We all know a good marriage takes work. It’s also based on realistic expectations. The same principles apply to finances. Though it takes some effort, a couple’s expectations and communication skills usually need some adjusting after they say, “I do!” Words like “I” and “you” should be replaced by words that embrace the essence of a strong team. “We” and “us” and “our” should be used whenever possible as constant reminders that two are now one, even in money matters.
In the best marriages and partnerships that I see in action, the common denominator is the identification of each person’s gifts. Usually someone has a knack for the finance part and/or enjoys it more that the other person. Allowing that person to take the lead in money matters could make sense. However, no partner or spouse should feel that the financial yoke is solely on his or her neck. In order to embrace the idea of a team of two, here are a few suggestions.
Establishing a common goal should be at the top of the list. What does your marriage, household, or family need financially? A new washing machine, a reliable vehicle, a different house, or a family vacation? No matter the goal or desire, sitting down together and discussing the financial focus for the next established period of time is important. When you both know why you might be sacrificing in your own spending areas, it becomes a joint effort. It becomes more likely that you’ll be successful in accomplishing your objective as a team of two.
How do you decide which goal? Make a list together, taking turns expressing those things you want to accomplish financially. This can be an exhaustive list, including even things that may seem completely unrealistic. In the book, Marriage Coaching, authors Jeff and Jill Williams teach a great exercise for couples called “I want…” It begins by one person saying, “I want What do you want?” The spouse replies, “I want ____. What do you want?” Make it light and fun, filling in blanks, going back and forth in a volley, not discussing details, just listing them. Once you both feel you’ve expressed your financial wants, select your top priority together. Then as a team, discuss which one should be first or whether they both could be accomplished. Remember that being realistic is key. Some goals take much longer and require greater sacrifice. Continue to ask yourselves what your marriage, household, or family needs financially.
Then establish a plan for how to accomplish the chosen goal, including a timeline with action steps and some level of accountability. Include what is expected of each other and ways to encourage each other in completing assigned tasks. In advance, schedule periodic meeting times, perhaps over dessert, dinner, or a morning cup of coffee, to discuss how the plan is going and what needs to be tweaked. During these financial dates, start your conversation with things that are going well, celebrating your financial successes before tackling the next objective. And always remember my first suggestion: Use the words “we” and “our.”
Accomplishing financial goals together can be a big stress reliever in your relationship. It creates team spirit that can be an important catalyst for other projects you do together. Changing your mindset to focus on the we instead of the me can speak volumes for your relationship, as well as for your financial future.