Debt Diet Part 5: Making men, women and money get along at the holidays
Having the "money talk" is essential to keeping your Debt Diet on track. It's also (believe it or not) one of the cornerstones of a good relationship. That's why, with just two weeks left in the holiday shopping season, it's important to make sure you and your mate aren't just talking, but that you're truly listening to what each of you has to say about money. Otherwise, you're likely to blow your budget -- and your partner's likely to blow their top -- while you're scooping up gifts this weekend.
What did you say?
It's easy for two people to hear one statement and interpret it two completely different ways, especially with the added stress of trying to afford the holidays this year. And if the statement happens to relate to finances, the result can significantly impact your financial stability, not to mention your relationship.
Why do two people interpret financial statements or conversations differently? "Different thinking styles," says Tina B. Tessina, a psychotherapist and author of "Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting about the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage." One of you might be a plotter or a planner, while the other is impulsive, a get-it-done-now person. "Some people like to think and plan about finances, while others want to make a flash financial decision," Tessina says.
These differences in financial decision-making styles can lead to miscommunication -- or to having more month than money. They can also begin to form a wedge in your relationship.
One budget, two views
Just because you've lived together for years doesn't mean you're both speaking the same financial lingo. One of you might say, "I think I need new sneakers" but really mean "I've made the decision to purchase them today." And the other might interpret the phrase "I think I need new sneakers" as a topic you'll discuss together later and not as something that's going to be acted on immediately. The result: an argument over the purchase. And, says Tessina, the possibility of bouncing a check and causing a string of financial headaches you don't need at holiday time -- or anytime.
Having "The Talk"
When having a financial conversation, Tessina says it's important to say three little words to each other: Tell me more. "Ask questions," she says, "without jumping to conclusions or assumptions."
And take time to listen to your partner's answers to your questions. By listening carefully, says Tessina, "You'll learn what your partner is thinking about the money issue you're discussing."
Also make sure you understand what you're hearing. Tessina suggests you repeat back to your partner what you heard, not to put pressure on him or to seem like you don't understand, but to make sure you both walk away from the conversation hearing the same thing.
Tessina also says how you talk about money affects what you're hearing. So talk about your finances in businesslike terms, as a problem to be solved or as a decision to be made. Don't bring it up like it's a fleeting thought you've just thought about, as you would when you talk about what you should have for dinner as you're both headed out the door to work.
Having a successful money partnership can lead to a secure financial future. It's also a good test of a relationship overall. "Money is a clear indicator of how well the partnership is working. If you can solve your money issues as a team,' says Tessina, "you can probably deal with most of life's other issues successfully."
For more tips on sticking to your Debt Diet, follow the Debt Diet on Twitter at @DebtDiet.
Gina Roberts-Grey is a freelance writer specializing in health, celebrity and consumer issues.