You may be excited to work on your financial wellness, but your partner might be resistant. Here’s how to reduce conflict and get more aligned.
Financial wellness is a journey, and usually a bumpy one.
Often, the journey has a bit of the flavor of those old VH1 Behind The Music documentaries: initial victories, a painful fall from grace, and grudging pull back up to greater success and fulfillment.
For most of us, especially most of you reading a site like this, you’re probably in that messy middle, struggling to find a better financial place after plenty of setbacks.
And that requires you to make changes. You can’t do what you used to do anymore. Something needs to be different. You’re going to need to manage your money differently.
If you are single or just manage your own money, that’s a hard enough transition.
But what if you have a partner in this…and they aren’t on board?
What if you’re looking to make money changes and your partner doesn’t want to?
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The first thing to do is to learn what is going on with your partner. Why are they hesitant or unwilling to make the changes you’re interested in making?
As we all know, money has such a strong connection with our identity and our emotions, such that when a change is afoot, it can bring up a host of fears.
Do they worry that they aren’t going to be able to do the things they love doing? Do they fear losing financial autonomy? Do they fear the judgment of others?
As their partner, you would be well served to understand what those fears are.
Acknowledge their concerns
Some people, when getting motivated to make financial changes to improve their standing, get very enthusiastic, maybe to the point of being a little evangelical.
And whether or not you’re actually saying things like, “Let’s eat noodles from now on to cut our grocery bill by 97%!” that may be how it sounds to your partner.
So it’s important to acknowledge their concerns, whatever they are. As long as they are being open and honest about what their concerns are, you owe it to them to truly listen.
No matter how excited you are about your new financial path, you don’t want to stop hearing your partner, who is, after all, in this together with you.
Talk about what the money means
Budgeting is a four letter word for most people. For most, it means “restriction”. (It’s not actually true, but that’s what people think.)
That’s why it’s important to talk about why you’re wanting to make changes.
You should work to reassure them that you’re just excited, not about the money stuff, but of what that means for your future together.
Taking control of your finances means that you can do more of what you love. And having a more solid retirement plan means that you can spend your retirement years in comfort and with security.
Tracking your expenses, say, or saving up for trips as opposed to putting them on a credit cards, isn’t about restriction, it’s a means to an end. And that end is pretty amazing.
Don’t badger them
The problem with being excited to the point of being evangelical is that you can have the opposite effect of what you intend.
You’re soooo excited that you just want to talk about saving money all the time. “Let’s look at these retirement projections I made! And see, if we pay $500 extra on our mortgage each month, we can pay it off 5 years sooner! What? You don’t want to see all the work I’ve done? Why not? Why aren’t you interested? This is going to change our lives!“
It’s exhausting to be on the other side of someone who won’t stop talking about a topic. And it can, paradoxically, lean them against the thing that you’re so excited to have them be for.
So, you need to make sure to let it go. No matter how much you want your partner to be supportive, they are going to need to make this decision for themselves. And they’re not going to be able to do that if you never shut up about it.
I know it’s hard, but you want them on board, right?
Do what you can do yourself
Even if you share finances completely, if your partner doesn’t want to do anything new or different, there’s still plenty you can do.
For example, take expense tracking. I think tracking your expenses, while hard, is one of the most powerful ways that you can understand and take control of your monthly spending. And your monthly spending is where you can make all the difference in your present and your future.
(This is why I have a little mini course on this for anyone who signs up for my newsletter.)
So if you want to track your household expenses, then don’t wait for your partner to be on board, just do it.
You know what you spend, and you can both ask your partner what they spend or, if unwilling, you should be able to access the same information they have, via online bank accounts.
(And if you don’t have access to that information, then you need to fix that immediately.)
While you can’t change your partner’s spending and saving, you can change your own. Your autonomy is just as important as theirs.
If you’re in a challenging financial situation, and you believe that you’ve found a way out, it can feel incredibly frustrating and painful to not get the buy-in from your partner that you want.
But try not to despair too much. If you’re able to let it go and just take control of what you can, giving your partner space to make their own decisions, your “new normal” will eventually become not so scary. Your partner will see that you’re not looking to control them or take their money away.
It would be nice if you and your partner were always on the same page about things, but you know that isn’t always the case. And this is especially true with transitions. The pace and timing of transitions can hit people differently,
People come around, but it can take a lot longer than we wish it would.
When I work with individuals, often those individuals have partners. And just as often as not, those partners are not necessarily totally in support of my clients. But through these strategies, my clients can not only chart a positive and beneficial path forward, but also work to get their partners to become supportive.
Everyone benefits from financial wellness. It’s not about restriction, it’s about possibilities, and making possibilities a reality for you, as well as your partner. It’s hard, but it’s worth it.