Tips & Tricks

When money conversations get difficult

Emma Nunes-Vaz
January 16, 2024

Brought to you in collaboration with the teams at Octopus MoneyCoach and Incredible

According to mutual pensions and investments provider Royal London, nearly two-thirds (62%) of people who admit to arguing with their partner have disagreements about money. A survey by Slater and Gordon Lawyers found that money worries are the leading cause of relationship problems.  

This probably paints a dismal picture and you may even feel like you can relate to this. When it comes to talking about money with your significant other, communication is critical but it’s important to remember that it’s much more of an art than a science. There is no “perfect setup”, it’s all about finding the setup that works best for you as a team.

Prevention is the best cure. It’s best to discuss any concerns about money with your partner before things turn into a full-blown argument. This also helps make sure you’re both aligned on your life goals as well. But, this isn’t always possible. Sometimes, even when we feel like we’re doing everything right, life happens and maybe we’re not as on top of everything as we normally would be. 

If your money discussion has escalated into an argument, first of all, don’t worry, because conflict is a normal part of any relationship. The key isn’t to get into an argument with your partner or berate yourselves if you do get into one, it’s to move forward in a more constructive way.  

Here are 4 tips on how to do that: 

1. Remember you’re human & have lived different lives

As logical and considered we may be, sometimes emotions can take the reins. This is not something to berate yourself over, it’s an indicator that the topic in question is something you, or they, really care about. This represents a fantastic opportunity to strengthen your relationship by taking the time to appreciate what emotion is driving the reaction and where it stems from.

So much of how we view money is decided by our mid to late teenage years. You're unlikely to have had the exact same upbringing and experience as your partner so the chances of your relationships with money and your views on it being the same are rather slim. When you're having an argument about money you will always bring into it your own relationship, views and experiences with money (both positive and negative).

Taking the time to understand where the other is coming from can do wonders in upskilling your ability to communicate with one another.

2. Honesty really is the best policy

Quality conversations about money all start from an active decision by those involved to be open and honest about their side of the finances. If you think that this sounds really hard, it’s because it is! Whether that be because of fear of judgement, shame or any other number of reasons - all of which are valid and real - it can be really detrimental to a person's relationship with money, and by association the relationship itself. By taking the first step and choosing to be honest, you may unknowingly be giving the other person permission to do the same. Being honest is possibly the hardest part, but it’s a really important first step towards a high-quality joint relationship with money.

3. Remind yourselves it’s a team game

When it comes to talking about money, it’s easy and natural for us to focus on ourselves. This can sometimes, without intention, create a "you vs me" situation. When it comes to an argument, it gets even easier to fall into this trap, so it can help to start any conversation by reiterating the point that you’re in this together. It’s you and your partner against a problem rather than against each other. And that means that when one person wins, you both win.

When that happens, there’s no resentment or any ill feelings from one partner to another. After all, you’re working towards the same financial goals together. Or maybe you’re hoping to retire together. Your finances have a huge impact on the life you’re building together.

4. If emotions are running too high, take time to breathe

If the conversation is really escalating and you find that you’re not making any progress, it’s ok to hit pause. It can help to remove yourself from the charged environment that’s naturally been created throughout the conversation. Decision-making is also impaired when you're stressed so it’s better to take time out and come back to the issue later than try and push through. Taking a short walk to get some fresh air can be a great help here. But it’s important you communicate this to your partner, saying something like “I need to take a break for a bit. I’m going to go for a walk to clear my head, but when I come back, let’s find a solution together.” 

It’s so powerful when you work towards your money goals with a partner. So always treat the other person as someone on your team, even if you’re in a temporary conflict about a money situation. 

People want to feel heard and validated so approach the situation with empathy and understanding. Focus on problem-solving instead of blaming. If you can focus on creating a safe space for discussion with your partner, the conversation doesn’t have to become a fight. Try to schedule regular money chats to check in with your partner. This will help you both understand where you’re at when it comes to your finances and your financial goals. Having regular open conversations about money is one of the easiest and best ways to nip arguments about your finances in the bud while building a stronger, healthier relationship. 

To give yourself an edge in money talks, create as much visibility over your finances as possible using apps such as Monzo, Chip and Incredible so you can have conversations from an informed place. And if talking about money is something you, or your partner, find challenging, it can be helpful to have someone impartial to talk to, like a money coach. The fantastic team at Octopus MoneyCoach are always ready and waiting to provide support in helping you build better relationships with your money.