007: 5 Steps to Fighting Less about Money

Money issues are are the number one cause of marriage problems in North Amercia.

My wife and I are no different.  For a while we both went on with our days, both working outside the home before we had kids and transitioning to a one-income household when our son was born in 2009.

For years we talked way too little about money. I worked hard and climbed the corporate ladder.  She worked hard(er) at home. All of our bills were paid. We didn't worry.

But we did worry.

She was confident that our bills were going to be paid and that I would work hard.

I was confident that she was frugal in nature and wouldn't spend more than we made.

We both knew how much was coming into the house and we had a general sense of the disposable income.

But she was stressed out because we never talked about how much savings we had, how much we could save every month.

So she didn't really have a clear picture of our financial situation.

And I was stressed because I didn't have a full grasp of the day-to-day expenses or some other purchases, so in my mind I was nervous about making more to take care of our family's expenses and still save up for things like college and to eat more than ramen noodles during retirement….

Screen Shot 2014-03-12 at 2.52.01 PM Because this is such an important issue I reached out to Derek and Carrie Olsen who blog at Better Conversations on Money & Marriage to see if they could help us work through this important topic.  I'm a loyal listener of their awesome podcast by the same name and knew they would add incredible content with flair if they would agree to be on the show.

Lucky for us, they were game!

Derek and Carrie help people have better conversations on money.  And that helps people have better marriages.

Screen Shot 2014-12-29 at 6.06.45 PMDerek and Carrie offered to talk with me about a five-step process to fighting less about money that they dive deep into in their upcoming book, One Bed, One Bank Account: Better Conversations on Money and Marriage that is up for presale on Amazon as an ebook and also as a great presale deal on their site where you can get the book, workbook, and audio book.

And if you head on over before the end of January 2015 they have a really great preorder special discount price and some special bonus items!

Definitely check it out.  Everything Derek and Carrie produce is super high quality.  And the topic is a really important part of having a successful marriage!

And they even called me out on each of these steps and helped me work through my issues talking better about money with my wife!

OK.  For those of you who prefer the printed word, here are the Five Steps to Fighting Less about Money.

1. Set the date

This is a great one. Set a date to talk about money. Setting a time when you're not just getting home from work or in the middle of the mall with sparkly object syndrome. Set a date where you can sit and talk about money issues before they become a problem.

We definitely need to work on this one. We're getting better, but it's definitely something we need to become more regular about.

2. Be an Amazing Listener

I'm terrible at this. Again, getting better, but it's so important to listen intently at what your spouse is saying, why they're saying it, and only then respond. Sometimes – too many times – I'll get all wrapped up in the emotions of a money issue that I'll stop listening. Listening to what your spouse is saying helps put you in their shoes and understand them better, which helps you connect better, respond better, and reach a common ground.

3. Let go

Couples, including me, have a hard time letting go even when they've made a decision or compromised on a money issue.  When you and your spouse have agreed on something, move on. Let go. Boy could I use help with this.

4. Design your shared vision

This is powerful and involves planning together for a common ground that you both take ownership in. For nearly a decade my wife and I had totally different visions of our future. Mine was all high rises and law firms. Hers was family and single-family homes.

But in May 2013 I spent some time in the suburbs with Dan and Joanne Miller and was just blown away at how I had been wrong for so many years. I immediately shared my wife's vision. Six months later, we were driving behind a moving van. Out of the city. To Massachusetts. To be with family. It's powerful.

5. Have a Brain Hurricane for solutions instead of focusing on a “problem.”

Take turns saying creative, silly, or even outride ridiculous ways to solve a money problem. Being silly will help you both smile, unfold your arms, and may even reveal a solution that would actually work. In any event, having a Brain Hurricane of powerful, solution-focused talk gets you out of fight mode.

So there you go. Five steps to fighting less about money.  Thanks so much to Derek and Carrie Olsen for walking me through these.

Be sure to connect with them on their blog or podcast and be sure to check out their book, One Bed, One Bank Account:Better Conversations on Money and Marriage,  which is on presale until the end of January 2015 on their site or, if you're only looking for the e-book, on Amazon.  It expires at the end of January 2015, so if you're on the fence it's time to make a decision…. Fences are pointy.

The worst day of my life; the story of a terrible fiancé.

The worst day of my life; the story of a terrible fiancé.Today I'm psyched to introduce you to Derek Olsen, who, in addition to continuously calling me out about why I haven't launced the Confessions of a Terrible Husband Podcast yet (it will be up very, very soon!), is a friend and marriage voice who is going to be spending some time over here.

Derek and his wife Carrie are rock stars in the Money and Marriage world, focusing quite a bit about how to talk with your spouse about money.

Be sure to welcome Derek to the family over here and connect with him on his blog and podcast.  The links to both are below.

And also be sure to sign up for their mailing list and they'll send you a cool e-book on how to start talking with your spouse about money.

Derek: “You own a house in Oklahoma?”

Carrie: “Yeah.”

Derek: “So… about that house, what are your plans now that you live in Kansas City?”

Carrie: “Well, my renters stopped paying and moved out. I’m behind on the payments and the bank is trying to foreclose.”

Derek’s thoughts: CRAP! Will the sheriff drag us off to jail? Are we going to appear in court? Will we be bankrupt? Man, I thought the house was going to be a positive and now it looks like marrying Carrie could be a financial disaster for me!

Derek’s feelings: I was terrified. I was angry. But I was in love and we were engaged.

Derek’s words: “This is the worst day of my life.”

Yes, I said that to my fiancé.

I told her she was responsible for the worst day of my life.

Sounds like something a terrible fiancé would say.

Fast-forward an entire, financially devastating year. We’re married. We managed to arrange a short sale on the house. It hurt, it was expensive, but the house is just a memory now.

Aside from the dreadful details of arranging a short sale, I want to tell you how this disaster affected our relationship.

I never would have believed it on that terrible day, the day I said those awful words to my fiancé, but our marriage is better now because of what we went through.

Our first year of marriage was like teamwork boot camp for newlyweds. We had only known each other eighteen months and were already depending on each other to survive one of the worst financial disasters a couple can experience. We set aside petty disagreements and focused on what was important.

Because we made it through such a tough time we are closer and better able to handle challenges that come our way.

We had to learn how to communicate on a level that I never knew existed.

Within the first six months of our marriage we had all the possible conversations about money. All of them! We laid it all out there on the table. We had to just to make it through the first year of our marriage. There wasn’t anything that we didn’t talk about.

Highlights include…

  • The “What the freak were you thinking” talk.
  • The “I have no idea what’s going on and I’m scared” talk.
  • The “Okay, this sucks and I’m not happy, but I’m going to support you” talk.
  • The “We are going to make it through this” talk.

And the grand finale, the “I’m committed to you and would walk through the scariest places on Earth with you” talk.

Those conversations were intense and necessary just to survive our first year of marriage. The communication skills that we acquired continue to serve us well to this day.

We learned what is really important

The short sale cost us around $16,000 and hundreds of hours of paperwork, worrying, and wishing it would all just stop.

Five years later it’s like it never happened. Well, almost. What I mean is, time has a funny way of sorting out what is truly important. Even things that were awful at the time fade away eventually.

When everything crumbles away you are left with what’s important. Carrie and I are doing great. We have a new place to live and a six-month old baby girl to love.

We can handle the bumps in the road much better now, and all because we survived such a difficult experience.

Financial disasters end marriages all the time. That is a terrible truth to face.

But the challenges you’re facing, or avoiding, can make your marriage stronger. Face them straight on, together. Your marriage can handle more than you think.

What doesn’t kill a relationship can only make it stronger. If you find yourself in a tough spot, fight! Don’t let anything steal your future away from you.

OK, that sounds a little like Dr. Phil on weed… What I mean to say is this: the conversations you have about the challenges in your relationship can make your marriage better.

Having better conversations about money can strengthen every other department of your marriage, not just the finance department.

Carrie and I start helpful conversations on money and marriage each week on our podcast.

4 1/2 Conversation Starters

If you would like some help starting the conversation on money, download our free e-book 4 ½ Conversations Starters.

(And no, the Sheriff never did drag us off to jail, but I really did think that might happen. I’ve never been foreclosed on so how would I know.)

-Derek Olsen