Let’s talk about money fights in marriage.
We’ve already established that:
If you’re married and you have money fights, congratulations – you’re normal…
… and so this looks like a good place to step back and understand why money fights between a couple is normal and almost guaranteed.
That way, we can confidently handle those fights with the knowledge that your marriage is not an outlier, and definitely not worse than every other marriage out there;
Also, understanding that money fights are normal and nothing strange…
… will nudge us in the right direction to start looking for ways to reduce those money fights in our marriage.
Because, from personal experience, I can tell you this: some of the most tense arguments I’ve had with my wife has been around money and how best to spend it.
Right now, we’re in the second section of Page 28 – Page 29, under the title ‘Men, Women, and Money (Overgeneralizing)’, in Chapter 2 of Dave Ramsey’s Complete Guide to Money.
And here’s my lesson for the day:
Men and women approach money in very different ways.
Certainly, statements like this aren’t blanket statements, and do doesn’t mean that every single marriage out there has the man and woman behaving differently.
It simply means that there are certain patterns about how men and women behave, that have been proven time and again.
In fact, according to Dave, after working with so many married couples over the years, here’s the one thing he’s learned:
“Men and women approach money in very different ways.”
And these key differences in the way men and women approach money show up as each partner agree (or not agree) on how to manage the family finances.
From Dave’s Complete Guide to Money book, according to family counselor and author of various Christian family book, Gary Smalley…
… there are five major differences he’s observed among males and females drawn from his research and counseling experience of over 30 years.
These five key differences are:
1. Men love to share facts; women love to express feelings
For me, the key word here is the word ‘share.’ Most men might feel the need to relax, rest, or take a break, but they hardly ever share those feelings…
…it’s just innate in most men to discount those feelings as temporary and not significant.
Whereas women enjoy expressing their feelings – my instinct tells me it expressing feelings as a woman makes her feel relieved of the heavy load weighing on her shoulders.
But men tend to believe that you can’t argue with the facts. So, they love to share the facts and logical reasonings from most situations.
For me, I personally believe that feelings are subjective, and will vary depending on who you ask. But, that facts are clear as day and won’t change from person to person; which all sounds good…
… except the world is more nuanced and grey than that, I’ve found. As much as men love to share facts, the fact is that the world still runs on feelings. For example, we remember feelings way more than we recollect facts:
- It’s why a smoker will keep smoking, even when tobacco companies share the facts on common smoking-related deaths and infections. Facts are everywhere, but he still feels drawn to the addictive substance in the cigarettes
- Feelings is why people hire someone they feel closer and connected to, even though there might be people with more impressive qualifications in the application pool
- Feelings is why many people eat out, buy things they don’t need, and live paycheck-to-paycheck. The facts and data on personal finance are there, it’s just that they haven’t felt the need to make that change in behavior
To reduce money fights between you and your spouse, you’ll need to strike that balance between presenting the facts about money, student loans, emergency funds, debts, and credit cards AND the feelings you and your spouse experience about those facts.
Just knowing and sharing the money facts is not enough, you need to be able to express and merge your feelings about those money facts too.
2. Men connect by doing things; women connect by talking
As a man, I just love being able to ‘get things done.’ If we’re going to talk, I want to make sure that the discussion will get things done; in other words, I don’t want to talk, just for the sake of talking.
I prefer to sit in silence and get things done, and maybe chat after. But I often feel drained and less productive, if I have to do and talk at the same time.
Whereas my wife loves to talk things out, express what she’s feeling, and then continuously brainstorm by talking through the topic at hand.
In fact, Dave quotes Dennis Rainey, author of several family books, as saying:
Men usually speak about 10,000-20,000 words a day, while women speak 30,000-50,000 words per day – sometimes up to 125,000 words!
Women are generally more verbal than men, and women tend to connect and build stronger relationships by talking and expressing their thoughts.
For men to talk, there has to be a specific goal for talking – may be, to come to a resolution or make a decision. Whereas women typically don’t need a specific goal in order to start talking; for a lot of women, talking is the goal.
To reduce money fights between you and your spouse, it could be helpful just letting your wife express her thoughts on how not spending money is affecting her…
… this doesn’t mean she wants to start spending money luxuriously or lavishly, but just being able to talk things out might remind her why you both are cutting back, saving and not spending.
3. Men tend to compete; women tend to cooperate
Men tend to demonstrate drive and competition, just for the sake of it. In other words, to compete just for fun. This could be as a survival trait, transmitted over time, from the early men who had to hunt for food among animals in the forests.
Traditionally, men tend to compete and just place bets over seemingly random things, whereas a woman won’t compete unless she has to.
Rather, a woman wants to cooperate and bring different small parts together to make a new total.
To reduce money fights between you and your spouse, as a man, it could be helpful to continually communicate with your wife about why you work hard so much, even when you have enough money to realistically feed your family.
It’s generally understandable to understand why you worked all day to make ends meet as a young 30-year old guy, but you’ll need to continually express to your spouse, why you want to continue working even when you don’t need the money.
It might seem to you like you love the competition, but it might seem to your wife like you just don’t care that much about your family. Your job is to communicate so she doesn’t feel this way.
4. Men tend to be controlling; women tend to be agreeable
If left to their vices, most men want to control, dominate, and establish what the rules should be. Whereas a woman might not want to object in order to not rock the boat.
So, men tend to want to control how things turn out, whereas women tend to feel like they can only do so much to drastically alter the outcomes.
Men tend to want to reach upward, aspire, and to be able to control what happens, while women tend to want to work through things today, and not worry as much about where things might end up.
Both attributes are necessary and important for healthy family finances.
You and your spouse will need to give each other the space and breathing room to both change the course of things, and to also have the patience to work through each day without worrying about what will happen 5 or 10 years from now.
5. Men tend to be independent; women tend to be interdependent
Going down that line of being competitive, men tend to independent and be able to prove to their ego how much they’ve achieved. Whereas women tend to enjoy being interconnected with a partner pursuing similar goals.
To have lesser money fights, look to see how you can build a solid financial base alongside your finances, combining your incomes, expenses, and bills.
It takes a level of commitment you won’t get with friends, co-workers, or even siblings. Which is why marriage is such a deep commitment that makes it stand out from all other kinds of relationships.
Keeping individual bank accounts might be cool and awesome when you were single, but studies upon studies have shown that a healthy marriage is built upon joint and dependent family finances.
You promised in the marriage vows you and your spouse exchanged to be with each other in sickness and in wealth, for richer or poorer. There’s no longer “my money” or “my savings”; no, what you now have is “our money”, “our savings”, “our accounts.”
That way, you’d truly be living as a couple with rock-solid finances, not as roommates sharing monthly bills.
Please note that these are generalizations and your mileage might vary. But, if you’ve found that you and your spouse keep having money fights, now you’ve seen the reason why, and how you both can fix it.
We all come into marriage with various beliefs about money, but there are ways by which you and your spouse can both come together, hear each other out, and melt your two hearts into one.
It won’t be easy, but, I tell you, the efforts would be worth every second you put into it.
Remember: men and women approach money in very different ways.
And by understanding those different ways, you can see why you and your spouse often have money fights…
… which will then greatly help you and your partner to reduce those fights, so you can build strong family finances and a happy, thriving marriage.
That’s all for today, my friend. We’ll continue in the second section of Page 29 of the book tomorrow.
See you then.