How to Get Your Spouse to Cooperate in Your Debt Reduction Plan

As children and teens, we were taught that two people would always find ways to stay together as long as they’re in love. Certainly, how two people feel about each other matters a lot in a marriage. However, we find out as we grow older that love isn’t all there is to it in a successful relationship. It may not be the most convenient truth, but a lot of studies suggest that money may be the most important determinant of a partnership’s longevity.

In a CNBC survey, money was identified as the leading cause of conflict among married couples. A surprising 35 percent of married respondents said financial issues were at the center of arguments between them and their spouses. This seems consistent with the fact that around 22% of all divorce cases in North America can be attributed to troubles with debt, income and wealth sharing.

It’s perfectly normal for a couple to deal with financial instability at some point in their relationship. During these times, debt may be incurred and it could turn into a regular source of stress and disagreement. Trying to pay back the money you owe while keeping your family’s basic needs covered is not an easy balancing act. However, a couple needs to keep in mind that no amount of arguing will make a dent on your unsettled balances. The sensible thing to do is to stay together, trust in each other and cooperate to achieve your financial goals. If this sounds easier said than done, here are a few tips to get you and your spouse back on the same page:

Have an Honest Discussion

Take time to sit down and discuss exactly how much you collectively owe and what the payment plans are. How much money are you making and what portion of it can be saved? Discuss your options. Being honest with each other about your finances helps strengthen your bonds of trust.

One important thing during this discussion is not to blame each other for the debts that have been incurred. A good spouse will know when they messed up and own up to it. If you’re talking to your partner in the interest of resolving the crisis, you’ll also know that it’s better to avoid bringing up your spouse’s mistakes. Doing that adds nothing constructive to the discussion. You and your loved one must keep in mind at all times that blame games never put any money on the table and as such, they have no place in a mature discussion.

Craft the Budget Together

Drawing up a budget can be a pain. It’s so much easier not to think of money and just spend as you please. However, spending without a budget while you’re in debt is a surefire way to become financially destitute. If you want to get out of your situation with your marriage intact, you’ll have to stay disciplined and work as a team.

Going into the budget planning session, be prepared to minimize or eliminate unnecessary expenses. Keep in mind that relief comes with a little sacrifice, but have faith that you can get through the tough times if you both commit to spending mostly on needs and cutting down on wants.

If you run into some points of disagreement while making the budget, remember that you can always compromise. Make sure that you hear and respect each other’s opinions and priorities. If your budget was created through cooperation, it should be easier to follow and you’ll find yourselves helping each other along the way. The act of collectively doing a budget gives both of you a greater sense of ownership, which in turn grants you more motivation not to go against what both of you planned.

This doesn’t necessarily mean your budget has to be so tight that it doesn’t leave breathing room. Leaving a small amount for discretionary spending is fine as long as it’s kept within limits. This is the part of the budget that you can use to de-stress and reward yourself. Wanting to get out of debt is good, but don’t do it at the expense of your physical and emotional well-being.

Ask for Your Spouse’s Commitment

Financial problems don’t just dissipate — you must take an active part in getting rid of them. Debt interests will only mount the longer you hold off on payments. If your spouse thinks that everything is all right despite your financial woes, it’s time to put your foot down.

By no means does this have to be a confrontation. Remind your partner that a debt-free life is one that grants a certain degree of freedom to do what you love.  Remind him or her that the situation can be fixed but only if you both care enough to deal with it. Ultimately, financial stability saves not just your marriage but also the future of your kids (or your future kids if you don’t have them yet.)

Don’t Make It Too Personal

In all likelihood, you and your partner decided to become a married couple because you felt that you were the right fit for each other. That’s a special bond that you share only between yourselves. While money is important, it’s not the reason why most couples got together in the first place. By that token, it shouldn’t be what drives you apart. When discussing financial matters, make sure you both understand that the conversation is about money and not what you mean to each other. Try to extricate emotions from account balances as much as possible so you can both look at the problem objectively and find logical solutions.

Never lose sight of the fact that money can be made back in time. Mistakes can be corrected and lifestyles can be adjusted. Financial issues are a challenge and not necessarily a deathblow to a relationship. All you need is a strong will to set your course right and an even stronger desire to stay together because your relationship transcends the value of money.

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Dragan Sutevski

Posted by Dragan Sutevski

Dragan Sutevski is a founder and CEO of Sutevski Consulting, creating business excellence through innovative thinking. Get more from Dragan on Twitter. Contact Dragan