Nobody ever wants to talk about money problems in relationships. Fights about finances just sound so boring because we envision someone walking us through Excel sheets full of numbers (yawn!), and deep down we know the fight doesn’t really have anything to do with numbers at all.
When couples fight about money, more often than not they are actually fighting about differing values. Bethany and Scott Palmer (the “Money Couple”), financial advisers and authors of The 5 Money Personalities: Speaking the Same Love and Money Language, have helped revolutionize the way we think about relationship conflicts over money by identifying five unique personality types that we might identify with on a spectrum. These money personality types include The Saver, The Spender, The Risk Taker, The Security Seeker, and The Flyer. Together, they help explain how you and your guy tick.
‘Who cares if we don’t have a coupon?? We need toilet paper!’
If you have ever said something like this to your guy, chances are he is more of a Saver. Savers get a rush from finding deals. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t buy things—it just means that they will be looking for the best value, and when they get it, they couldn’t be happier. But sometimes, like when you are in a hurry or you are hungry, it's normal to wish he would just let it go and buy full price for Pete's sake! Before you call him a "cheap-o" (which will definitely start a fight), keep in mind that the real issue is likely that you have differing values.
Saver's typically don't spend impulsively, so when they do end up putting up the cash, they tend to be very intentional about how much they are willing to spend according to it's value. So next time you get in an argument about whether or not to pay extra for a quick bite versus making a meal at home, it might be more helpful to focus the conversation on values. You value convenience (and perhaps alleviation of hunger) over saving; he values saving over convenience. Focusing your attention on the problem of differing values, which can be solved through understanding and compromise, can keep you from having that same "money" fight over and over again.
‘You covered the tab for how many people??’
If you find yourself feeling wary of your man's propensity to treat his friends when he is out at night or splurging on gadgets on the fly, chances are he is a bit of a Spender. A Spender likes to live in the moment and that often means spending impulsively.
He is generous and doesn't blink an eye about spending money to make life easy. But when you're sharing a bank account with a Spender, it's hard to keep to a budget and his random purchases can feel like he is going behind your back. Don't make the mistake of thinking your guy is materialistic—it's more likely his urge to spend is more motivated by the desire to make others happy (including you!).
With that in mind, it's easier to focus the conversation on satisfying both your needs. How can he continue being generous but also stick to the budget? You may find compromise in hosting drinks at your place instead of buying all his friends beers at a pricey pub.
‘You used our savings to invest in what?’
If your guy tends to make investment decisions or even adventurous vacation picks based on what seems to be a hunch, he might be a Risk Taker. That sense of adventure and hitting the next big thing is the hallmark of the risk-taker! In addition to thinking big, risk-takers are usually decisive and trust their instincts more than data.
Maybe your guy invests in things with out consulting you, but maybe you get exhausted from entertaining and debating one hair-brained idea after another. You know he has good intentions, and most of the time you appreciate his optimism, but sometimes you wish your money could just sit safely in your savings account. From a spouse's perspective, especially if you are a more conservative with money, this kind of money personality can cause big problems. Risk Takers feel passionate and decisive about their ventures, and it can be hard to dissuade them from taking a leap once they have made up their mind.
The solution to your fight with the Risk Taker is finding common ground. Encourage your Risk Taking guy to use his gift of intuition and forward thinking to come up with the thriftiest and most under the radar investment option or vacation if you are concerned about saving money.
‘Everything is about money to you! Why can’t you just relax a little?’
If your guy likes to plan your vacation down to every last detail—and add a line item for each detail to his budget—or tends perseverate over the best option to purchase, your guy is probably a Security Seeker.
Most of the time the Security Seeker is a lifesaver. You can always count on him to have a plan and to stick to it. It's also really nice that he is willing to sacrifice big savings on little things in life so he can afford to buy you a nice gift or go on an amazing vacation. But sometimes, you wish life could be just a little more spontaneous. When he can't seem to be able to just let go of his spread sheet and take action, it can suck the joy out of booking a flight for example.
Don't mistake your man's need for routine as lack of adventure; he is up for taking on the world with you, as long as he can make some provisions before hand. If you are finding that decisions in your relationship are getting bogged down with numbers and planning, set a deadline for him to make a decision. You and your guy can still be creative and go on adventures, just give him a timeframe to make a plan and he will rise to the occasion!
‘We got another overdue bill?!’
Overdue bills, checks he forgets to cash, scrambling to do his taxes? If this sounds like your guy, he is probably a Flyer.
From an outside perspective, all these tendencies are really frustrating, but it's helpful to know that your guy is coming from a good place. A flyer just isn't motivated by money. It doesn't stress him out, and it doesn't incentivize him either. He is much more motivated by relationships. Which is a good thing! That being said, bills need to be paid and checks need to be deposited.
Rather than getting caught up in feeling like he doesn't care about you, remember it's actually just the money he doesn't care about. You are motivation! Tell him how you feel and how it impacts your relationship and help him come up with a system. Maybe he needs a Mint account that will remind him when bills are due or an app that will easily deposit his checks in the bank?
You see how fights are so rarely about the numbers? Getting to know your partner’s unique personality can help you both discover ways to compromise and even see conflict from the other person’s point of view.
To find out your money personality, take the fifteen-minute quiz.
Photo Credit: Christie Graham