This is a huge issue for couples. Society’s conventional wisdom tells us that finances are one of the primary sources of conflict for a couple and the reason that many relationships break up. First, it is important to realize that you really don’t have the power to change your partner. However, there are some things you can do: you can invite her to change, you can talk to her about the patterns you notice in her decision-making and you can discuss how her choices affect you and your relationship.
It is healthy to bring up the subject and discuss it; however, repeating the message frequently is a form of nagging and never makes the relationship better. Your partner may take some of your feedback and make some changes and that would be great, but there is also the possibility that she may take very little of your input or perhaps not use any of it and that can be extremely frustrating.
You can support your partner in making better decisions by sharing your own experience and expertise around saving and budgeting money and making sound financial decisions, but unfortunately it is not within your power to actually change your partner—and you really don’t sound like you to want to change her anyway!
Here are some practical steps you can take to manage the situation: Try to have a constructive discussion about the topic and see how far the two of you can get on your own. You can also hire a financial counselor to help the two of you get on the same track with respect to money. Some couples choose to separate their finances or live apart due to the fact that one person may be making choices that prevent her from fulfilling her financial commitment to the relationship. This is especially important if her decisions adversely affect your own financial situation. Often, these are difficult issues for couples to reconcile. If the two of you are stuck or fighting frequently, working with a couple therapist can sometimes be very helpful. You can also help your partner by giving her encouragement and support for the changes she is willing to make.
Few issues in a relationship are as emotionally loaded as disagreements about the handling of family finances. It is possible to learn to live with your partner’s problem with money, but you may eventually decide after a certain length of time that you are not willing to continue to deal with these problems. Your partner needs to understand what is at stake if she fails to deal with these very important issues.
Let me be clear: your partner really can get the help she needs and make significant changes in her behavior. It isn’t hopeless. But your role in this process is quite limited and often the most constructive thing you can do is stay out of the way. Let her come to terms with this issue on her own. For yourself, I would suggest that you try to find a place of personal emotional balance within the relationship that you can sustain regardless of what your partner does or doesn’t do.