In many relationships, money is part of the relating between people, be it in terms of a salary for work, or income to run a household.

So often we need to talk to someone about money issues which affect us and them, and that’s not always an easy conversation to have, and can often lead to conflicts. Yet it is an important one.

What can make it so difficult to have, is we add too much significance to money, and thus there are intense emotions related to the discussion.

Money Meanings

Money can be a very emotional topic. We add more meaning to money than it just being a means to track the exchange of energy between two people.

Money has come to mean things like survival, safety, status, power, love, and control. Thus, the topic of money brings up many emotions, like worry, anger, guilt, joy and can even put us on the defensive.

With having some basic guidelines in place on how to have a difficult conversation, we can look now at a scenario around a common money conversation, to add a few more strategies and tips to making having these conversations that count, a little easier. And accordingly, they will be more likely to lead to a successful outcome for all involved.

Scenario: Romantic relationships and money

So imagine there is a money issue between a couple: one partner starts to spend in what seems to the other to be an extravagant way.

The family is doing OK, and everyone and the children are cared for well. Yet this person seems to be buying unnecessary things that have an excessive flare to them.

However when the other person buys something nice for themselves, or suggests a new item for the house, eyebrows are raised and stop signs shown.

Each person works hard, so a little reward purchase once in a while is acceptable, yet there are growing concerns about education funds for the children, and maintenance projects on the house that should be planned for.

So how do you go about broaching the topic of spending, where you know your questions could meet with defensiveness and be interpreted as a confrontation?

How to have a difficult conversation about money

First, make sure you have in the place the groundwork for having difficult conversations.

Set the Scene:

Ask the person when you could talk to him/her about the family’s finances. Suggest a home cooked meal while the children will be at their grandparents for the day or night.

This then gives the person some indication of what you want to talk about, being the “family finances” and time to prepare (mentally and emotionally) for the conversation. Defensiveness often comes about when a person feels cornered or taken by surprise.


During the conversation, attempt to:

  • Affirm with the person what you appreciate about what they are currently doing, and doing well, like how they do take care of the family’s needs and are such a strong provider.
  • Share how you’re feeling vulnerable lately as you’ve noticed that they’ve been purchasing a number of things, and yet said you’d have to put your suggestions for household items on hold, and so you’re not sure what they are planning or thinking in terms of the family finances. You’d just like to hear what is going on for them and also get some reassurance that things are on track with the children’s university funds etc.
  • The more you can state the facts, and ask questions to find out what the other person thinks and feels, the more understanding you can create. And it’s understanding that leads to win-win solutions.


Try to stay away from these areas:

  • Don’t say that they are reckless or inconsiderate with their spending. Labels and judgements will just put them on the defensive. And defensiveness has a way of closing down conversations, and bringing about unresourceful emotions.
  • Don’t focus on any other issues or bring up anything unrelated or from the past – stick to the current one issue on hand. And when it’s resolved, move on and enjoy the rest of the evening.

Relationship before Money

Thus to not damage the relationship with this type of conversation, and yet still keep your financial situation in a good position, remember to focus on what you are feeling in response to your partners behaviour, rather than saying judgemental things about their spending spree.

You are responsible to the person to explain the impact their behaviour may be having on you, yet no one likes to feel judged. Feeling like you understand the other and are heard and understood too, goes a long way to resolved tricky moments.

So give your partner a chance to understand the impact on you, and to explain their point of view, before focusing on what would be a win-win for both of your concerns and needs.

And remember to put your relationship first. As Richard DeVos says:

Money cannot buy peace of mind. It cannot heal ruptured relationships, or build meaning into a life that has none.

Be real,


About the Author:

Our Coach, Telana SimpsonTelana is a dynamic, transformational Personal Coach and Blogger who specializes in communicating and relating.  She helps people have no regrets in life by having conversations that count.   Follow her on Twitter or her podcast show, Let’s Talk Communication.
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