It was 170 years ago on June 2, 1847, that Felix Mendelssohn’s Wedding March was played at a wedding for the very first time. Today the Wedding March is a standard part of a classic wedding ceremony, usually played on an organ or piano. Throughout June, a favorite month for people to tie the knot, you will probably hear this song more than usual.
When all the notes are played as expected, the march is an enjoyable experience. However, if the notes are played wrong, it can be painful. It takes practice to get it right — the left and right hand must work in unison.
Marriage can also be enjoyable or painful, depending on how a couple works together. And just like learning to play a piece of music for the first time, don’t expect good results in marriage without practice. It’s no longer a one-handed musical performance. Now that there are two separate hands — and you are going to need earplugs if you don’t learn how to work together.
Here are some common left hand/right hand differences between couples when it comes to money. Do you see any of these in your relationship?
- The hoarder and the spender (this is the most common combination). The hoarder takes the idea of saving to the extreme, sometimes neglecting legitimate family needs. The spender runs through more money than they have in their account and often relies on credit to pay.
- The worrier and an avoider. The avoider shies away from money management, such as balancing the checkbook, making a budget and paying bills promptly. The worrier dwells and loses sleep thinking of money matters and wants a great deal of control over the finances.
- The planner and the dreamer. The planner takes charge of the nitty-gritty details of the family’s finances, while dreamer acts as visionary, ignoring details and thinking big. These roles could be complementary, but they often leave partners battling over financial priorities.
- The risk taker and the risk avoider. The risk taker’s aggressive approach to investing or career planning creates discomfort for the risk avoider who lives in fear that the family’s savings will be lost.
Whether a couple are polar opposites or strikingly similar in their financial practices, there is usually at least one difference, and that is where the problems arise. Couples should talk about financial preferences and ideas before dissonance erupts.
To achieve harmony, you need to get rid of your hangups over talking about money. Money is a major subject of marital quarrels, and even a cause of divorce.
Before you have that heart-to-heart discussion regarding dollar signs, consider your partner’s past training and experiences and try to appreciate their personal style. It’s easy for tempers to fly, especially when one spouse spends a lot more than the other or when one partner agrees to help with the other’s debt. To work through money issues, both partners should be prepared to give a little and search for some common ground. It’s a key to making beautiful music together.
You may find it helpful to discuss:
- How each of your families handled money growing up, and what you did and didn’t like about it.
- Your beliefs about money, such as how much income is enough, and how you define financial success.
- What you can’t give up, as well as what you wouldn’t mind giving up.
- Family goals — and include the children in these discussions. Pick a non-stressful time to have family money talks. (It’s probably not wise to call a meeting just after balancing the checkbook or while you’re deciding how much house you can afford.)
- How to take equal responsibility for managing your money so both of you are informed. For example, if one person routinely pays the bills, the other should file the paid invoices.
- Hitting the wrong notes. What issues repeatedly crop up? What attitudes and emotions are creating the behavior?
Above all, remember that your marital bliss has more to do with how you handle your money than how much money you have.
This isn’t a one-time discussion. Just like playing a piece of music over and over again to get right, you need to continue reviewing these issues again and again. Don’t give up if it is hard. Practice makes perfect.
Albert Einstein said, “I see my life in terms of music.” If that perspective works for a genius, maybe it can work for the rest of us. When it comes to the music of money, make sure you and your spouse are both reading off the same score.