Money is a frequent cause of conflict in relationships. This conflict can be exacerbated by poor communication. Conversations about money can be emotionally loaded and couples can develop destructive communication patterns to help them cope with this conflict. Think about your own mental hang-ups about money and then introduce another person with their own money beliefs and dysfunctions into the mix and you have a recipe for financial chaos. Money is about much more than just numbers. In a relationship there are complex issues of power, commitment and personal values.
It is important to avoid communication breakdowns and ensure that interactions about money are constructive and honest. Couples need to work toward shared goals and find common ground. If partners cannot find a way to productive way to navigate difficult money issues there is the risk of building resentment, disengagement and loss of intimacy.
Difficult Money Conversations – The Shower Exercise
If you and your partner are struggling to find a way to have constructive conversations about money and find ways to work together to a common understanding this exercise is a great way to move in a positive direction.
The exercise is straight forward and very simple. Here are the basic steps:
Step 1: Set a time and date to have a money meeting. It is important that there will not be any interruptions and that any children are in bed or in the care of another adult.
Step 2: The couple meets in the bathroom and takes a shower together.
Step 3: Once in the shower, with the water running, the couple should spend a few minutes focusing on a positive topic, and thank or compliment their partner about something they have done recently.
Step 4: After the opening, each person takes a turn to talk about what they believe is the most pressing financial issues for them and why. After the person states their pressing issue, the other partner needs to ask, “What do you need or what needs to happen to improve this situation.”
Step 5: Address the answer to the question about what needs to happen and negotiate the next step to move towards the solution.
Step 6: Agree on next steps and set a date for the next shower meeting.
The key to the shower exercise if finding one or two steps that can be taken to start moving your interactions about money and your financial situation in a positive direction.
Why the shower method works:
- The setting and situation are intimate and this can help diffuse resentment.
- People are vulnerable when they are naked and this can help balance the power in the discussion.
- It is difficult for one partner to disengage, ignore or walk away from the conversation
- Unless you have a tankless water heater, the hot water will run out at some point and this provides some time pressure to the conversation and a natural ending point for the session.
Once the communication channels are open, shower sessions can graduate from immediate financial issues to planning, goal setting and sharing dreams.