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The Four Worst Places to Discuss Money

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The Four Worst Places to Discuss Money: Are these areas a trigger for you or your partner? Concepts that come from couples counseling. Schedule a couples therapy appointment today.

Do you and your partner end up arguing about money and spending when you were simply trying to pay the bills? Do you avoid talking about money with your partner because you worry it will end up in another argument? Do you struggle to have a productive conversation about money because it turns into an emotional blame game? Do you and your partner set out to have a nice meal, or enjoyable outing together, but the mention of finances derails your date? Couples avoid the topic of money to the point that the issue inevitably pops up unplanned during inappropriate times, leaving the couple unprepared and on the defense for the talk. When this happens, the outcome is often a fight instead of productivity. When it comes to any discussion involving money, productive, non-emotional money talks have a designated time and a place if you are looking to have a healthier relationship with money talks as a couple. Here at the Center for Growth located in Philadelphia, Ocean City, Mechanicsville, Santa Fe, we recommend that as you work on improving how you approach money talks as a couple, take a moment to assess what you are doing currently (and where) to see if it’s contributing to the negative experiences you are having when discussing money with your partner. We believe the four worst places to discuss money are:

  1. In the car: Serious conversations (especially about money) require 100 percent focus and eye contact. If one of you is multitasking by driving the car, this prevents complete attention to the money discussion. In addition, the two of you are trapped with no exit door if the discussion gets heated, or one of you needs a breather. It’s best to create a situation where the two of you are face to face, able to practice eye contact, and able to focus on each other and the discussion of money. Finances can be a heated enough conversation, that the minor stresses of driving would only exacerbate any negativity around a money talk.
  2. During a meal together: Mealtime is often when families and couples come together during their downtime, and possibly see each other for the first time that day and catch up. This precious quality time should not be compromised for an unplanned money talk. This is your time to enjoy your family’s company, take in a savor the meal. Addressing issues around money unplanned, un-agreed, and not completely focused opens both of you up to feeling ambushed, or on the defensive towards the one who initiated the talk. Without an identified goal or game plan for a money talk, in combination with multitasking dinner, this carries risks of a negative experience, and a negative association with mealtime. This type of situation is difficult to have a productive and positive outcome.
  3. In bed: The bed is a sacred space for couples. Similar to mealtime, this is a shared space where couples come together after a long day or a conflict. Yes, defenses may be down which can be good for having a money talk, however if defenses are down and money is discussed on a whim without warning, the unprepared partner may feel on the attack and not ready to engage in such a conversation. When money is discussed in bed, odds are the conversation is being had late at night when one or both of you are tired and not at your best to handle difficult topic. If you are unsure of how the topic of money will go over, you risk going to bed angry with each other, having a long conversation/argument keeping the two of you up later than you need to be, and again developing a negative association with your bed.
  4. While paying the bills: “What did you spend $100 on last week?” “Why does your haircut cost so much?” Sound family? Bringing up money issues while paying the bills is common for couples, and makes sense. Whether you’re an avoider of the topic, or you just don’t track spending, this is the moment when your financial reality is staring back at you from the computer screen or paper statement, and you forced to deal with the spending habits of you and your partner’s. Here’s the problem with hashing it out now: the past is the past, these decisions around money have already happened. Paying the bills is not a fun tasks, period. No one enjoys this duty. You are already in a negative state. Unless you need to ask a question for simply clarity, such as “Do you remember what the $50 ATM withdrawal went to?” This is no time to address spending with your partner. This will inevitably lead to a offense/defense dance, where one of you does that interrogating and blaming about spending and finances, and the other defends, deflects, or tries to place the blame back to you.

The bottom-line is couples' finances is a critical and ongoing issue in every family. This is a topic that needs to be discussed regularly. Having an agreed upon space, time, and agenda when discussing money is the safest way to go about the issue and can produce the best outcomes. Successful Money talks with your partner are to be pre-planned, non-emotional, and scheduled. Keep in mind having a date to discuss money is separate from sitting down to pay bills. This is an agreed upon time when you and your partner sit down without interruptions, (no television, no phone, not making dinner, etc.) address what you and your partner identify to be priority. This could be a time to share money goals for the new year, or to brainstorm ways to cut spending for the new month, or going over your monthly budget, etc. It’s important to have your money talks in an environment where you and your partner can keep eye contact throughout the talk, and stay focused on the agreed upon topics.

Typically the four worst places to discuss money are places that real couples do talk about money, and some even find it useful. All couples are different and carry various strengths and weakness. If you are a couple a who thrive in any of these 4 areas, or simply prefer addressing finances in one of these areas, then congratulate yourself because you hold a unique skill. You overcome the typical obstacles that “regular” couples often get derailed by. A slightly different challenge for you would be to review these 4 areas and identify for yourself what is about the situation that actually helps you achieve your goal and make progress when discussing money with your partner. Also, check in with your partner. Does your partner agree with you and also prefer one or more of these areas to address financial issues? If yes, what do you both need to have the discussion in bed, or over dinner, etc. This is an opportunity for you both to find out what works best for you when tackling such a triggering topic. Regardless of where you thrive and where you prefer having money talks, you and your partner both need to be in agreement and comfortable with the timing, environment, and overall agenda. There will be more energy and ability to focus on the issues that need to be addressed.

Next time you find yourself in one of these four places and you feel triggered to bring up money, write down in detail the specific issue, ask your partner if the two of you can set aside time to discuss this issue in the next few days and schedule this date. Don’t forget to ask your partner if there is anything he/she would like to add to the agenda. For the next month, try this approach when you catch yourself talking about money unintentionally. This can help you develop your agenda for regular money talks.

* if you have additional ideas about what we should add to the four worst places to discuss money, do not hesitate to contact us. You can reach a live therapist at 215 922 5683 x 100 or by self scheduling your inperson or virtual therapy appointment in Philadelphia PA, Mechanicsville VA, Ocean City NJ and Santa Fe NM The Center For Growth is Proud To Have The Following InPerson Therapy Offices:

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