By Dr. Elaine Ducharme

Since 2007, the American Psychological Association has commissioned an annual nationwide survey as part of its Mind/Body Health campaign to examine the state of stress across the country and understand its impact.

The Stress in America™ survey measures attitudes and perceptions of stress among the general public and identifies leading sources of stress, common behaviors used to manage stress and the impact of stress on our lives. The results of the survey draw attention to the serious physical and emotional implications of stress and the inextricable link between the mind and body.

This year’s Stress in America™ survey shows that stress about money and finances is prevalent nationwide, even as aspects of the U.S. economy have improved. In fact, regardless of the economic climate, money has consistently topped Americans’ list of stressors since the first Stress in America survey in 2007.

Almost a third of adults with partners reported that money is a major source of conflict in their relationship. Compared to other touchy topics, couples’ arguments about money tend to be more intense, more problematic and more likely to remain unresolved.

Here are some some guidelines to help people learn to talk about finances in a healthier, more satisfying way. All couples should talk about these things even before marriage or setting up a household together.

1. Avoid using the word “budget.” Some people have negative associations with this word which may set up a feeling of deprivation. Instead, think in terms of developing a spending plan. Decide together what goals you want to save for and what goods and services you want to spend your money on.

2. Talk about money history. Whether people have been in a relationship 10 weeks or 10 years, talking about money history is a first step to getting on the same page about finances. Having an understanding of your partner’s beliefs can help you avoid conflict and set the stage for healthy discussions about joint finances. Some things to discuss:

• What did your parents teach you about money/saving/debt
• What are your financial goals
• What are your fears about money
• What are your personal spending habits
• Can you live with your partner’s spending habits

Take a time out. If financial discussions become heated, take a time out and revisit them later. When it comes to money, partners may not always see eye to eye. It may be helpful to talk to a financial advisor.

Get professional help. It may also be helpful to talk with a psychologist to learn to improve your overall communication skills and gain an understanding of each other’s beliefs and values. Relationships are about compromise and respect. You don’t have to agree on everything. But, it is important to respect each other’s feelings and beliefs.


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