Money Matters: Strengthening your finances and marriage at the same time
In a survey of divorced couples, 36.1% of respondents said that financial problems contributed to the ending of the marriage, according to Insider. Some participants said that their money problems were not “the most pertinent reason for divorce” and instead “contribute[d] to increased stress and tension within the relationship.” In other words, how you manage stress and tension surrounding money may be just as important as the money itself when it comes to your relationship.
If you and your partner or spouse are facing financial difficulties, there are proactive steps you can take to prevent too much stress and tension. Understand why couples fight about money, learn how to talk about money and implement some simple habits. By taking these steps, you can strengthen your relationship and your financial situation at the same time.
Why do couples fight about money?
Before we jump into how to talk about money, it’s important to understand the context of these discussions. In other words, what are the sources of tension that may accompany these discussions? What might your spouse be stressed about? According to bestselling author and financial expert Rachel Cruze, there are three main reasons couples fight about money:
- Debt and resentment: “Maybe one person has a bunch of student loans or credit card debt. The other person could resent having to pay for their spouse’s past mistakes.”
- Salary differences and guilt: “When one spouse brings in less income or doesn’t have one at all, they might feel guilty for spending any money. Or the higher earner might feel superior.”
- Different money tendencies: “If your spouse is a natural saver, putting money aside for a rainy day gives them a sense of security. On the other hand, a natural spender has lots of creative ideas about what they could use that money for.”
If any of these problems are left to fester, it could lead to a serious problem. But if you stop and talk about it, you can discover the underlying issue that’s causing the disagreement and emerge stronger on the other side.
In marriage, it’s important to remember that hard times are just part of the deal, and it doesn’t have to be a bad thing!
“When conflicts do come up, remembering that hard doesn’t mean bad helps keep things in context,” said Pete Ord, a married entrepreneur and founder of Draper-based company GuideCX. “We’re not upset because something about our marriage was hard; we realize that’s just part of the experience, and we can move on and enjoy the happy parts.”
How to talk about money
To successfully talk about the logistics of money, it’s crucial to understand the emotional aspects. Both you and your spouse need to know where the other is coming from, how they feel about money and what their expectations are. More than a one-time discussion, this is a topic you should revisit regularly in a series of conversations.
Here are some questions to answer for yourself and then discuss with your spouse: What did money mean to my family growing up? What is my biggest financial fear? What is my biggest financial dream for us as a couple? What is my perspective on charitable giving? How should we respond when one of us makes a financial mistake?
Once you’ve explored your emotions surrounding money, talking about the nuts and bolts is more effective. Decide together on your monthly budget, savings goals and financial priorities. Also talk about contingencies: What will we do if an extended family member asks us for help with financial problems? Are we going to split bills? What happens if one of us changes careers and our income changes?
The financial habits that will bring you closer as a couple
While poor financial habits can strain relationships, good financial habits can bring you closer together. These habits don’t take any special training or advanced financial knowledge, but they do require you to set aside some time and be committed. Here are just five important financial habits for couples suggested by Debra Pangestu at MyMoneyCoach:
- Set regular dates to discuss money: Just as you have a regular appointment at the dentist or hair salon, add regular appointments to discuss your finances to your calendar.
- Discuss your money history: As part of your finance discussions, be sure to talk about the emotions behind the money.
- Set financial goals together: Choose a financial dream you both want to reach and break it down into achievable, short-term goals.
- Implement a budget that suits both of you: No matter who is taking home the bigger paycheck, you both need to be equal partners with an equal say in money management.
- Allow for money autonomy: “Providing each partner with a set amount of ‘me money’ can do wonders to alleviating the constant fighting about money,” Pangestu said.
As a couple, you can take proactive steps to take the stress out of your finances. By understanding why couples fight about money, learning how to talk about money and implementing some simple habits, you can strengthen both your relationship and your financial standing.