Money management can be difficult, even when you’re on your own. Throw a life partner into the mix and things get more complicated. What can you do if you and your spouse just aren’t on the same financial page? Hal recently wrote with a question:

I got married about a year ago to a wonderful girl who is up to her ears in debt, including medical bills and student loans (including federal loans) which have been in default for some time.  I did know about this debt before we got married, and I knew it would be quite some time before we’d get her finances back on track.

Here is my issue: whenever I bring up anything financial, whether it’s repaying her loans or other past debts, saving money, setting a budget, etc., she gets very defensive and angry, and refuses to talk about it

I manage our joint finances, but she has her own bank account that she is in control of, which she never talks about, other than to tell me there is no money in it.  I accepted my wife’s financial situation when I married her, but it seems like she doesn’t want to change it. 

Is there anything I can do to have an open dialogue with her about money matters without making her defensive?

This is a great question, not just for couples with joint finances, and not just for married couples, but for all couples everywhere. Continued financial conflict can place a severe strain on any relationship.

In January, I shared a guest post from Gather Little by Little, who wrote about how to stop fighting with your spouse about money. This article provides some good tips, though it doesn’t offer any solutions when your partner refuses to talk about money. The comments on that post contain feedback from some people who try to avoid the subject, and from people dealing with reluctant spouses. It seems there are plenty of couples in which one person isn’t willing to discuss money.

I read once that situations like this are sometimes caused by a perceived “lack of control”. The spending partner, or the partner who is unwilling to discuss finances, feels like they do not have control over their finances, nor the couple’s finances. One solution is to find a way to grant them more control.

In this case, Hal manages the couple’s joint finances. It may prove beneficial to include his wife more in the process, to allow her more decision-making power. (Of course, this may not work at all, but it sounds like a reasonable thing to try.)

Do you have experience with a similar situation? Have you been the spouse reluctant to talk about money? Have you been in a relationship in which you could not get your partner to deal with the subject? How did you handle it? What advice can you offer Hal? How can he get his wife to talk about money?