When Your Spouse Won't Participate in a Financial Plan or Budget

young couple frustrated about finances
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One of the most frustrating aspects of managing your finances can be when your spouse does not participate in the discussion. When one spouse doesn’t participate in the money discussion or refuses to talk about money at all, it can be frustrating for both partners–and even cost you in the long run. It doesn’t help matters if your spouse thinks you are nagging or hounding them about money all the time, and you certainly don't want to let your money ruin your marriage. To fix this issue, you need to understand what’s causing it.

For example, if your spouse refuses to combine finances, there may be more serious financial issues that you are not aware of. Lack of communication and differing ideas when it comes to how to spend your money, organize your budget, and tackle other financial goals can cause bigger issues in your marriage. And if there are other reasons why your spouse will not combine finances, you will need to work on solving those bigger problems, as well. 

Below are some common reasons why one spouse may not be participating in the money planning process, and how you can get them on board.

The Problem: Spouse Doesn’t Want to Budget or Plan

If your spouse understands the need to plan but just doesn’t want to, or hates following a budget because it is too much work, it can be difficult to get them on board. Sticking to a budget is hard enough, let alone when you’re not completely sold on the idea to begin with. But for the sake of your financial health, it’s important to come up with a solution that will work for both of you.

The Solution: Create a Basic Plan for Review

Make it easy for your spouse to participate in the discussion. Come up with a basic budget that covers bills like groceries, utilities, and gas. Then have a discussion on how you will spend your discretionary income on things like eating out and shopping, what your individual spending money should be, and other expenditures.

You may even consider switching to a cash budget. You can even break it into weekly amounts to make it easier to get used to. That way, when the money is gone, both you and your spouse will have to stop spending. That way, you won’t have to worry about constantly nagging your partner to stick to the budget. Plus, some people just operate better when actually handling cash and seeing it leave their wallet, rather than using an online banking app and a spreadsheet full of numbers.

This approach will take some of the pressure off of you, and eliminate those fights about every spend. Then, once a month, go over the budget again and see how you did.

The Problem: Spouse Feels Blamed or Picked on in Discussions

If you are in a bad financial situation with a lot of debt or you seem to have a hard time sticking to a budget, the way you are approaching the situation may make your spouse feel like you are blaming them.

This can be a tricky situation, especially if you do feel that they are to blame for your financial situation. However, it is not a good idea to place blame when you are in this situation. It will make your spouse feel worse and less likely to participate in money discussions and stick to a budget. It will also cause you to approach the situation with a negative attitude.

The Solution: Change Your Approach

You need to change the way you approach talking about money. Stop with the blame, and do not focus on the past.

Instead, focus on what you can change moving forward. Try using phrases such as, “We are not going to blame each other for where we are. Instead, we’ll work together to get out of this situation.”

Ask your spouse to commit to a plan (including a budget) that will improve your financial situation. With this approach, your spouse may be more willing to get on board and to work with you to improve your financial situation. Changing your approach diffuses the negativity and allows you to work towards a more positive future.

Problem: Spouse Doesn’t Feel Involved or Feels Like You Are Telling Them What To Do 

While you may think you have a reluctant spouse who does not want to plan, you may actually be dealing with someone who does not feel involved in the situation.

Ask your spouse if they would like a more active role in the budgeting process; and if they say yes, then you need to change the way you approach the situation and delegate some of the financial responsibilities.

Often, one spouse will feel like the other is controlling all of the spending decisions, and feels like a child rather than an adult in the situation. This may be especially true if you give them an allowance.

Solution: Start Over

You can fix this problem with a change in your approach. If your spouse simply doesn’t feel involved in the process, then maybe it’s time to start the process over and do it together.

Gather together your actual bills and list your expenses and income together. Go over the bills, your budget, and your financial goals. When looking at your budget, get your spouse’s take on how you should spend your remaining monthly income. Once they see the numbers in black and white, they may be more willing to stick to a budget or curb their spending.

Plus, once they are involved in the process, they will be much more likely to participate in future budgeting and money discussions, since they had a say in the original plan.

Problem: Spouse Believes Everything Will Somehow Work Out

When your spouse is holding onto the belief that everything will work itself out naturally, you may have a difficult time getting her to participate in the discussion. Many personality types are not great at planning and seem to think that if they keep working hard that everything will work out. The truth is, financial success comes when you have a solid plan and you stick to it.

Solution: Give Your Spouse a Reality Check

This may sound harsh, but the best way to handle this is to provide your spouse with a reality check. You should talk about goals or desires that they have expressed in the past, such as owning a home or traveling during retirement years.

Compare these goals directly to your current financial situation. If you can demonstrate to your spouse whether or not you will achieve that goal at the rate you are operating now, you may be able to get them on board with monthly budget discussion and a financial plan. Sometimes it takes seeing the hard facts to wake someone up to the reality of the situation.

Updated by Rachel Morgan Cautero.