Have you ever had money issues with your spouse? Read this…

written by Bari Tessler July 5, 2011
Have you ever had money issues with your spouse?

Have you ever had money issues come up with your spouse?

Hi there. This is a silly question, right?

Of course you’ve had money issues with your spouse or partner or however you refer to your honey.

We all have. So the question is:

What do we do when our money issues come up within our relationship?

This post is for you whether you are currently married, in a long-term relationship, in a new relationship, or single and wanting to learn more about your money story. Basically, this newsletter is for just about everyone!

I want to help you navigate the landscape of money-in-relationship. There is a lot to explore—lots of angles to see, lots of feelings just under the surface, lots of tools to learn.

So first join me in taking a deep breath in…out…ahhhh.

Next, I want to assure you that I’m going to address this topic slowly, one piece at a time, one nugget per newsletter. No overwhelm. No urgency. Just steady and gentle exploring and discovery.

Opportunities for learning.

To get us rolling, here’s a thumbnail sketch of one couple’s money dynamics.

It’s the tale of a certain husband and wife whom I know, and it will provide a quick lay of the land.

Once upon a time…

In the recent past this man and woman met, fell in love, and got married. They continued to maintain separate money accounts, each handling their own bookkeeping. For expenses that they shared, such as rent, they each paid according to a percentage of their income.

In these early years of the relationship, they retained the autonomy to spend their money in any way they saw fit. The wife was horrified at times by how her husband spent his money (a big flat-screen TV!).

But she later came to enjoy some parts of TV world anew after having cast it out of her life years before. The husband was equally disturbed on occasion by how his wife spent her money (more clothes and shoes!). But he certainly enjoyed how sexy and styley she looked.

Then one day this couple learned that they were expecting a child. They decided to move back to the town they both loved and to finally merge their finances. She took over the family bookkeeping using Quicken.

He chose to sit back from the details and merely study his wife’s face at the end of each month’s reconciling.

He knew her well enough to read the whole story in a few seconds—how close were they to hitting their number goals; was this a time to celebrate or buckle down to some serious course correcting.

Also, since their accounts were now merged, they had to start discussing their major expenses together. Sometimes they agreed, and sometimes they didn’t. Some expenses felt negotiable, while others were must-haves…..more discussion!

For example, when he set his sights on a (very) expensive road bike, she was (predictably) horrified.

He explained that:

a) he was willing to take on extra work to pay for it;
b) he felt certain the bike would replace his need for antibiotics for his Lyme’s Disease; and
c) the bike would provide his road back to health, strength, and sexiness.

He made a great case, and she opened and softened. Bring on the bike!

His predictions all came true!

Income boosted to cover the bike’s cost—check! Healed from the ridiculously stubborn Lyme’s—check! Turned himself all studly—check!

After a few years of the wife running the financial show, her Quicken program got buggy. Her husband decided it was time to take his head out of the sand and get back to the numbers, back to tracking income, expenses, and their larger financial patterns.

He was psyched to get on Mint (Mint.com—a great tracking tool) and was up and running in no time. No hand entry for this guy like on Quicken or QuickBooks. He was happy to have the data downloaded quickly online.

This couple implemented the healthy habit of money dates early on. Once or twice a month they set aside focused time to talk about their money hopes and dreams, as well as their fears and the deeper issues that money tends to light up.

Some of these dates have been relaxed and filled with laughter and fun, while others have been tense and heated. With practice, they’ve learned to quickly move through the inevitable conflicts, through their respective money puzzles to reach solutions and deeper understanding.

Annual reviews have also been a solid part of their money dance and have typically been a time to honor and celebrate the previous year’s vision, noting how on track or off track they’ve been.

Looking honestly at what goals have been met and which ones are still hanging out on the horizon. It’s also been a playful time to share numbers and enjoy some healthy competition around who earned more that year. They also take time to talk about how they can do things better in the coming year and update the map of their goals and their larger vision.

So, you probably guessed by now that this is a tale of my husband, Forest, and me.


We have been together for over a decade, and we’ve been fine tuning our money dance one step at a time, one month after the next.

We still have lots of room to grow—don’t get me wrong—but we count it as one of the biggest successes of our relationship that we have cultivated such a conscious, safe, mutually honoring space for working and playing with our finances.

Over the last decade, I have accumulated some great tools from both my own experience and from working with many fabulous couples via my private Financial Therapy work and my group courses.

You may or may not feel personal resonance with the overview of our money story. But hopefully it can get some wheels turning for you, give you some motivation and a few entry points to start looking at your habits and patterns and what’s working or not working in your life.

Here are FOUR Steps for you:



We need awareness before we can see what changes need to be made or what direction we want to go in.

Here is a simple Couples Discovery Assessment Tool to help you increase your awareness and build your clarity.

Click here, to take the Couples Discovery Tool

Step Two.

Take another Deep Breath.  Maybe even wiggle those fingers, toes, shoulders…shake it out!

Step Three.

Choose one thing to begin to change about your current situation.

Maybe you initiate a conversation with your partner. Perhaps you pick one spending pattern to adjust. Or you simply reflect on some aspect of your relationship with money and write about it in a Money Journal. 

Choose one thing to start changing.

Step Four.

Do you want to work with me privately?

Financial Therapy spots (for couples and individuals) are opening up in September.

Please email me: [email protected], if you are interested, for more details and to reserve your spot.


For now, make sure you go ahead and gift yourself with step #1 – ‘Awareness’ and fill out the Couples Discovery Tool.

Click here to fill it out.

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