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By Hilary Hendershott / AdviceIQ
August 31, 2015
Uwe Bauch—Getty Images

Trouble talking money with your honey? Do you just defer to your partner? Money remains a major reason couples split, and here’s how you can douse the arguments before they ignite.

As a financial planner, I know that staying in love and managing money over a lifetime can be tricky. As a wife, I’m also aware that financial intimacy didn’t come to my husband and me without a few bumps.

Couples who “disagree about finances once a week” are over 30% more likely to get divorced than couples that report “disagreeing about finances a few times a month,” according to a Utah State University study examining finances and divorce.

Part of your job as a couple committed to staying together: Learn yours and your partner’s money psychology. Here are three steps to help you stop fighting about money.

Share your money past. Be honest and humble. Look into your financial habits to determine if they work the way you want. If not, do you really want to keep repeating behaviors that get such results?

What is your story about money? Sentenced yourself to a life of hardship and scarcity? What’s the money pain you don’t want to let go of, the financial thing you can’t leave in the past? What are you afraid of when it comes to you and money?

Now you can see the futility of your money attitudes producing bad results yet you still argue with your partner that you want to conduct financial affairs your way.

Work together to improve your financial wisdom. My husband likes to play the game of credit card points and rewards. I have a strong aversion to credit cards because of overspending in my past.

Don’t get me wrong, point programs can be valuable (as I learned). I still want only a couple of cards at any one time.

My husband, though, keeps 12 to 15 cards active simultaneously. He also maintains an excellent Fair Isaac Corp. (FICO) credit score of near 800 and pays the cards off every month.

Early in our marriage, when I figured out how many credit cards he carried, I was freaked out, floored and, honestly, frightened. I wanted him to cut some up.

I decided to look at it rationally. Because of my money history relative to his and because he manages all of those cards effectively, I just decided to trust him.

We paid for most of our wedding on those cards, and then we paid off the cards. You know what? We went to Hawaii for two weeks for free because of his credit card points.

Forgive your partner and yourself, and move on with a plan. Feel compassion for yourself and for your partner in this stage. This doesn’t mean excuse anyone of responsibility with money but simply acknowledge the power of previous behavior and programming.

(I teach people about their Money Operating Systems in my online course, Your Rich Retirement Academy and in my TEDx talk, “The Surprising Power of Language to Make You Rich.”)

In my case, my husband managed his finances on his own for 46 years before I met him. He isn’t naturally inclined to ask me before applying for another credit card.

We know now to take each other’s money languages in stride. I no longer accuse him of trying to keep me in the dark, and he tries to be more forthcoming.

It takes work for me to be that analytical about my own money, but it does bring us to the table together in financial partnership.

Hilary Hendershott, MBA, CFP, is founder and Chief Executive of Silicon Valley-based Hilary Hendershott Financial. The firm offers a suite of products and services including fee-only planning. She regularly writes about personal finance at You can find her on Twitter @HilarytheCFP.

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