According to the Institute for the Financial Analysis of Divorce, money management is responsible for 22% of separations1; making it one of the most common problems in marriage and a potential jeopardy to its longevity.
The strain that managing finances causes on both partners in a marriage is remarkable. Since they are two different people with different financial habits, they will have to become a team. Even Christian marriages can be affected by differences of opinion on how to manage money.
One spouse may be a spender while the other one is a saver. This is typically the case. Whether it is due to the concept that each one has about money; the education each one of them received at home, or their expectations about the future, these two perspectives must come together; in order to achieve better communication and reduce arguments about money.
Let’s review some ideas about how to reach an understanding about money in marriage.
The Importance of a Financially Equitable Marriage
Living with your spouse and sharing the burdens in your marriage is a relief from daily stress. Money problems in the family can be tenacious and unpleasant.
In some cases, one spouse may have to leave a well-paying job to stay home to care for the children or another family member. Oftentimes, the working spouse will take over finances and make all the decisions by him/herself. The financial stress generated by unbalanced situations like these can even lead to domestic violence2.
Decision-making within your marriage should be equitable, because a marriage that is financially equal will be a safe space for both men and women. A space where both parties are cautious about where the power resides in the relationship. The source of household income (jobs, inheritances) and spending styles (how much and how it is spent) are topics to discuss before marriage. It is unlikely to find a partner who has the same exact ideas as you do about money.
When you first enter a marriage, you may not be fully aware of your spouse’s preferences just yet, including their spending habits.
If you feel that your spouse has a different stance regarding finances, do not avoid addressing it. The first step in creating a successful financial plan between spouses is for both to begin to see each other as a partnership.
Ways to prevent money from ruining your relationship
Some of most common topics in marriage counseling are parenting and sexuality. But no one seems to want to talk about a topic that is of great importance, money. Dealing with this issue turns out to be an uncomfortable topic for many couples.
I have recognized such a big aversion toward this topic that the patterns of dysfunction around finances can become like those of sexual intimacy. Pleasure and pain can be defined through money. A study published in the scientific journal PLOS One 3 states that the perception of injustice in the distribution of finances has a worse effect on marital balance than the perception of injustice in the distribution of household chores.
Both parties must be able to know how much the other partner earns. Financial habits are more linked to personality than to role responsibility4. Then, how do you prevent money from being a problem in your relationship?
Understand your partner’s mindset about money
Before you get married you need to understand your partner’s mindset about money. As uncomfortable as the subject may be, you should talk about pending debts, loans, sources of income, investments, and other financial obligations you have. If you are already married, and you and your partner are hiding information of this nature, bring it to light.
Having nothing to hide, it will be simpler to see the full picture of your financial situation and the perception your partner has about money. But this will not stop certain problems from happening. Why? Would you be surprised if I told you that many arguments between husbands and wives that seem to be over money, are not really about that?
It is rather a clash of tempers. You may be upset that your spouse spends too much money, but what infuriates you is not that you cannot afford those expenses, it is that you are afraid you will not be able to pay your bills in the future. In this case I would ask: “Were your parents frugal or compulsive spenders? Did they have a limited budget?” Answer those questions to learn more about yourself and your partner.
You need to have the same financial expectations and priorities
You cannot expect that both partners’ incomes and jobs will be the same as they were when you first got married. Life goes on and circumstances change.
You need to sit down, even once a year, to discuss what your expectations and financial priorities are: talk about what responsibilities or measures you can take to be on the same page so that both of you can feel comfortable with handling money.
If you want to work together so you can pay off a debt or save more, or to start thinking about your retirement, you need to have the same goals5.
Give yourselves a mutual break
Although marital finances is a topic that should be constantly pursued, I understand that talking to your spouse about each of the purchases you make can feel restrictive. Especially, when you will have to “defend” a purchase that your partner finds unnecessary or does not approve. It is the perfect recipe for disaster.
A simple solution is to have separate budgets to spend on discretionary items of your choice. Take it as “money to have fun”; an amount that will be agreed considering the possibilities of both of you and that each one may spend at your own discretion as long as you respect the budget established for this section. This will bring great success to your relationship.
Increase your knowledge about money
Finally, it will be useful if both of you learn more about how to manage your finances. You can take a course, read books about investing, or watch videos. Bob Lotich’s Managing Money God’s Way is, for example, a good read to guide our Christian finances6.
God gives us money, and it is our duty to be the best stewards we can be so that we can take care of our homes.
Do you need to know more about the subject? I invite you to contact us at 407 618 0212.