One of the biggest reasons couples break up is over money. This touchy subject tends to boil over toward the end of the year.

One of the best ways to avoid this conflict is to have regular communication about money issues: Agree to a budget based on income with joint savings goals.

Sarah Newcomb, director of financial psychology for Morningstar, observes in her Human Capital newsletter “When finances create conflict, things can get emotional fast. In fact, financial arguments are often nastier and more damaging to relationships than other types of disagreement. That’s because money, and what we do with it, is closely tied to our deepest hopes, dreams, aspirations, and identity.”

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How do you avoid clashing over cash? Newcomb advises “When someone picks a fight about money, listen for the needs they are defending instead of the emotion being expressed. The emotion is a symptom. The need is the cause.”

“After both sets of needs are aired, you can strategize ways to meet both people’s needs. Perhaps a budget is set for an amount that stretches the saver’s comfort zone (without inducing panic) and then the couple goes on a hunt together for the coolest possible gifts in that price range so that the spender can still maintain their title as the giver of the “best” gifts without sacrificing the saver’s need for safety.”

All of this takes practice. Not everyone feels comfortable linking emotions with money. But openness and collaboration can go a long way in resolving money woes. Keep talking.

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