Let's face it.
Your marriage may be the biggest business you ever run.
Your spouse is your partner. And no matter whether you are living on a fixed income, you both work or just one of you gets paid for what you do, so many decisions need to be made regarding money. Time. Who's responsible for what.
Small picture. Big picture. Current needs. Future concerns.
It takes coordination. And effort.
Just like it would in a "real" business. Whether things would be discussed, turned inside-out, and re-discussed in meetings.
So when do these subjects get discussed in a marriage?
While both of you are brushing your teeth in the morning. Or right before one of you is trying to go to sleep. "Oh, I forgot to ask you, how much are we going to give to the church?" Or spend on kids or grandkids. Or a vacation.
Or, "What's the plan for the holidays?"
"We can talk tomorrow. I'm exhausted."
There are many examples of the business of a marriage not going well.
One person will take on the entire responsibility of finances. The other may not even have a clue what's going on. Mimicking a parent/child dynamic.
Others never talk about money. They keep their own checking accounts. Contribute an amount to a shared account. But never quite know what the other one is doing with their money. How they are prioritizing what to buy. What not to buy.
There is little sense of partnership. Or working together.
Both can be engaged in chaotic decision-making. Not paying any attention to how much money is actually available. Living high on the hog, as we would say in Arkansas. Too high.
Or one will take on planning everything. All the trips. All travel or what they kids are involved in. Maybe they are good at organizing so it seems a simple solution.
The problem? You get tired of doing even what you do well. You can feel totally unappreciated. Or lonely and resentful.
So what's an answer?
Just like you would have at your job. Here are some guidelines.
1) Create a space in your house where you can sit down together. Face to face. The dining room table for example. Bring your laptops, calculators. Maybe even a pen and paper thrown in for good measure. Kids need to know parents are not to be disturbed for a while. Or this is a good time to ask a friend to take them to a movie.
2) Come prepared. One of you prepare an agenda that you send to the other. They can add to that agenda. Know what you are going to cover. Savings plans. Retirement goals. Vacation ideas. Budget for kids or grandkids. Whatever is on the agenda.
3) Have these quarterly. Not too much to overdo it. Not too little where so much time has gone by you are going to lose touch on the pragmatics of your relationship.
4) Bring an attitude of cooperation and learning. Of listening. So that both of you will be involved in "the business" of your marriage. Bring financial documents with you. Or look online. Both of you can feel grown-up. And responsible for carrying your role out.
5) Set immediate goals. And future goals. Talk about who is going to be responsible for what - to attain those goals. This builds huge trust in the couple. If both know what the other will be actively doing to keep the relationship safe and secure? And see them doing it? It's a confidence booster. Both people get to feel competent.
6) If you are overspending, or have huge credit card debt, get help. There are books and programs out there that you can use. Jim Cramer is well-known for his financial advice on how to get rid of debt. Credit counseling organizations are often non-profit and therefore free to the public. Lawyers can also advise about what course you should follow.
7) If you get angry or frustrated, take a break. Money. Reality. Partnership. Not having all the control. All of this can be hard to talk about. Especially if you have been doing things in a way that isn't working. It can be difficult to set up a new pattern. But remember... you wouldn't yell or make accusations in a meeting at your workplace. (Or if you do, things probably are not looking too great for you.) Treat this meeting in a similar way.
Dr. Margaret Rutherford is a clinical psychologist who has been in private practice for over 20 years in Fayetteville, Arkansas. She began blogging in 2012 after her only son left for college, coining the term "NestAche" for her empty nest experience. Not only here on Boomeon, she has been featured on the Huffington Post, Midlife Boulevard, BetterAfter50, BlogHer, Readers Digest, The Cheat Sheet and ArkansasWomenBloggers. Her new eBook, "Seven Commandments of Good Therapy", a basic guide on choosing a therapist or evaluating your current therapy, is available for free on her website. You can find her at DrMargaretRutherford.com or on Twitter @doctor_margaret.
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