It's as inevitable as death and taxes -- fighting over money. Couples are faced with literally hundreds of financial decisions that create fertile ground for disagreement. Financial educator Ruth L. Hayden, author of For Richer, Not Poorer -- The Money Book for Couples (Health Communications), says financial feuds don't have to be the norm. There's no quick fix for fighting, but experts suggest taking the following steps to contain the battlefield: Understand your money beliefs. Your attitudes toward money usually control how you act with money. Once you identify your beliefs and how you arrived at them, you can better understand each other. Stop blaming. If you don't stop blaming, you won't stop fighting. You each have to take equal responsibility for your financial situation and for fighting about it. But what if it's your husband who ran up the credit card bills? It doesn't matter; stop pointing fingers. When couples stop blaming, "it changes everything," Hayden says. "Otherwise, you can't get out of the past." Call a money meeting. Start with weekly meetings and set a 10-minute time limit. Set an agenda and stick to it, and stop when the time is up. Put it in writing. At your meetings, draft a budget and cash flow statement. Creating a budget helps couples identify trouble spots and cool money clashes.
Dig deeper than your wallet. Are you really fighting about money? Arguments often appear to revolve around money issues when -- in reality -- underlying problems are the true cause. One of Hayden's clients constantly fought with her husband over the money he paid to his ex-wife and kids. In truth, she was hurt he wasn't paying much attention to her children.
Seek help. Sometimes you need a neutral third party. Consider seeing a financial planner trained in mediation, a psychologist or marriage therapist. Money doesn't have to ruin your marriage. In fact, it could even strengthen the bond by teaching you how to work as partners.
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A mother's bequest sets off a family feud in Heartbeats.