Money — How can you talk about money with your spouse in a way that empowers the relationship?


In the world of our work and in our relationship, Amy and I have witnessed many powerful discussions about the role of money and its effect on a partnership. We’ve noticed some parallels that may offer you some insight about what’s happening for you in your relationships.

Michael and Amy Sherman

You see, whenever we talk about money, we are bringing up an issue that is directly connected to our safety, wellbeing and our ability to experience the things we want. Therefore, it’s natural that money may be a subject that triggers us into defensiveness, especially since it plays such a vital role in every area of our lives.
In partnership, the topic of money is often the source of disagreements, which can lead to a pattern of negativity. Over time, this hurts the relationship. Without becoming conscious of these patterns, we wind up planting seeds of resentment towards our partner, which infects other areas of the connection. Therefore, in order to talk safely and productively about money with a partner, you’ve got to understand what triggers the other person and why.
This is not just a guideline to follow when money is tight. This is about relating to someone about money on a consistent basis, and doing so in a way that deepens and enhances the partnership. And as always, these standards apply to professional relationships as much as they do with our spouses and loved ones.

When I think about how Amy and myself have found our way through tough money conversations over the years, I’m amazed at how far we have come. As a married couple, who are both parents and business partners, we have developed a level of understanding that works for us. There is lots of room to grow, but we have come a long way.

The key for us is to understand the anatomy of a money trigger, and like all triggers, there is always a connection to something learned or experienced in childhood.

The main thing is to not only realize how each of us gets triggered, but to begin communicating to each other in a way that shows we understand the trigger. This understanding helps us define roles that work for us with our differing money styles.

She can understand why I’m more of a saver, why she’s more of a spender, and where each of us learned these tendencies. When we talk to each other from this place, rather from reactivity, solutions arrive that work for both of us.

So try this, before talking to a partner about a money issue, think about the following:

1. Try to determine their money style. According to writer and trainer T. Harv Eker, the author of Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, there are 4 basic money styles that people tend to have: Spenders, Savers, Avoiders (people who don’t notice, or choose not to notice, the pile of bills) and Money Monks (people who are “too spiritual” to think about money). What money style is your partner’s?
2. Think about where they learned this money style. Was it from their parents or family? Is it in response to negative experiences in their past? Why does this money style work for them?
3. Identify how this money style leads to defensive reactions. What is it that might upset, worry or trigger someone with that particular money style? What is it that you do or say about money that leads to a negative reaction in your partner?

Having done these three steps, you have only just begun. You have prepared yourself for a more conscious interaction with your partner. However, in order to really connect with them about difficult issues such as money, you need to communicate with safe dialogue. The form of dialogue that we teach is called Imago and it is based on the work of Dr. Harville Hendrix (pictured above), author of the book, Getting the Love You Want.

You can learn more about Imago Dialogue on our website (including recordings we have made of real dialogues between Amy and myself), or by attending our monthly talk, “The Relationship Miracle.”

Amy and Michael Sherman run the Courageous Loving Counseling Center in Chestnut Ridge. Learn more about their work at or join them at their montly public talk, “The Relationship Miracle,” every 2nd Monday of the month at Nyack Yoga @ 42 Main Street in Nyack.

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