The top four reasons existing marriages most commonly end are:
1) poor communication,
2) financial issues,
3) parenting conflicts, and
This is the second part of a four-part series addressing these common marital issues. Whereas Part One addressed communication, this installment focuses on financial issues. Financial issues can be a divisive factor affecting a couple’s quality of life creating frequent conflicts and marital strife.
Many believe that if a couple truly loves each other and they have good communication (Part One) they can overcome any obstacle or stressor that comes their way. Financial issues are no different in
this regard, but money has the potential for being used as control issues, or as a passive-aggressive means to express anger toward your partner. Sex can also be used in the same manner, but neither
is the scope of this article. Instead, financial issues as causation for stress and how to cope with them will be addressed.
Sources of Financial Stress
When money becomes a source of stress in a couple it can be pervasive, permeating all aspects of their life. The origins of money conflicts are often derived from the way finances were managed in each of your own family of origin. The way money was managed or mismanaged, the value of money, the value of saving, and the value of spending has been ingrained in you as you developed from
childhood to adulthood. Differing attitudes toward money stemming from childhood can be the first source of financial stress.
A second major source of financial stress is how each of you manages money. If you tend to disregard budgets and do not pay attention to the cost of an item, and your partner is the opposite, financial
stress usually ensues. Having different wants and needs also causes financial stress. When it comes to material items, what are your expectations regarding quality of life? Do you like driving a new or expensive car? How do you want your home to be decorated? Do you enjoy going out for dinner at
high priced restaurants, or taking vacations?
Generally, do your wants and needs in terms of material possessions and quality of life match your partner’s wants and needs? If they do not, financial stress can be experienced. Different expectations for your future and how much you intend to help your grown children can also be a source of financial stress. Do you agree on how much you will pay for post high school education and how much your child will be responsible for? Do you agree on financial responsibility for your child’s car
and insurance? What about your ideas for retirement?
Reducing Financial Conflict
Referring back to Part One, good communication is a necessary tool in reducing financial conflict in your marriage. Discussing your philosophy on spending, saving, managing money, and what your
wants and needs are will help you prevent conflict and arrive at compromises before they evolve into anger. This may also alleviate control and passive-aggressive issues using money. On that note, be
careful not to confuse financial realities with control issues. Your partner may tell you that you have to cut spending due to the fact that her business has dropped 20%. Understanding the reality of your
financial situation will reduce the conflict.
Creating a budget will provide structure and agreed upon boundaries to your spending. A budget can also help flesh out different financial attitudes so they
can be resolved quickly. I also recommend two strategies to the couples I work with. First, have an agreed upon dollar threshold for which you do not need to consult with one another. Anything above that amount must be discussed prior to purchase. Second, have quarterly meetings to discuss your
income, expenses, investments, and decision-making for the next quarter. Part of that discussion should also include long term goals such as funding college, bar mitzvahs, home improvement, rainy day crisis money, and even weddings. By treating your financial life together as business partners, with the family as the actual business, you will circumvent future stress and conflict.