Marriage counselors hear couples complain about all sorts of problems in their relationship. However, one of the big things that counselors say many partners struggle to get on the same page about is money. Financial problems that are not addressed in a marriage can compound and ruin a relationship. It is important for couples to learn how to discuss and manage finances in marriage to prevent fighting. If you do not deal with these money problems now, you could be headed towards a different money problem – an expensive divorce.
1. Not Talking About Money Before Marriage
One of the most common problems that couples have is a failure to discuss finances before getting married. Often when couples are young and do not have a lot of money yet, so they do not realize the importance of discussing their finances with each other. If they do not get on the same page about where they stand financially and what goals they want to achieve, it will create problems in their marriage down the road.
Advice: Discuss Finances Before Saying 'I Do'
Start by sharing with each other what their experiences with money were like when they were growing up. This helps them understand why their partners think about money the way they do. Couples also need to discuss what their current financial situation is and what their goals are. This will help them understand what their partner wants, how it aligns or differs with what they want, and what they need to do create a financial plan that benefits them. If necessary, couples should meet with a neutral third party such as a financial planner to help facilitate a conversation about their finances.
2. Keep Financial Secrets
Being secretive about finances is one of the top relationship problems that couples have. Couples often believe that they can resolve the issue on their own without their partner finding out and without having to tell their partner. However, this approach tends to backfile once the partner finds out about the secret.
Advice: Work to Resolving Financial Problems Together
First explore why a partner is keeping a financial secret, is it due to not knowing how to solve the issue, embarrassment, confessing that one person did something the other partner did not want, or some other reasons. Then find a way for them to bring up the issue with their partner. After the other partner is brought in on the secret, work to find a way to resolve the issue instead of focusing on placing blame. Then work together on setting up boundaries so these types of issues do not occur again. Sometimes that may be agreeing that no purchase over a certain dollar amount will not be done without both partners agreeing.
3. Financial Infidelity
It is one thing not to be open with your partner about your finances — such as with the amount of student loan debt you have or past money mistakes you have made — but it can be an even bigger problem when a partner hides spending that is related to inappropriate or illicit behavior such as gambling or an addiction. Not only can financial infidelity hurt trust among couples, but also it can ruin their finances if hidden spending gets out of hand.
Advice: Get Professional Help
To eliminate financial infidelity, the first thing couples need to do is be honest and open. If an addiction is the root of a partner’s financial infidelity, that partner needs to seek treatment for the addiction, he said. In the meantime, the other partner might need to maintain a separate bank account to protect their finances from the lying partner’s destructive financial habits.
4. Arguments Over Spending Choices
One of the most common money conflicts from couples is how to spend money. The reason these conflicts arise is that people value things differently. What one spouse might consider a good use of money, the other might consider being a waste.
Advice: Make Purchasing Decisions Together
To avoid conflicts over how to spend money, couples should do two things. First, they should attempt to understand why their partner wants to spend money on certain things. Always remember to ask, lovingly: “Can you explain to me why you value this purchase?”. Then, you can discuss together whether that purchase is good for your finances as a couple. When you make financial decisions for the “we”, instead of “me”, your marriage’s health grows.
5. One Partner Is Financially Savvy, the Other Is Not
Another common issue is one partner is financially competent and one who is financially irresponsible. This causes a significant amount of stress and conflict between the partners and often leads to resentment.
Advice: Get Financially Educated
Often, the partner who is struggling with money may lack financial education or did not gain basic knowledge about money management. Take this as an opportunity to learn and do something together. Take a financial literacy class thru your local college or church together so you both learn the same approach to managing money. It gives you the same language to use when discussing finances and puts you both on the same page in terms of financial goals.
6. One Spouse Has More Control Over the Finances
When one spouse works and the other does not — or one makes a lot more money than the other — it can create financial problems in a marriage. The disparity in incomes can often lead to feelings of inferiority or dependency in the non-employed partner while the employed partner may experience feelings of superiority. The spouse who is earning more or is the sole breadwinner tends to take control of the household budget by setting spending priorities and financial goals. The spouse who is earning less or nothing at all is left without a voice in the family’s finances.
Advice: Create a Budget Together
To avoid letting one spouse have complete control over family finances, couples should have a monthly budget meeting and act as joint and equal chief financial officers of the family’s finances. Developing a budget together that meets the needs of both parties is likely to reduce the feelings of inferiority.
That budget should include an equal amount of “pocket money” for each spouse to spend freely. This will help prevent the non-working spouse from feeling dependent on the other spouse. More importantly, though, couples should keep the lines of communication open about any disparity they see in their finances.
7. Disagreements Over Supporting Adult Children
Older couples in relationship counseling often disagree about how much financial support to provide to their adult children. Often, differences in attitudes toward money that have been worked out throughout the relationship resurface when adult children request financial assistance. One partner is often accused of giving the adult child too much aid and making them financially dependent, and the other is accused of not caring or being a skinflint.
Advice: Decide Together on Financial Assistance Terms for Adult Children
Couples should review their budget together or meet with their financial planner to explore how much financial assistance they can provide to their adult children without it impacting their retirement funds. If they agree to provide support for their adult children, they need to decide whether their assistance is a gift or loan. If it is the latter, both partners should be clear about what the conditions of repayment will be and what the consequences of nonpayment would be. This also helps for consistency so that you treat all adult children the same and avoid the perception of favoritism.
8. Avoiding Money Matters Altogether
Some couples cannot talk about any money matters without arguing. They disagree over who pays for what, how to spend money, how to save money, who controls the budget and so on. To prevent the fighting, they just stop talking about their finances altogether, and hope it all works about.
Advice: Take the Emotion Out of Money Matters
Couples who cannot talk about money without fighting can avoid getting so emotional by treating their family finances like a business. Viewing your family dispassionately as a business may not sound romantic, but if you can step back from your feelings long enough to view your relationship from this perspective, your financial situation will make more sense, money problems will be easier to solve, and you will be able to discuss financial decisions with less difficulty. To do this, approach money conversations with your partner as you would discuss a work issue with your boss or colleagues. Even if your boss makes you angry, most likely you would use self-control at the office and blow off steam in private. Then as you have a chance to think about the situation, you develop a better way of handling it and approach your boss with a solution.
You can do the same thing with your spouse when you have a money problem. Instead of saying the first thing that occurs to you, such as criticism or blaming, stop and think of a response more likely to lead to a discussion of the problem, rather than an argument.
If you are looking for a Financial Consultant that can work with you to develop a strong strategy for next year - contact Stephen Westurn (214.240.0701) or Stephen@Westurnconsulting.com for a complimentary session. Check out the website: www.Westurnconsulting.com .
Guiding People Towards Financial Security