Dan and Renee fell in love in college.
Dan was kindhearted and everyone’s friend. He was older and sported all the trappings of a "real" job—new phone, new car, and cash. Renee was creative and focused—a task-driven, type-A worrier, drawn to his relaxed “don't-worry-about-it” attitude.
Dan sent her flowers before every exam and showered her with lots of small velvety boxes. He frequently dropped by her small apartment to take her out to eat while her roommates split another pan of mac and cheese. They were always together, and no one was at all surprised when Renee showed up a month before graduation wearing a sparkling diamond ring on her left hand.
So when, a few years into the marriage, the sparkler—and the relationship—seemed to have lost their luster, they were both confused.
They were still relatively happy, but they fought about money all the time.
Now they were living paycheck to paycheck. Unfortunately, like most couples, they never talked about money before they married, and his steady stream of gifts didn’t feel so wonderful to her now that the money came out of an account they shared.
We hear this from A LOT of couples.
They didn’t realize how different they were. He likes to save, she likes to spend, or the other way around, and the only middle ground is a boxing ring.
In fact, 56.6 percent of couples who took our online assessment have totally opposite views from each other about money, and only 19.7 percent share an identical approach to handling their dollars and cents.
So are those couples who don't see eye to eye doomed?
Not at all.
Understanding each other’s differences can lead to a new level of mutual understanding and stop the fights about money.
We see so many of our financial planning clients getting frustrated with—and even divorcing over—their day-to-day money conflicts. These are couples with plenty of money but who totally disagree about how to use it.
But armed with knowledge about themselves and about each other, and given practical tools, life together gets easier.
Like my dad used to say, “Knowledge is power.” (Or was that Sir Frances Bacon? Either way, they’re right. (And bacon is rarely ever wrong.)
Here are three simple steps you can begin taking right now to open the doors to understanding each other's relationship with money:
1. Shoot straight when identifying your differences.
You’re either a curious sort to still be reading this, or you’re sick of the tension and arguments about money under your roof.
You are not alone. Couples are fed up with fighting. Take some time together to talk about how money makes you feel.
- Do you love it or hate it?
- Do you want to risk it to get more?
- Do you want to dig a hole out back to bury it and hope for the best?
- Did your parents fight about money?
- Does his or her spending, couponing, lavishing of gifts and gadgets, constant questioning, etc. make you crazy?
Take time to understand your spouse and yourself better when it comes to money.
So pull up your mats, like in kindergarten, and share your feelings, but this time you can do it with wine!
2. Look closely to see each other's strengths.
Ever wonder why people so often ask the question, “Is the glass half empty or half full?” Because it’s a great reminder that we always have a choice—in how we look at life, our marriage, our weight, our kids, the traffic, our mother-in-law, our job, the weather, or our glass of wine.
Which will you choose—half empty or half full?
You can choose to stop seeing the downside of your spouse’s approach to money and choose to love the way his or her different approach complements yours. You can address problems as partners and teammates, not as adversaries because you know the other person is coming at the problem from a legitimate perspective that just happens to be different from yours.
The Golden Gate Bridge is 1.7 miles of tension and those opposing forces have been working just fine since 1937.
Decide to make your different opinions balance each other out instead of freaking them out. Whether we admit it or not, our spouse’s differences are what attracts us in the first place.
Focus on your strengths and get ahead, together.
3. Make decisions together.
Now that you know you come at money decisions from different corners, you can plan ahead and no longer let their response frighten or frustrate you.
For a while it seemed like every night right before bed Bethany would come up with a new business idea. One time it was about a doughnut franchise in Estonia (I’m not kidding). Believe it or not, I took a deep breath and heard her out. As ludicrous as I thought it sounded, I didn’t immediately toss cold water on her idea.
I know Bethany is a risk taker, and she gets a thrill out of the potential in front of her. That doesn’t mean she’d already sold our house to buy a storefront in Estonia. It just means she was excited about the possibility. Bethany needs to know I’m going to hear her out. I need to know she’s not going to do anything without having me on board.
We’ve learned we make far better decisions together than either of us would make on his or her own.
If I weren’t there to talk through these ideas with Bethany, she’d probably own a doughnut store in every city in Northern Europe. And if she weren’t there to push me out of my comfort zone, I’d have all of our money invested in savings bonds and we’d be living in my parents’ basement.
We’ve had plenty of painful arguments over money, but they are far less likely to happen now that we respect each other’s opinions and make decisions together.
Marriage is a huge commitment and dealing with someone every single day who thinks differently from you can be frustrating, frightening, and exhausting.
But there is a better way...
Shoot straight and clearly identify your differences.
Celebrate their strengths.
Use your differences to make awesome decisions together.
Your relationship and your money will profit from it.
Make it happen!
Scott & Bethany Palmer, The Money Couple, are Money Relationship Experts. Gleaning from their 25 years as financial advisors, they are passionate about saving relationships and ending money conflict. They are authors, speakers, and TV personalities providing helpful, inspirational and timely insight to help couples tackle money issues in their relationship. Grab a copy of "The 5 Money Personalities: Speaking the Same Love and Money Language," and take the FREE online Money Personality Assessment.
This article originally appeared on YourTango.