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How to talk to your spouse about money

Updated: Jan 4

Updated post: 11/28/23

Original post: 5/4/23

Managing money can be a significant source of stress for couples. Couples' financial disagreements are the strongest predictor of divorce. What's more, money is the greatest cause of stress for American adults.

I hope we have your attention.

Having a plan in place is essential to ensure financial stability and avoid conflicts, and it begins with talking to your spouse about money.

How to talk to your spouse about money

Start the conversation

We regularly host national financial therapy experts on our Modern Husbands Podcast. Each guest shares their own unique perspectives about money and relationships. However, nearly all of them, unprompted, share that the most essential step is simply beginning the conversation.

Schedule time to talk

Don't wait for a crisis to talk about money with your partner.

As a matter of fact, there is no worse time to begin to talk about money. Money conversations prioritize suppressing the emotions that stand in the way of rational thinking. You and your partner have some control over the timing and environment of the conversation if you take the time to add it to your schedules.

Experts recommend regular household business meetings, often called money dates. The goal of money dates is to keep couples on the same page financially.

Conversations about money should be in a comfortable environment that allows you to discuss your shared goals, values, and your relationship with money.

Money dates are also the perfect time for partners to divide money management tasks based on their skill sets and what they like to do.

For example, one partner might manage investments and bills, while the other handles insurance. It is not uncommon for one partner to manage all the money, which is fine, as long as both partners have an equal voice in how their money is controlled.

As we recommended in a post, What is a Money Date?, start by identifying and sharing ideas about how money fits into each other's personal values.

Another positive first step is to take our Money and Marriage quiz. Following each response are explanations that help prepare you and your partner to tackle money conversations. By completing the quiz, you will join many others who receive winning ideas to manage money and the home as a team in our newsletter every couple of weeks.

How should we talk about money?

Discussing money might not be so easy for those who have experienced traumatic experiences around money. Their relationship with money could be more complicated. So be thoughtful, patient, and empathetic.

Talking about money is initially hard for most people, particularly if you have never meaningfully discussed it. Couples may experience intense emotions while discussing money, which can be challenging to manage. Anxiety, frustration, shame, guilt, and excitement are not uncommon.

In most cases, couples who start the conversation about money eventually uncover that they become easier over time.

Working through the emotions from talking about money will empower you as a couple. Be an active listener by reinforcing what you have heard and asking clarifying questions. Take a break if either of you feel overwhelmed. Give each other grace for past mistakes; we all make them.

We highly recommend reading our previous post, What is a Money Date?, to prepare for the conversation.

Financial Trauma

Financial trauma is an emotional wounding that happens as a direct result of something to do specifically with money. Those who have experienced financial trauma will have a particularly difficult time discussing money.

On a past episode of the Modern Husbands Podcast, we hosted Rahkim Sabree CFEI®, RFC® AFC® Candidate. Rahkim is an author, Forbes columnist, and financial coach who focuses on the intersection of financial education and financial trauma as a barrier to achieving financial empowerment.

Modern Husbands Podcast: Overcoming Financial Trauma

Financial infidelity

1 in 10 reported lying to their spouse/partner about how much money they earn, which is financial infidelity. Financial infidelity is when couples who have combined their finances deceive each other about money. Surveys repeatedly find that this is the case for 2 in 5 couples which leads to several painful outcomes, including that it led to divorce for 16% of folks.

To manage money as a couple effectively, both spouses must be fully transparent about what they earn and see money as a tool to use together to bring more joy and security to the marriage.

I need to reiterate. Talk honestly. Failing to do so leads to a tornado of problems that can destroy your lives together.


Related reading: How to Manage Money in a Marriage A broader perspective about how you and your spouse can work together in partnership to manage money.


What if my wife is the breadwinner?

71% of women believe that it is important for a man to be able to financially support a family. That's tremendous pressure for husbands who now live in a world where, according to Pew, 45% of dual income households, women earn around the same or more than their husbands. Perhaps this is why men feel a sense of distress when their wives earn a greater share than 40 percent of the family income.

Studies show that even in marriages where both partners earn similar incomes, women are still more likely to take on the primary responsibility for managing household finances.

This is not healthy for husbands or marriages for a couple of reasons.

First, even when women make as much or more than their husbands, they still do more at home. There is no way to know for certain why, but what we know is that this is unhealthy. If equal time is spent at work, equal time should be spent managing the home.

Second, money should not equal power in a relationship. As I shared in my monthly Op-Ed for MarketWatch, money should never be used as a weapon to control a marriage. To be clear, there can be many advantages to having one partner assume the primary role of managing the household finances under the right conditions: there is a fair distribution of the total time spent managing the home, and money has not been weaponized as a tool for control in the marriage.

Research shows married couples are more likely to be happy when they participate in sound financial management practices such as budgeting and living within (or below) their means.


Money does NOT equal masculinity

We said it best in our post for The Good Men Project:

Much of the strife and stress married men experience around money stems from outdated, conventional views about how to be a man.

Men feel pressure today to serve in the role of yesterday. Such out-of-touch ideas are toxic for marriage and must be set aside by men and women alike to have a happier relationship.

We can't expect men to bring home the bacon and for no wage gap to exist. Such cognitive dissonance creates the mirage of a marriage that can't live for everyone. We also can't expect women to continue to shoulder most of the division of labor at home; that's a recipe for an unhappy couple.

There seems to be much debate about modern-day masculinity, with differing perspectives with which reasonable people can disagree.

The way we see it is that a strong, high-earning woman never threatens a masculine man -- he embraces her as a teammate.

So when approaching your spouse to discuss the dollars and cents that pay the bills, husbands who see the world as we do will take an egalitarian approach to their roles inside and outside the home.


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Dew, J., Britt, S. and Huston, S. (2012), Examining the Relationship Between Financial Issues and Divorce. Family Relations, 61: 615-628.

“Face the Numbers: Moving beyond Financial Denial.” American Psychological Association, American Psychological Association, 22 Mar. 2022,

Parker, Kim, and Renee Stepler. “Americans See Men as the Financial Providers, Even as Women's Contributions Grow.” Pew Research Center, Pew Research Center, 10 Sept. 2020,

Chavda, Janakee. “In a Growing Share of U.S. Marriages, Husbands and Wives Earn about the Same.” Pew Research Center's Social & Demographic Trends Project, Pew Research Center, 14 Apr. 2023,

Syrda, Joanna. “Spousal Relative Income and Male Psychological Distress.” Spousal Relative Income and Male Psychological Distress, SAGE Journmal, 28 Oct. 2019,

“2 In 5 Americans Admit to Financial Infidelity against Their Partner.” NEFE,


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