Let’s Talk About Money

Dear Karen,

My husband and I can talk about anything – except money.  No matter what I do or how good my intentions are at the start of the conversation, by the end we’re arguing and the tension lasts for days after.  There are a lot of money issues we need to discuss and I know we can’t keep avoiding it. Help! – M.R, MA

Dear M.,

I’ll open up this  topic  by sharing a little of my husband’s ,Craig, and my journey over the last couple of years.

We, like so many other couples, did not talk about money (beyond the usual “Have we got enough to buy/do/get ___?”, or “We’re doing well with our budget this month!”).

We had not discussed retirement at all; it turns out we both had the same plan in mind:

  • work until we die,
  • don’t get sick, and
  • don’t plan to have too many extravagant/costly vacations along the way.

Sounds like a hell of a plan, right?  (By the way, if you’d like to hear what we’re doing to take care of retirement, call me.)

We all have various attitudes, beliefs and expectations around money.  Unfortunately, many of us approach our mates from a place of judgment, expectations, and bring our rigid ideas of right/wrong into our relationships.

When two people are doing that in a relationship, there isn’t much room to create what you would both want to have, because there isn’t enough safety to even explore the conversation, never mind to engage in building a future that you both desire.


Before you launch into solving your financial situation, you want to make sure you are both feeling safe, loved, and inspired to take on this (often) challenging area.

Let’s talk about some of the things you can do, so you and your man can be more successful in your financial life together (and you’ll notice that you could substitute any other often-challenging topic: s-e-x; child-rearing; blended families; aging parents).

These are not in any particular order; they’re all important:

  1. Be curious about what your man wants, believes, expects, and/or fears, when it comes to money.  By being curious, you can maintain a less attached attitude and just be with him where he is, and hear what he’s telling you.
  2. Be willing to see any place where you are – perhaps – being a bit controlling, judgmental, or “right”, in your approach to the subject of money.
  3. Try to know the difference between what is aligned with your true values, and what you’ve “inherited” from your family as far as what you “should” be doing, wanting, etc. in your financial life.  It’s quite common to have our “shoulds” come from our parents (or other influences in our early years).
  4. Try to respect the things that may be issues for your man that you can’t even relate to (for instance, Craig has kids from his first marriage, and he feels – even after all these years – a lot of pain and guilt, which at times has resulted in money issues between us).
  5. Use third-party tools to open up the subject of money, so your “stuff” can stay out of the exploration – at least in the beginning.  Craig and I read a fabulous book that launched us into talking about money in a way we never had before: “The Number” by Lee Eisenberg.  We also attended a powerful weekend called “The Millionaire Mind Intensive” (www.millionairemind.com) that helped both of us see beliefs that interfered with our financial success.
  6. Be gentle with yourself and with him, and keep remembering that you’ve both been doing the best you knew to do…and that you’re ready to make some changes that will be more productive in the area of money.
  7. Be in agreement about when and where you’re going to talk about this subject, and make sure your relationship is in a good, connected place (so, if it’s been a while since you had s-e-x, you may want to think about taking care of that first!).
  8. Don’t expect to get this all figured out in one sitting; keep your “meeting” productive and positive.  Agree to end when you need a break, but only after agreeing to pick it up again – soon (setting the date for the next talk is best, if possible).


If you keep in mind that this is a process, that you are both always doing your best (even in those moments when you just “know” that it’s not his best – or yours), and always hold your relationship as the highest priority, you can successfully navigate the (potentially turbulent) waters, as you sail into a financially sound future together.