The term, coined by psychologist John Gottman, refers to any roadblock a couple reaches about their finances. Although approx. ALL couples everywhere disagree about money from time to time, a gridlock is a recurring fight that is immune to resolution.
So, if you and your partner find yourselves locked in a gnarly gridlock, what do you do? Short of planting a money tree in your yard, we have some pretty useful suggestions from the expert himself.
First, reflect on your dreams about money. Sounds corny, but Gottman says these dreams mean anything - big or small - you wanted for yourself. Dream of travelling around Europe? Taking up sailing after retirement? Buying a vacation home or nice car? These are all great examples of money dreams. Ask yourself what yours are, and then share them with your partner. But because you’re talking about each other’s dreams here, you need to be respectful - and not critical.
Here’s an example of what not to do:
|R:||"So, when you think about money - what are your biggest dreams?"|
|P:||"I guess my dream is to eventually be able to buy a beach house."|
|R:||"Oh really? Where?"|
|P:||"I don’t know… Hawaii, maybe?"|
|R:||"Hawaii?? We could never afford that! Plus, think of the wear and tear from a property right on the beach! What a money pit!"|
|P:||"Okay. Just forget it."|
(Leaves a little something to be desired, doesn’t it?) Here’s a better conversation template:
Strike A Temporary Compromise.
your partner isn’t getting their house in Hawaii anytime soon, and you’re not winning the lotto or adding a pool anytime soon - so the best thing to do in the meantime is reach a ceasefire about big $$$ dreams. Accept that you each have differences, accept that there isn’t total alignment in your money dreams.
You and your partner each write down lists of what you can (and can't) negotiate when it comes to your money dreams: 1. Non-negotiable areas: Aspects of the issue that you are unwilling to give up on because it will violate your basic needs or core values. Try to make this section as small as possible. 2. Areas of flexibility: Parts of the issue where you can be flexible. Try to make this section as large as possible.
Share your list with your partner and strike a temporary compromise. For example, maybe your non-negotiable area is to have $50K in savings to feel secure, and your partner’s non-negotiable area is to at least visit Hawaii regularly. Maybe eventually, you’ll reach a compromise, like waiting until you save $50K and then shopping for condos (instead of beach homes) in Hawaii.
It takes more than one discussion about money dreams and compromises to resolve issues that have troubled your relationship. But through it all, the best way to get perspective about what you want, is by recognizing and appreciating how much you have. That’s really all that matters in the end.
So whether you and your partner strike it big and make all your money dreams a reality or just keep daydreaming about them, it’s all about staying in step with each other, continuing to check in on your dreams, and never stop reaching for the stars.