How we learned to fight fair about money

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Being in a relationship with someone who opened my eyes to new perspectives was a wonderful thing, until we started talking about money (which, as some of ya’ll already know, STARTED ON THE WRONG FOOT TO BEGIN WITH.) 

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Our romantic chemistry was straightforward, but our financial chemistry was complicated because of our different backgrounds. Growing up, we each experienced money in very different contexts; so we naturally had very different spending habits and at times we had opposing financial mindsets.

I moved in with Mr. r&R 3 months after we got engaged. The agreement was that I would contribute half of the household expenses which were roughly $1400-$1700 at the time. Then I would use the rest of my income to pay for my “personal” expenses like hair, nails and brunch 

We didn’t streamline and combine accounts until we were officially married. But even then, it was a phased approach because the conversations were just too hard. 

Every time we talked about money it felt like I spent more time defending my relationship with it, instead of trying to build one with him. Keeping some of my money separate allowed me to avoid the topic altogether. Click To Tweet

Most of our arguments were about why I spent what I spent. At the time, my money mindset was “there’s always more where that came from“! Instead of using abundance as a spiritual tool to appreciate what I already had, I was using it to collect more things.

When Mr. r&R would challenge my logic, I felt like my values were being attacked. As an accountability partner, he has a very effective suck-it-up-this-is-a-wakeup-call communication style, but he had not quite learned how to do it without being unkind. 

Turns out, he was right…but being right and being helpful are two different things.  For us, being helpful started with listening. The breakthrough came when we both felt heard and stopped trying to change the other’s mind.

Intentional or not, actively trying to change someone else’s mind is an act of dominance. It’s hard not to come across as authoritative, and if you “win”, it shifts the power dynamic. In relationships where you share a space, there is already a thin line between sounding like a partner and sounding like a parent…and we were both guilty of being habitual line steppers.

Conventional wisdom told us to talk to each other using a “when you/I feel” technique, but as newlyweds, the inability to articulate what money made us feel made us resent each other. Click To Tweet

So we found another approach.

First, we found something we agreed on by grounding our conversation in a neutral fact, not a feeling. We picked this one: money problems are a leading cause of divorce. Before we got married, we actually talked about this extensively so it was a chance to do a pulse check. We still agreed that we were capable of designing a marriage and a life that took money problems off the table. That became our new North Star.

Then, we created an opportunity to build a new perspective together. For us, that was planning a $40,000 renovation to make his bachelor pad more comfortable for us – and paying for it in cash. That was a big one, but we still do this in little ways today because the initial experience taught us how much joy comes from being open minded.

Last, but most importantly, we learned how to fight fair.  Don’t get it twisted, we aren’t the Huxtuble’s”— we still have disagreements about money but we don’t scar on the first cut. You know the expression “don’t let your mouth write a check ya azz can’t cash”?  That’s the first rule of Fight Club in our house. If you gon’ talk about it, be about it. 

We practice accountability by being a witness, not a judge. Through the process, we became outcome-oriented. We stopped nickel and dime’ing transactions and just started closing the gap between what we say and what we do. 

Bottom line: Don’t stop before the miracle happens.  Hov said it best, we all lose when the family feuds.

Mrs. r&R

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2 comments

  1. I enjoyed reading this post! Yes, financial incompatibility is certainly one of the leading causes of divorce in today’s society. Good for you two for tackling it early on!

  2. Wow….this sounds like an ongoing misunderstanding topic in our household. We both share the vision of the end goals, just not how to get there. *EXHALE* its an exhausting conversation, but a necessary one until we come to terms on SOMETHING

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