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How Couples Can Fight Fairly About Money

Chelsey Zhu  |  February 8, 2023

Butting heads with your partner about money? Hear from a couples therapist on how you can successfully navigate the hardest financial conversations.

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, which means that boxes of chocolates are flying off the shelves, florists are working overtime, and more than a few people are probably scrambling to make last-minute dinner reservations. (If this is you, we recommend taking the money-savvy route by planning a romantic night in, far away from the crowds and price markups.)

Americans are set to spend nearly $26 billion on Valentine’s Day this year, according to the National Retail Foundation. In the spirit of all that cash being spent in the name of love, we are bringing you a special episode all about money and relationships. Specifically, we’re talking about how and why couples argue about money. According to Fidelity Investment’s most recent Couples and Money Study, 44% of couples say they argue about their finances, and one in five say that money is their greatest relationship challenge. Despite this — or maybe because of this — we don’t like to have conversations about money. Another study by Personal Capital found that four in ten people avoid talking about their finances with their partners. 

But no one can avoid those conversations forever, because money is the foundation for every major milestone in a relationship. Being on the same page with your partner about your finances is a must if you want to plan a wedding, buy a house, have kids, and prepare for retirement. That’s why we called on couples therapist Elizabeth Earnshaw to give us her insight on how couples can talk through conflicts and achieve their financial milestones together. Elizabeth is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who has spent more than a decade helping thousands of couples improve their relationships. She’s also the cofounder of couples counseling firm OURS Wellness and author of the book, “I Want This to Work: An Inclusive Guide to Navigating the Most Difficult Relationship Issues We Face in the Modern Age.”

Elizabeth breaks down the two basic types of conflicts that couples encounter — solvable and perpetual issues — and why perpetual issues can often lead people to talk in circles. We also discuss how differences in communication styles between men and women can cause misunderstandings in heterosexual relationships, and how traditional gender roles can also impact LGBTQ relationships. 

Then we get into the most common financial disagreements that couples face — and why those fights often aren’t about money at all. Many times, conversations about money are rooted in deeper fears and anxieties, says Elizabeth, and they usually originate from watching our parents deal with money in our childhood. 

“Money is one of the most threatening topics that we can discuss,” she says. “It has to do with life and safety and security. We might just be talking about whether we want to take a vacation to Disney World or not — but at its core, it is tied to, ‘Am I going to be safe?’”  

Elizabeth shares her best strategies for approaching disagreements with your partner, and talks about how you can truly open yourself up to your partner’s point of view. We also tackle what to do if you start to feel overwhelmed — and when it makes sense to table the conversation for later. 

In Mailbag, we answer a question about whether it makes sense to have joint or separate financial accounts in a relationship. We also hear from a listener who wants to know how she and her wife can get on the same page with their investments and retirement plans. In Thrive, the best budgeting tips for your 30s.

This podcast is proudly supported by Edelman Financial Engines. Let our modern wealth management advice raise your financial potential. Get the full story at Sponsored by Edelman Financial Engines – Modern wealth planning. All advisory services offered through Financial Engines Advisors L.L.C. (FEA), a federally registered investment advisor. Results are not guaranteed. AM1969416

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The HerMoney podcast is supported by      Edelman
All advisory services offered through Financial Engines Advisors L.L.C. (FEA), a federally registered investment advisor. Results are not guaranteed. AM1969416

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