Ruth Hayden's book on mates and money, "For Richer, Not Poorer," offers advice to help couples live together financially as well as emotionally. In her appearance Thursday on The Daily Circuit, she told Kerri Miller that couples may think their problems are "external" — "if they just had a little more money," or "if one of them didn't spend so much," or "externally if something changed, that would fix it."
"My challenge to the couples I work with is: It starts first internally. Then we can change the external," she said. "The external, which is making more money, or how much are we going to spend, is less than 20 percent of the success with money. At least 80 percent is what I call internal, which has to do with skills and how we approach money. It's about management of money. How are we going to think about it differently, how are we going to work with it differently? How are we not going to disagree over what we're going to do, when we're going to do it, how much we're going to pay, and then whose fault it is when it doesn't work?"
Hayden set out "the three tools couples use that don't work":
1. Fighting and fussing. "Sometimes couples look like little bulldogs. It's very uncomfortable for the people around them, including their children, and it's very painful to them. The fighting and fussing doesn't resolve anything."
2. Acquiescing. "When the fighting gets too hot, one of them will say, 'I'll just take over,' or one of them will say, 'Then you just do it, whatever.' ... Acquiescing is a sprint around the block. It fixes it short-term. It takes the pressure off. But over time, it builds resentment in both of them."
3. Silence. Studies, she said, suggest that many couples either rarely or never talk about money. On that topic, they are "totally silent — until there's a crisis. ... When the silence doesn't work, it starts to echo, and they start to wonder if they're really in a relationship, one of them will start a fight."
Listener Casey sent in a comment that captured Hayden's philosophy well:
"We don't argue about money. We've been married for 11 years, and in the past few years we've been having regularly scheduled time to look over the budget, talk about our goals, and see how we both think it is going. We have a budget. We have goals we have set together. We regularly talk about how it's going and see if we are both in agreement about how things are going. The more often we talk about it, the better we feel. If we miss a month, one of us starts to feel more stressed."