Do you ever feel as though you’re not communicating well with your partner? Do you wonder whether they heard what you said? Whether they understood a point you made? Maybe even whether you’re speaking a different language?
Most everyone feels this way at some time or other. I know I do. For example, my wife always says that she does not care about finances. She says she finds the subject boring, and she would rather have someone else (me) worry about “that stuff.” From my experience, this attitude toward personal finances is pretty typical with most couples. One usually cares more about the finances in an active way than the other. This imbalance may be okay, but it is still important for you to initiate financial discussions periodically (yes, you, because if you’re reading this, you’re most likely the one who’s more actively involved) so that you can agree about key points moving forward.
So how do you get your partner involved?
Start by Speaking Their Language
This may take a little bit of effort. Think about what does interest them, and start there. For example, although my wife is turned off by math, she does love to travel. So rather than illustrating our expenses using (what I see as masterful) charts and spreadsheets in Excel, I created a pictorial illustration (through a little copying and pasting from online travel sites) of the flow of our income, savings, and expenses.
With a little thought and ingenuity, I was able to “speak” her language. She could see how her dreams of European vacations were being flushed down the drain by her frivolously shopping at the convenient but expensive drug store. As it turned out, this was a good experience for me too. I realized I could cut my cable, internet, and phone bills in half by bundling them and eliminating some of the services that I did not need or want.
Set Aside Some Time
Approach this topic when there are no distractions. The discussion will fall on deaf ears if either of you is busy with the kids or a project or other work. Agree to a time and place and put it on your calendars. Treating these discussions in a businesslike way will make it easier for each of you to bring important topics to the table for you to discuss and resolve as the partners you are.
Have a Contingency Plan
I also asked my wife if she knew what to do if something happened to me. What she said was not a bad answer, but it made me realize that I had not given her the proper resources to act accordingly.
The day will come when you or your partner will need to make financial decisions on the other’s behalf. Be sure that each of you understands who to contact if something were to happen to either one of you. The last thing you want is for one of you to be at a loss as to what to do should serious issues arise.
You will want to include this contingency plan in your financial meetings, revising and updating it as necessary. Most importantly, listen to each other’s thoughts, feelings, and opinions surrounding your finances. You might be surprised what you will learn about each other from them.
But There’s No Hope!
Now you may be saying that you have tried to have these discussions before, but your efforts were fruitless. You may be half right. Communicating well with each other, especially about finances, is hard work and it does take time. But to be able to sort things out and come to a meeting of the minds is so worth it.
Consult an Authoritative Source
Sometimes, advice needs to come from someone else. For the past year, my wife has been telling me that I need to floss my teeth more than I do. Although I told her she was right I did not follow her advice. Then I went to my dentist a couple of months ago. Overall, I had a good visit: no cavities! But my dentist said something that has stuck with me. “You only need to floss the ones you want to keep,” she said. Needless to say, I have flossed every day for the past two months. Although my dentist had told me to floss before, this time she spoke my language in such a way that the friendly reminders from my wife also clicked.