Cash & Coupling: 7 Ways To Work Through Money-Focused Fights

He found the receipt for the Manolos you blew half a paycheck on, and the resulting confrontation wasn’t pretty. You called him a penny-pinching tightwad. He said you’re wasteful and irresponsible. Is this relationship doomed? And are we really fighting about high heels, or is there something deeper going on?

According to Terri Orbuch, Ph.D., relationship expert and host of “The Love Doctor,” a popular radio show, seven out of 10 couples report that money causes tension in their relationship. She reports that in the early years of a relationship, money is the number one issue of conflict.

Essentially, most partners find themselves differing in their approach to money, she says. One partner wants to save money for security and stability. The other is a risk-taker who prefers to spend, purchase or buy stock. “This difference in an approach to money often leads to dishonesty about money and purchases, dishonesty in how much specific purchases cost, and debt,” said Dr. Orbuch.

So, how can committed partners work through their opposing money ideologies? And is it possible to avoid the painful verbal sword-fighting on the next go-around? The Love Doctor offers the following tips on how to recover from or avoid a money-related dispute.

1. Breathe deep, calm down and find a neutral setting. “The goal is to have a calm, relaxed discussion,” says Dr. Orbuch. Give yourselves a cooling-off period. Find a neutral location for your money discussion. The situation and setting in which you choose to discuss money topics will influence how the discussion progresses, she says.

2. Figure out what money really means to you, and tell your partner the truth. “One thing to remember is that money symbolizes different things to different people: power, control, security, or love, for instance,” says Dr. Orbuch. To you, perhaps money means stilettos, a new handbag, a luxury car, and increased self-esteem. To him, money means a diversified portfolio, a hefty savings account, stability and protection against the unknown. (Or vice versa!) Dr. Orbuch also recommends discussing how your parents dealt with money, what it meant to you growing up, and how you handled it in previous relationships.

3. Talk about your finances every three months. “Don’t wait until your partner has charged up a storm on the credit card to broach the subject,” Dr. Orbuch says. Sit down every three months and list your financial goals.

4. Set spending limits. Pick a threshold amount, whether it is $100, 500, or whatever suits your joint income. Within this amount, each partner can make purchases without consulting the other. Otherwise, talk to your partner before you purchase. Voila! Now all major money decisions are joint decisions.

5. Create a mutual budget. Dr. Orbuch says some couples can do this by having a general discussion of what they hope to do with their money, in the short and long term. Other couples need to specifically write down an organized mutual budget, which includes tracking each partner’s spending.

6. Keep separate accounts. It’s OK for some couples to keep one joint account for household purchases, while maintaining separate accounts for discretionary purchases, says The Love Doctor. Each partner gives a percentage to the joint account based on his or her income.

7. If it’s still not working, seek professional help. “Couples often don’t establish open communication around money,” Dr. Orbuch warns. “Often times, couples avoid talk about money because it only leads to fights. If you can’t seem to talk about finances, seek out a counselor to help you sort through your financial issues.”

The Money section and all articles within it are sponsored by Free Credit Report; however, the articles are all independently produced by The Frisky and the opinions and views expressed by the writers and experts are their own.