Elizabeth and Sam's money challenge

Elizabeth and Sam’s money challenge

Elizabeth used to control her husband’s budget

(Photograph by Jason Franson)

(Photograph by Jason Franson)

Elizabeth and Sam Bain both age 34, Edmonton

The money challenge: At the start of their relationship, Elizabeth controlled the budget. She and her husband Sam (both real estate agents) had set a long term goal of saving 20% of their after-tax income for a down payment on a house. That’s when the fighting started. Many heated arguments ensued, some over tiny purchases. “I focused on the details and demanded an explanation, even if Sam overspent by just a couple of dollars,” Elizabeth says.

The fix: Sam suggested they focus on the overall health of their finances and not just the details. “It’s hard to change someone like me who likes to control,” Elizabeth admits. “But I came to see that as long as our money was growing every month, we were doing well.”

Expert tip. “Feelings of insecurity or being threatened underpin most arguments,” says Amanda Mills, a financial therapist in Toronto. “The key is for both of you to emphasize your strengths when you have the money talk.” If one spouse is more detail-oriented, that can help the other spouse understand the specifics of your finances. Meanwhile, partners who are less controlling can help bring the big picture into focus.