Reducing Tension During Financial Discussions

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It’s said that money is one of the largest points of contention in relationships. And discussing money is something that can be difficult to navigate in even the healthiest relationships. This month, while focusing on money and consistently discussing it, I have noticed an increased amount of tension surrounding the topic and in our relationship in general. Perhaps the tension has increased, because of the amount of time spent focusing on money has increased.

I have previously written about the guilt I often experience, as well as other stay at home moms, about not financially contributing to our family. I spent this month focusing on my thoughts. My opinions. My feelings regarding our finances. I looked at my emotions regarding our financial future, with little consideration for the emotions my husband may be experiencing regarding our financial situation and future. When I ask to discuss finances and paying things off and new plans and options, I look from my perspective and not the pressure that puts on him, as the sole provider of our family. This entire month I have been focusing on my perspective and my thoughts and opinions and plans of my Total Money Makeover. Through my excitement, I have been unintentionally undermining my husband’s hard work and have created additional tension and pressure.

Although my husband has obviously been part of the process, I realized during our discussion last night that we are coming to the same discussion from very different perspectives. I come to the discussion of money from multiple different places; guilt for not financially contributing but also ambition to reach our goals. I view all my plans as goals I want to achieve and accomplish; he views them as added pressure to accomplish more. He comes to the discussion from the point of view that it is his responsibility to take care of the family, and as the financial provider, if we aren’t meeting goals or financially able to accomplish certain things, that he feels a sense of guilt and stress. He feels like what he’s doing isn’t enough.

So, how do you get to a place where both sides of the discussion can feel comfortable in their roles, without undermining the other, and yet still voice their thoughts and feelings? How do we get to a position in relationships where both partners are able to move from places of guilt into places where we can discuss financial plans without tension? We get there through empathy. We get to that place by putting ourselves in the other persons shoes. During an Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday podcast I was listening to this morning, Oprah asked Lin-Manuel Miranda ‘What is the single greatest gift you want to pass on to your children?’ He responded about the importance of empathy and that ‘teaching our children empathy is he greatest gift we can give.’ So what if we give that gift of empathy not just to our children, but also to each other? What if we practiced empathy in all relationships and communications? Wouldn’t that help us all communicate on a level where our egos are put aside and we can communicate openly and freely?

If I look at our finances with an empathetic understanding of my husband’s thoughts and feelings on our financial situation, I can see that my excitement can cause anxiety and lead to perhaps unrealistic expectations. I can see that what I view as goals, whether long-term or short, can be construed as added pressure. And I can see, that we need to discuss this together with honesty and openness, in order to form goals together, and reach our goals together. I can see that I need to refer to this as Our Total Money Makeover and not just my own.

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