Money problems rank high on the list of reasons married couples argue. In fact, one study found that 80 percent of couples who divorced by age 30 say financial problems were a significant cause of the divorce.
Money problems rank high on the list of reasons married couples argue. In fact, one study found that 80 percent of couples who divorced by age 30 say financial problems were a significant cause of the divorce. Another study found that couples in which women took active roles in family finances were more likely to remain happily married. Couples who work out their money management issues together seem more likely to find common ground regarding spending, saving and financial planning.
Disagreements over money occur in families at all income levels, so lack of income is not the only or most likely cause of discord. Indeed, having more money can make it more difficult to establish and maintain spending limits. Often arguments about money come about from differences in expectations. One spouse might believe that saving heavily and spending as little as possible is the only way to feel financially secure, while the other might feel that spending money in order to have the things they need around them is the most effective way to provide for the future.
The best way to find common ground is to communicate and compromise. Without these two elements, arguments about money can quickly erode trust in a marriage. The following suggestions will help prevent finances from becoming a wedge in your relationship with your spouse.
1. Don't focus only on the numbers
Problems with money are generally a symptom of other issues. Look to the underlying causes in order to solve future problems. Many people incorrectly assume that if they could just make more money their financial problems would disappear. However, in most cases bad financial management is only exacerbated by more money rather than eliminated. Making more money often just adds zeros to old deficits.
2. Don't trade your relationship for things
The stress and conflict that arises from overspending and constantly being in debt can quickly destroy a marriage. Don’t let a love of material things become more important than your love for your spouse. Sometimes people develop an attachment to things because they have trust issues. An essential element of successful financial management is being able to be comfortable while being vulnerable.
3. Don't buy what you don't need in order to feel fulfilled
People often buy things attempting to fill an emotional need in their life. Unfortunately, this need generally cannot be filled by more possessions, and so it becomes a vicious cycle of more buying and less satisfaction. Recognize your need for self-confidence, respect, or love and find healthy ways to satisfy it. Learn a new skill or put more time and energy into your relationships. These types of activities will help you feel more fulfilled without requiring you to spend money you may not have.
4. Don't assume your current financial system is good for your spouse
Each individual has their own history and emotional connection with money. Your spouse’s level of comfort regarding finances, spending and saving is probably very different than your own. Talk to your spouse to find out how he or she feels about your current arrangement. Just because you are happy with the way things are doesn’t mean your spouse feels the same way. Be willing to compromise and make changes in order for each of you to be happy and comfortable with your financial situation.
A. Lynn Scoresby, founder and president of My Family Track , First Answers , and Achievement Synchrony , and has been a marriage and family psychologist for more than 35 years. He has published more than 20 books and training programs.