack neighborhood that’s now the most expensive area in town and is worth 500 times more than the one you bought and can’t rid of, you’d be rich…but you didn’t. So stop bringing it up.
Compare and Despair7 of 11
She says: Making comparisons really is a tried-and-true method for unhappiness. Works every time. I remind myself of this each time Jeff and I sit down to review our bank statements. Bringing up other people’s net worth can only lead to more angst. Stick to what’s in front of you.
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Keep Your Cool8 of 11
He says: When talking about money do not get emotional or hotheaded. (We do all the time—and it never ends well.) Take a deep breath, count to ten, and pop a couple Valiums. And try not to get too competitive when discussing who earns more than whom. Remember, you’re supposed to be on the same team playing together and not a couple of gladiators trying to rip each other to shreds.
Take It Slow9 of 11
She says: I always make the mistake of trying to figure out the rest of our lives at one sitting. This is a recipe for disaster. My new goal every time we talk about the sexy subject of money is to slowly chip away at each item on our list.
Keep Sex Separate10 of 11
He says: Never talk about money before you have sex. And try not to suggest—no matter how bad things get financially—that since your spouse is still hot and you’re not half bad at videotaping, she should star in her own online adult site. Especially if you ever hope to be intimate with her again.
Keep Others Out11 of 11
He says: Unless your spouse’s parents are named Soros, Buffett or Gates, I’d advise against talking to your in-laws about your financial concerns. It’s like taking up smoking to cure cancer. Also, don’t have your money chats in front of the kids unless you want to end up telling a tearful child, “Daddy was just kidding when he told Mommy that he was going to sell the house, the car, his kidney and prostitute himself as a cheap male hustler just to make ends meet."