Getting a Reluctant Spouse Onboard With Budgeting

By Dave Ramsey
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Having trouble getting your spouse to help with money issues or join the get-out-of-debt crusade? Here's help.

The Reluctant Spouse

For years I have taught that spouses must work together on their finances. One of the most consistent questions I get on our radio show and in letters is, “How do I get my spouse to join me in working on the money?”

Many men are really frustrated with wives who act like spoiled little girls who just want their stuff and want it now (red-faced and lip in pouting position)! Many more women are frustrated, angry and deeply resentful of men who refuse to help make decisions about money, leaving the women to shoulder the responsibility single-handedly.

Most Nerds, whether men or women, enjoy the task of building the plan, but deeply resent being left to do all the grown-up work on their own, especially if it means having to tolerate a spouse who persists in childish attitudes toward money. This may sound as though I’m being mean, but I’m not. I have seen way too many marriages damaged by one spouse financially abandoning the other, so I am being frank.

Getting the Reluctant Spouse Onboard

If you’re having trouble getting your spouse to help with money issues or join the get-out-of-debt crusade, there are some things you don’t want to do:

  • We’ve all tried nagging and whining, and those don’t work.
  • Don’t be manipulative.
  • Don’t tell your spouse everything the financial experts say, and how they’re all on your side. Beating your spouse with an expert will only cause him or her to be defensive. I get e-mail often from spouses saying, “I hate you Dave, and I don’t even know you. If I hear ‘Dave says’ one more time, I’m going postal!”

So what are you supposed to do?

First and foremost, a little — or a lot of — honest communication is in order. Tell your mate what you want and why. Let him or her know that you’re excited about getting out of debt so the two of you can build wealth, and that you’re excited about living on a plan so you will be able to save more, give more and live more.

Ask your spouse to read this series of articles with you. If that doesn’t move you toward good conversation, then you may have to concentrate a little harder. Try writing down some of the points that concern you, and why. Sharing your thoughts and feelings on paper can be an effective way of getting your spouse’s attention.

I Repeat, Nagging Is Not Good!

Men need to feel useful. When a wife “takes care of” the bills in a way that indirectly puts down her husband or implies that he is incompetent, it can only lead to one thing: Her husband will withdraw.

Ladies, if you are being reasonable and your husband just doesn’t see the need to be involved in financial decisions, make him feel useful. Let him know that you need him, that you need his help. The one surefire way to drive your husband away from helping you is to nag. Nagging will drive a wedge between you and your man, one that may take years to remove.

Men, if you don’t want your wives to nag, it’s time to step up to the plate and bat. As the saying goes, “When a man refuses to act like a man, his wife will act like his mother.”

Copyright © 2005, Dave Ramsey. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

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About the Author

Dave Ramsey

Dave Ramsey is a personal money management expert and the popular host of the nationally-syndicated radio program “The Dave Ramsey Show,” which is heard by 12 million listeners each week. His best-selling books – including Financial Peace, The Total Money Makeover and More Than Enough – have sold more than 10 million copies combined. Dave is the creator of Financial …

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