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Understanding Your Relationship with Money: 08/01/2017

Communication tips & money management steps for couples

Third in a three-part series

You can create the financial life you both want and deserve by understanding and supporting each other to be financially aware and empowered. Understanding the money triggers or hidden patterns you or your partner display emotionally and psychologically is most effectively addressed with a financial counselor or certified money coach. While these money patterns are being addressed, your style of communication will come to the forefront.

Your style of communicating is key to navigating money conversations effectively. Unfortunately, conversations about money are so emotionally charged that many couples avoid them altogether. One effective style is nonviolent communication (NVC), also known as compassionate communication, developed by Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D. In his book, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life. Rosenberg refers to nonviolent communication as “Our natural state of compassion when violence has subsided from the heart. While we may not consider the way we talk to be “violent,” our words often lead to hurt and pain, whether for others or ourselves.”

NVC is a way to focus your attention, and guides you to reframe how you express yourself and hear others. Instead of habitual, automatic reactions, your words become conscious responses based firmly on an awareness of what you perceive, feel, and want. So you express yourself with honesty and clarity while you pay attention to the other with respect and empathy. When talking about money, NVC replaces your old patterns of defense, withdrawal, and attachment in the face of judgment and criticism. Result? A new perspective of yourself and your partner, in a new light. Resistance, defensiveness, and violent reactions diminish.

The four components of the NVC model

o Observe what's actually happening without introducing any judgment.

o Tell how you feel when you observe this action: are you scared, hurt, overwhelmed?

o State your 'needs' connected to the feelings you've identified.

o Make a specific request.

For example, “I've noticed we don't have enough money in savings for unexpected expenses that come up. This feels scary to me. I need more financial security. Would you be willing to talk about saving 10 percent of our income every month?”

The other aspect of NVC consists of receiving the same four pieces of information from your partner. Connect with him or her by first sensing what they're observing, feeling, and needing about money, then discover what would enrich life if you received the request. When you and your partner's attention are focused on these areas, you're establishing a back and forth flow of communication until compassion naturally occurs. You're now communicating successfully!

This new style of communication will take practice and a lot of patience. Try not to be too hard on yourself or your partner as you experiment. Stay curious and bring some humor into the process to lighten things up.

Supporting each other to be financially aware and empowered involves these healthy, practical money management steps that you can do together.

o Create and maintain a monthly cash flow chart.

o Make joint decisions about what to do with the “leftovers.” Eat it, spend it, save it, or invest it.

o Establish a monthly allowance to spend or save as you each desire.

o Share the financial responsibilities: divide up the tasks or take turns.

o Have a monthly “money meeting” to discuss and clear up any unfinished or new money business.

o Create a list of goals and dreams to work on together and have fun with the process.

o Acknowledge each other in positive ways for keeping agreements.

Wherever you are in your lives, know that this moment is the best time to take the necessary steps, creating true financial intimacy with each other. There are many ways to achieve this; as I've mentioned before, I highly recommend The Heart of Money: A Couple's Guide to Creating True Financial Intimacy by Deborah Price. This can be your first step to create a rich and financially empowered life together.

© 2017 Donna Colfer

To learn more about your relationship with money, visit and take the complimentary “Money Type Quiz.” Only you will see the results. Or contact me at

Donna Colfer has worked in financial management since 1987. As a Financial Counselor and a Certified Money Coach, she blends her financial expertise with spiritual counseling in her private practice in Sonoma. A Valley resident since 1981, Donna and her husband, Randy, reside in Kenwood.

© 2020 Donna Colfer


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