How to Stop a Financial Fight Before It Starts

This week we are celebrating our friends Cherie and Brian Lowe’s new book, Your Money, Your Marriage, with a series of posts all about the sexiness of financial freedom. The book is absolutely fantastic, and we hope you check it out today. Enjoy the post!

Everyday after school, I flipped on the TV and had a snack. A host of my best friends greeted me through the tube television that was more three foot thick screen than flat screen. There were the Ingalls living on the prairie and Ricky learning how to live as a rich kid on Silver Spoons. Countless sitcom families shared their slice of life complete with a howling laugh track in the background. The Tanners, the Winslows, the Cunninghams, the Keatons, and the family of Tim the Toolman Taylor all dished out meaningful moments in the form of a rerun daily.

But more than anything, I loved watching the wiley group of high school kids from Bayside High. Led by the dreamy Zach Morris, this group of friends got into more hijinx than I could ever imagine. In the early years, Zach’s talent for leading his crew reached beyond the normal fooling Mr. Belding abilities. He actually had the supernatural power to stop time. Do you remember this?

I dreamed about sharing Zach’s special skill. What if I could call a “pause” right when life got difficult. What a relief it would be to freeze life and be able to gain a clear perspective and really think about what to do next.

I hear there’s a theory that maybe Zach wasn’t the fun loving scoundrel we all thought he was in the late 80s and 90s. As an adult, my dreams of cheering for the Bayside Tigers have fallen under disillusionment along with my childhood dreams of being able to call a time-out.

Don’t you wish you had that power though when it came to money fights with your spouse? You could make the referee T shape with your hands and everything would stop. You could rewind the clock and say the right things or un-say the wrong things. Money fights happen in real time, though. And odds are good you might have one in the future. My husband Brian and I discovered marriage wisdom from another 1990s icon – Vanilla Ice. Here’s what he’d tell you to do the when you begin to fight about money.

STOP

While you may not be able to press a magical pause button, you can take a breath. When an argument heats up, take a beat. Refuse to allow yourself to name call or bring up old issues. Deescalate the situation as quickly as possible to prevent yourself from saying something you regret.

Often, we forget that money is emotional and personal finance is personal. It’s easy to begin to fool ourselves into thinking that every purchase we make is necessary. And it’s just as easy to believe the untruth that every purchase our spouse makes is frivolous. We all make mistakes when it comes to money. Don’t allow your emotions to run rampant.

In Your Money, Your Marriage, we talk about the need for “Safe Words.” Agree with your spouse on a word or a phrase that will allow you both to breathe and stop a fight before it goes too far. To avoid fights about money in the future, remember the acronym HALT. Never bring up a discussion about money when you’re Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. The results won’t be healthy if you do.

COLLABORATE

Read Next on Thriving Marriages  How to Have an Increasingly Happy Marriage

Once you’ve regained your composure, shift toward a position of working together instead of against each other. In the midst of conflict, it’s tempting to let the reasons why we love our husband or wife to float away in the pursuit of being right. Come back to the tender place of remembrance. Your origin story contains great power. Remember why you walked down the aisle to begin with.

One of the most frequently asked questions we receive is “How do I get my spouse on the same page as me when it comes to money?” This question can sometimes really mean, “How can I get my spouse on my page?” Again, you married your spouse, not your financial principles. You need to work together, avoiding the temptation to control each other.

My husband Brian recently came to the realization that the word budget has within it another word – budge. We need to move toward each other when it comes to developing smart money habits. Drop the old ways of digging in your heels and see where you can make change.

LISTEN

A wise philosopher (or Internet meme) that I once read said “Listen with your eyes.” In a culture where we’re almost constantly tethered to a piece of technology this ancient wisdom has never been more true. To stop fighting about money, we need to intently listen with our ears, our hearts, and our eyes.

I know this concept is difficult because we usually long more to be heard than to listen. But when we seek to understand, we almost always end up understood.

Zach Morris and Vanilla Ice, you may not have their 1990s fame or clout. But the next time you begin to argue about finances with your spouse, think of their faces, apply the above concepts, and stop money fights dead in their tracks.

To discover more about how to get more Financial Foreplay action in your marriage, visit YourMoneyYourMarriage.com and check out Your Money, Your Marriage: The Secrets to Smart Finance, Spicy Romance, and Their Intimate Connection.