Marriage can be challenging on its own. Learning to live with someone else is difficult in any circumstance, and no amount of love or passion can change the fact that marriage requires conscientious effort to ensure success. Adding money troubles to the equation can make marriage even more difficult. Money elicits strong emotional responses, and stresses related to money can easily spill over into our relationships. One way you can reduce marital stress due to money is to recognize these 5 issues, and work to resolve (or avoid) them:
1. Ambiguity when it comes to financial goals
Many couples start out marriage without unified goals for their money. Few even have “the money talk” beyond figuring out what each other’s salaries, assets and debts are. Later, stress can arise as marriage partners become frustrated that the other person doesn’t seem to understand their goals. Make sure you talk about your money style with your spouse, and come up with goals that you both are comfortable with when it comes to saving, spending, investing, retirement, and other financial decisions.
2. Hiding purchases from your partner
Increasingly, financial experts warn about “financial infidelity”, in which marriage partners hide purchases from each other. They might tell white lies about the cost of a purchase, or fail to disclose purchases altogether. Other related issues, such as not being honest about debt and other obligations, can also crop up. It is important that you and your spouse be honest and open about your money behaviors. In some cases, it can help if each partner has an “allowance” to spend on what they want. This way, spouses are less likely to feel guilty about purchases.
3. Division of household expenses
Sometimes, arguments over the division of household expenses can crop up in two income families. One spouse might feel that he or she is contributing more than a fair share to household expenses. While some couples solve this by combining everything so that it is one big pot (this is what my husband and I do, and it works for us), this doesn’t work for everyone. Some solve the problem by each contributing the same percentage (such as 70%) of their income for household expenses, and keeping the rest. Others assign specific bills to each spouse, depending on the spouse’s income. Discuss these issues, and come up with something that seems fair to both parties.
Debt is a financial problem, and a big stress on many marriages. These obligations drain away wealth and financial independence. Thinking about debt, and worrying over whether it will destroy financial security, can easily spill over into the marriage relationship. It is vital that couples make paying down debt a priority. A lot of tension in the home environment can be eliminated along with debt. Get together and make a plan for aggressively paying down your debt.
5. Jealousy over another’s paycheck
I out earn my husband by quite a bit. Our neighbors have commented on how difficult it must be for him. However, my husband is not jealous (or if he is, he hides it well). Since we make money decisions together, and everything goes into our household pot, there is no reason to worry about who earns what. We each do our best to contribute what we can, and we make no recriminations. Mainly because we don’t measure our worth by our salaries.
It’s important for both partners to understand that a salary is not a measure of a person’s worth, and partners who make more should be careful of trying to assert more authority in the relationship based on salary. Bickering over who has the better “right” to make household money decisions based on individual income is not productive, and does not help the marriage.
Bottom line: There are numerous financial issues that can affect a marriage. The key to overcoming them is open and honest communication, as well as the recognition that marriage really is a partnership.