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Couples Who Fight about Money May Have Bigger Problems

Eileen Yager, Communications Officer, Extension & Ag Information, University of Missouri,

When couples argue about money, often those disagreements are a sign of bigger problems in the relationship. The real issue often is not about the family’s finances but with the relationship itself, according to a Human Development Specialist at the University of Missouri.

“Financial decisions have to be made almost every day,” said Nina Chen, an MU Extension Specialist, so it’s easy to see the problem as money - who earns it, who spends it and how.

“There is usually some underlying issue about power, control, personal values, commitment, goals and trust,” she said.

It’s those issues that couples should focus on first. “Having a deeper understanding about each other, couples are more likely to achieve their goals together rather than apart,” she said.

Those issues, Chen said, need to be addressed before jumping immediately into problem solving.

Chen recommends starting with a discussion of the problem to understand your partner’s feelings and feel understood by your partner. “This establishes the foundation for a solution to come,” she said.

“Fixing a problem without first building mutual trust and understanding doesn’t result in a lasting solution,” she said. “Before trying to solve the problem, it’s important to discuss the issues and concerns.

“Couples need to talk openly and honestly, and put everything on the table,” she said, adding that partners should clearly state issues and concerns.

In many instances, Chen said, many couples find that after a good discussion, there is no need to come up with a solution. “Just having a good discussion is enough,” she said.

If couples need to discuss solutions, Chen recommends that couples begin that discussion by setting the agenda to decide which pieces of the issue to work on.

The next step is brainstorming, coming up with as many ideas as possible. “During this step, do not criticize or evaluate ideas,” Chen said.

In the third step, agreement and compromise, she said, couples can begin their discussion, weighing the pros and cons of each idea and settling on a solution. Couples should clarify what each will do and by when as part of that solution, she said.

Finally, Chen said, couples need to follow up. “Schedule a time and place to discuss how the solution is working,” she said. “If it’s not working, go back to the problem discussion and problem solution steps.”

Chen said couples should realize that not all disagreements are destructive. “Some conflicts have beneficial effects,” she said. “Disagreements can enhance trust, lead to greater sharing, honor, respect and acceptance.”


Source: Nina Chen, (816) 876-2781



Last Updated 05/12/2009


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