Photo credit: Louis Leray

Photo credit: Louis Leray

Are you and your significant other financial opposites? If so, you’re not alone.  As a financial advisor, I’ve seen time and again how the results can be quite painful.

When the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants polled co-habitating and married couples in the U.S., 27% percent said that disagreements over money were more likely to escalate into arguments ahead of conflicts over children, chores, work and friends. A 2011 study by Professor Jeffrey Dew at Utah State University found that married couples who disagreed about money once a week were twice as likely to divorce as those who disagreed less than once a month.

So why are “Tightwads and Spendthrifts” attracted to each other? According to studies cited in this entertaining New York Times article it may be as simple as a case of opposites really do attract.

Turns out in the early stages of courtship, many of us find our financial opposite’s behavior to be, well, intoxicating!  Like moths to a flame we’re drawn to the very behavior we resist in ourselves.  Alas, when the novelty wears off, our opposing financial beliefs can lead to quite the volcanic situation on the home front. 

For many of us, money represents – and stirs up – some of our deepest desires: for love, power, control and freedom. So what is to be done to avoid the financial eruption when financial opposites attract? Here are four simple steps to help increase the financial harmony in your household.

  1. Communicate.
    The one thing it seems virtually all researchers agree on for creating a harmonious financial life as a couple is the vital importance of communication. In Get Financially Naked, my co-author and I suggest using our “financial compatibility quiz” (along with a bowl of ice cream or beverage of choice!) to soften the mood and start the money conversation.
  2. Look for patterns.
    Recognizing that spending and saving patterns are connected to issues around identity, worth, and personal fulfillment, can help us to cultivate compassion for our financial opposite – and for behaviors in ourselves that we are not fans of.
  3. Budget.
    The key is to find ways to meet each of your core human needs within a healthy budget. Bringing in an outside financial advisor to help you define and implement your goals as a couple, can also help you find balance in your money life.
  4. Dream and plan together.
    In his classic book, Smart Couples Finish Rich, author and financial advisor David Bach recommends that couples map out their life dreams together and outline the steps they need to take to sustain those ideals.

Bottom line: reconnecting with your dreams and listening to the dreams of your partner can help you relate to money from source of marital strife to a shared path towards greater financial freedom and life joy.