David and Wendy have been dating for three years and are
considering marriage. (Their names have been changed so they don't
show up in the future in-laws' Internet search results.) They're
compatible on many levels -- but money's not one of them.
"Wendy questions a lot of things that I purchase -- everything
from my condo to a paper shredder," David says. "She takes some of
the joy out of buying things, and it's not even her money that I'm
Wendy says: "I hate to spend money, and when I do, I do a lot of
research to find the best buy. It's difficult for me to understand
and accept how he handles his money, when, with a little work
saving $5 translates to two Metro rides."
It's the classic spender-saver conflict -- and they haven't even
combined accounts or traded credit scores yet.
The most important relationship saver:
If affairs of finance trigger door slamming and hand-wringing in
your household, you're not alone. The matter-of-factness of account
balances and ATM receipts belies the potent emotions that money
conjures in many relationships.
But finances don't have to be a sore subject in your household
if you know how to broach this touchy topic. If you're going to
pour your heart into cultivating just one relationship building
block, many pros agree that "appreciation" is the core concern to
"We all want to feel appreciated within business, within
marriage, within any relationship; empirically, the research has
shown it to be true as well," says Daniel Shapiro, psychologist,
negotiation expert, and co-author of
Beyond Reason: Using Emotions as You Negotiate
Appreciation in this context doesn't mean "approval" or
"gratitude" -- it's about understanding, respecting, and
acknowledging the other person's point of view. To get to the heart
of what someone feels, you've got to get into character --
As dorky as it may feel, role reversal works. Speaking as "I"
(as in "I feel ...") forces you to consider your partner's
perspective. Even if you don't agree with how they see things,
their viewpoint has merit because, quite simply, it is how they
Appreciation isn't a one-way concern -- you need to help others
appreciate you, too, by providing the information that will lead to
understanding, Shapiro says. (See more of his advice in
"How to Get Your Way and Still Stay Friends."
Crossing the spender-saver divide
To David, money represents opportunity. To Wendy, it's a source of
They came to these realizations after having a conversation that
was different from all previous ones: They
to each other (no arguing, no defending) what informed the way they
After paying his bills and funding his retirement account, David
has half of his paycheck left to do with as he pleases. Wendy's
take-home pay is nearly one-third less than David's, and her
discretionary funds are just one-quarter of what she brings in. She
also has student loan debt that weighs heavily on her.
With a deeper understanding, they've come to appreciate -- and
even value -- aspects of the other's money handling ways.
"I get you now, and I respect you more"
David now seeks Wendy's cost-cutting advice before big purchases
and is planning to institute a more formal budget that would allow
him to achieve his long-term financial goals much faster. And Wendy
is less anxious when David talks about upgrades he wants to make to
his home or computer."Now when he buys something new I relax
because I understand why it's not that big of a deal to him," she
Together they've even talked about how they would handle the
family finances in marriage and agreed on ways to retain their
autonomy while not impinging on one another's money style.
More advice (and fun!) for twosomes:
Dayana Yochim is the author of
The Motley Fool's Guide to Couples and Cash: How to Handle Money
with Your Honey
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