Money and marriage… oh what a tricky thing! Money can be an incredibly sensitive and emotional topic, and conflict can quickly escalate when married couples try to talk about money.
So most of the time, we just don’t.
And then something happens that makes us realize, it’s time to do something about this. No more ignoring bills, no more figuring out which credit card to use, no more spending all our hard-earned money and having nothing to show for it.
It’s time for a budget.
The only problem is, how are you going to get your husband on board?
In my experience, most of the time it’s the wife who wants to get her husband on board with a budget. However, I do acknowledge it goes both ways! (So husbands, this can apply to talking with your wife, too.
If you’ve avoided talking about money because it always leads to a fight, or if you’re just nervous about bringing up the subject in the first place, here are five ways to approach the conversation.
First, try not to bring up money in a moment of heightened emotion. Wait until you can think clearly, and go into the discussion with an open mind.
Think about what prompted you to bring up money in the first place. Do you feel scared about the future? Do you feel disconnected and out of the loop? Do you feel like your priorities are not on the same page?
Keep the focus on how you feel about it. Share your heart ask your spouse to share how they feel about the finances, too. Let your husband know that you want to work on this as a team and that you’re committed to making the changes necessary to turn things around.
This will show that you aren’t merely complaining or nagging, but that you’re sincere. Your vulnerability will help create safety in a conversation that could otherwise turn into a non-productive fight.
It’s of critical importance not to place blame in this conversation. Spouses share equal responsibility for the finances, so if there is financial trouble, it is not solely your husband’s fault.
Saying things like, “You need to get your act together. I can’t believe how much money you waste buying soda at the gas station!” is not going to endear your spouse to the cause of the budget!
Ideally, he will take responsibility for his mistakes, but it might take him a little time to process and verbalize this. Be patient and don’t push it.
Instead, lead by example and offer up your own apology for the money mistakes you’ve made. This lets your husband know that your goal isn’t to attack him or find fault in him (men in particular are very sensitive about the finances because they tend to interpret a financial issue as a personal failure to provide.)
When you apologize for your own mistakes instead pointing out his, he will be much less likely to react poorly, and more likely to admit to his own errors.
Tony Robbins says that he only places 10% of his focus on the problem and puts 90% of the focus on the solution. I love this!
I have a tendency to dwell on my mistakes and shortcomings, but I have realized that helps nothing! While we all need to recognize our own failings and learn from them, our emotional and mental energy should not keep us stuck in the past.
So don’t verbally beat yourself- or each other- up.
In this conversation, it’s okay to acknowledge the reality of the present and what got you there, but put the emphasis on what the future holds.
When you both commit to the budget, you’ll have better communication, less stress about money, and you’ll be able to save and give according to your values and priorities. Identify some things you both want to do with your money (buy a house, give generously, etc) and let those goals be the center of the conversation.
Keep bringing it back to the hope you see for your future and how you can work as a team to get there.
Be prepared for the very real possibility that your husband isn’t going to receive your heartfelt motivational pep talk with enthusiasm.
He might say “Are you crazy? You want to cut the cable right before football season?”
Try not to bombard him with a list of sacrifices you want him to make for the sake of the family finances. If he agrees to sit down with you and make a budget- even if you end up making no cuts- that’s a win. If he agrees to listen to a personal finance podcast, or read a book, or even a blog post and discuss it with you- that’s a win!
Take small wins.
Those are signs he is open and wants to work on the finances with you. While he might jump right on board with the budget right away and thank you endlessly for initiating such an important conversation, chances are he needs time to ease into the idea.
You know there’s a red flag when you share your feelings with vulnerability, you use gentle language, you keep the main focus on the future, and you still get total and utter resistance.
No willingness to discuss a budget, or even to take a look at the numbers together. That’s a problem to discuss with your pastor or a counselor.
A spouse who is not ready to sell the truck or cut up credit cards after one conversation? That’s okay, be patient. You see the difference.
Getting your husband on board with a budget may be a challenge (or it might be surprisingly easy!). You never know until you discuss it. And when discussions about money aren’t yet a part of your regular routine, it can be intimidating to get started.
Before you initiate this conversation, pray. Ask God to lead you with gentleness, wisdom, patience, and understanding.
If you’re ready to make positive and productive money conversations part of your marriage, check out the marriage and money resources in my free resource library.
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