Let’s face it. Your marriage may be the biggest business you ever run.
Your spouse is your partner. And no matter whether you are living on a fixed income, you both work or just one of you gets paid for what you do, so many decisions need to be made regarding money.
Small picture. Big picture. Current needs. Future concerns.
It takes coordination. And effort.
Just like it would in a “real” business, where things would be discussed, turned inside-out, and re-discussed in meetings.
So when do these subjects typically get worked out in a marriage?
We try to talk when we’re brushing teeth in the morning. Or right before one of you is trying to go to sleep. “Oh, I forgot to ask you, how much are we going to give to the church?” Or spend on kids or grandkids. Or a vacation.
Or, “What’s the plan for the holidays?” “Did you pay the telephone bill?”
“We can talk tomorrow. I’m exhausted.”
There are several ways the business of a marriage can be mishandled.
One person will take on the entire responsibility of finances. The other may not even have a clue what’s going on, mimicking a parent/child dynamic.
Others never talk about money. They keep their own checking accounts. Each contributes an amount to a shared account, but never quite know what the other one is doing with their money—how they are prioritizing what to buy. What not to buy.
There is little sense of partnership. Or working together.
Both can be engaged in chaotic decision-making, neither paying any attention to how much money is actually available. Living high on the hog, as we would say in Arkansas. Too high.
Or one person will take on planning everything. All the trips. All travel or what they kids are involved in. Maybe they are good at organizing so it seems a simple solution.
The problem? You get tired of doing even what you do well. You can feel totally unappreciated, or lonely and resentful.
So what’s an answer?
Here are some guidelines.
1) Create a space in your house where you can sit down together.
Face to face. The dining room table, for example. Bring your laptops, calculators. Maybe even a pen and paper thrown in for good measure. Kids need to know parents are not to be disturbed for a while. Or this is a good time to ask a friend to take them to a movie.
2) Come prepared.
One of you prepare an agenda that you send to the other. They can add to that agenda. Know what you are going to cover—savings plans, retirement goals, vacation ideas, or budget for kids or grandkids. Whatever is on the agenda.
3) Have these quarterly.
You want to meet regularly, not too much to overdo it. But not so little that too much time has gone by and you’re going to lose touch on the pragmatics of your relationship.
4) Bring an attitude of cooperation and learning.
Both of you will be involved in “the business” of your marriage. Bring financial documents with you. Or look online. Both of you can feel grown-up, and responsible for carrying your role out.
5) Set immediate goals, and future goals.
Think short-term and also long-term. Talk about what kind of sacrifice might be needed to accomplish goals. Decide who is going to be responsible for what—to attain those goals. This builds huge trust in the couple.
If both know what the other will be actively doing to keep the relationship safe and secure? And see them doing it? It’s a confidence booster. Both people get to feel competent.
6) If you are overspending, or have huge credit card debt, get help.
There are books and programs out there that you can use. Dave Ramsey is well-known for his financial advice on how to get rid of debt. Credit counseling organizations are often non-profit and therefore free to the public. Lawyers can also advise about what course you should follow.
7) If you get angry or frustrated, take a break.
Money. Reality. Partnership. Not having all the control. All of this can be hard to talk about, especially if you’ve been doing things in a way that isn’t working. It can be difficult to set up a new pattern. But remember … you wouldn’t yell or make accusations in a meeting at your workplace. (Or if you do, things probably are not looking too great for you.) Treat this meeting in a similar way.
You will both develop a practical and safe environment at home, so that responsibility is shared.
And you can relax, and enjoy the rest of your relationship.
This post originally appeared at drmargaretrutherford.com. Reprinted with permission.
Photo: Getty Images