Defeating Anger in Money Conversations

I really, really don’t like arguing with my wife. I love her dearly and I respect and value her opinions.

Sometimes, though, we just disagree. We see things differently and bring different experiences and thought processes to the table. We might be married, but we are two different people.

Those disagreements can easily translate into anger. It’s easy to feel very frustrated when someone who is usually so thoughtful simply doesn’t see things in the same way you do. Something that seems obvious to you is something that seems unclear or even wrong to them. They’re following their own path and sometimes that path has a big negative impact on what you were planning.

Anger is often our emotional response when we don’t get what we want. At the same time, anger often ends conversations and disrupts the progress that couples need to have when working together to solve their financial problems.

In other words, it’s nearly impossible to work with your partner to fix your financial issues if either one of you is angry.

Yes, there are times when I’m angry because of something my wife has said or done, and there are certainly times when she’s angry with me. That’s a normal human emotional response to not having things go as you wish.

The difference between failure and success is how you handle that anger.

For me, there are four tactics that really work well for keeping my emotions in check and allowing us to move forward when it comes to areas where we disagree. My wife uses a similar set of techniques. Without these, it would be hard for us to work through disagreements in our marriage. With them, we can handle pretty much anything.

1. I admit to being emotionally upset.
If something happens in the course of a discussion that is causing me to have a negative emotional response to it, I flat-out admit it. I’ll simply say that this discussion is going down a road that’s making me upset. (My wife does the same thing.)

This usually changes the conversation immediately and it allows us to dig into why I’m getting upset. That reason is often very close to the core of the problem we’re trying to resolve, whether it’s clear or not.

2. I take a time-out.
If I feel that things are getting pretty intense, I’ll try to stop the conversation and take a break from it. A little bit of anger and frustration can easily escalate into shouting and hurtful things being said from all involved parties and there’s no reason to allow that escalation.

I’ll spend some time trying to really understand why I got so upset. As I mentioned above, that often provides a good window into the root cause of the problem.

3. I put myself in her shoes.
Instead of just grumbling to myself about her crazy thoughts, I genuinely try to answer the question of what she was thinking. Why did she come to the conclusion that she did? Why is she advocating for whatever it is she’s advocating for?

I know she’s a sensible and thoughtful person who wouldn’t just stand up for something without a good reason for doing so. I might not agree with her conclusion, but if I understand where she’s coming from, it makes the whole thing easier to process.

4. I apologize.
Apologizing is very hard for most people. It is incredibly hard to admit that you handled a situation incorrectly. Going through the process of admitting it and genuinely apologizing for it can really force you to look at a situation differently. It will also cause the other person to look at the situation differently as well.

If you find yourself struggling with anger when talking about money issues with your spouse, try using some (or all) of these techniques to work through the situation. You might find the problem easier to solve than you thought.

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