Married couples fight for many reasons—sex, in-laws, kids, lack of attention, and on and on. But arguments about finances will appear on almost every couple's list. Surprisingly, many couples marry without ever having a discussion about money management. "All you need is love" is a wonderful sentiment but, as another saying reminds us, "Love does not pay the rent."
Common Money-Related Factors for Married Couples
- Spending habits
- Unequal earning
- Gambling or other forms of financial loss
- Different philosophies about spending vs. saving
- Unwillingness to talk or be open about finances
Each spouse had a different upbringing and parental influence. They thus developed their own perspective on how to prioritize use of income. Some couples may be somewhat on the same money page, but differ just enough to create festering problems. As with all marital issues, the goal is never perfect synchronicity, but rather to find a healthy, yet ever-evolving rhythm.
5 Ways to Make Marital Fights about Money a Thing of the Past
1. Communicate before there’s a problem
Communication is usually thought of as a “relationship” factor rather than a “financial” issue. Nonetheless, identifying and discussing your money mindsets in a healthy way requires healthy communication.
Couples choose many approaches to money management. Whatever the approach, however, spouses must be transparent and honest about financial matters. The approach must also be mutually beneficial. Set aside time early in the marriage (preferably before) to talk and plan as a couple.
Hone your communication skills and embrace radical honesty to avoid surprises that can plant seeds of distrust.
2. Create some independence
Many couples have found success by not following the traditional but very questionable approach of “joint” everything. Before you met, you managed your own budget. Why stop because you fell in love?
It’s a powerful form of independence for each partner to keep one credit card and/or bank account for themselves. Teamwork is wonderful. Sometimes that means independence.
3. Set goals as a couple
Running parallel to your independence is your connectivity. What are your collective financial goals? These may pertain to savings, owning a home, taking a trip, or long-term issues like retirement funds.
When you are working as a team towards something, it becomes more natural to find healthy compromises. Again, communication is key.
4. Set a budget but leave some room to breathe
With rare exceptions, life without a budget is a recipe for disaster. But there must be built-in breathing room. Like other aspects of marriage, budgeting can’t be a simplistic black-and-white perception. Leave room for contingency and flexibility.
5. Don’t compete and compare with other couples
This might be the oldest money trap in the book. In a materialistic society, it becomes the norm to covet your neighbor’s lifestyle. Try to remember two basic, useful facts:
- Everyone is different. What works for them almost certainly doesn’t work for you.
- Things are often not what they seem. We may convince ourselves we see success and happiness in our wealthy neighbor. The truth is always far more complex.
Not All “Financial Advisors” are CPAs!
Marital fights about money can and do often lead to divorce. Hence, therapists who specialize in couples counseling are savvy in the realm of finances. They don't offer investment advice but rather, they help married and committed couples find ways to work as a team when it comes to money.
In counseling, couples learn to own up to their fears and habits. They identify unhealthy patterns and create strategies for new approaches. Therapy provides a safe space for married couples take stock of their assets and find ways to invest in their future.