Fighting with your partner about money during the pandemic? You’re not alone. Here’s how to cope

As if quarantine hasn’t been hard enough on your relationship, layer on financial concerns. Stats show that money matters are a major contributor to couples splitting up during normal times. But now, with so much uncertainty around health, work and money, financial stress between partners is at an all-time high.

Here’s how to cope with your pandemic financial concerns in your relationship, and stay together.

On the upside, if you’re fighting about money, it opens the door to talking

The worst thing you and your partner can do right now is bury your financial stress by not talking about it, and pretend like nothing is wrong. Communication is ever more important. Keep the conversations frequent, brief and positive (yes, this requires discipline and respect).

Set a healthy tone by chatting daily for one to two minutes about your money situation. It can help to lead the conversation with some gratitude, such as getting a great deal on groceries this week, followed by a positive action such as signing into online banking and reviewing upcoming expenses. Obviously, finger pointing, name calling and the like are off limits.

Broader money conversations can happen once healthy communication has been established.

Get on the same page

Every financial choice that you and your spouse make right now is a reflection of what you care about — your value system — and the stress you may be experiencing because of COVID-19. So, it’s no wonder that if one partner has gone buckwild with online shopping for new clothes during quarantine, while the other is implementing household austerity measures, fighting ensues. The later partner probably thinks their spouse doesn’t care about their future while the former partner could be sick and tired of their spouse being a cheapskate.

Wherever you and your love are starting from — employed, collecting CERB or EI, self-employed, no debt, high debt — the only way to fix the financial stress is to get on the same page and move forward. This means figuring out your financial priorities as a couple (stick to two or three).

Unfortunately, this is the part where larger relationship challenges tend to emerge. Get professional help if you can’t agree on priorities. There are virtual counselling services couples can access and most therapists are covered under benefit plans, if you have one. If you don’t, there are a variety of low-to-no-cost mental health services. Google what’s available in your area.

Work toward your priorities with a strategy

Financial strategies that work are ones that help you achieve your priorities efficiently. They tend to either increase savings, reduce debts or do both. One of the best ways for you and your love to implement your strategy is to set a joint budget that specifies what you’re working on. For example, in the savings section, add the dollar amount you and your partner agree to save toward your goal of building up an emergency fund. A budget is also a tool to establish financial boundaries, such as what each of you will spend on yourselves. If boundaries are broken, you need to talk this through; why did it happen and what’s going to change?

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If you and your partner simply don’t know how to be strategic with your money, get help! Banks and credit-counselling agencies offer free advisory services, and hiring a money coach or a financial planner is another avenue. If you’re a DIY person, you can learn a lot from the personal finance blogging community. Note that all of these people may try to sell you something.

Your happy place as a couple will accentuate each of your strengths. It is OK to divvy-up money duties based on what each of you is great at — paying bills, finding the best deals, selecting the investments, researching credit cards, negotiating the mortgage, figuring out the COVID-19 benefits you qualify for. Simply keep each other informed of what’s going on and stay true to your priorities. This will ensure you stay together after the pandemic ends.

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TORONTO STAR