Numerous studies have told us that the number one cited cause of divorce is finances. But why?
Of all things in marriage to argue about, why is money the game changer?
1) It isn’t.
Money isn’t actually the game changer. What’s really happening much of the time is that money issues are the tangible manifestation of other marital issues. Every principle of finance corresponds with basic life and communication principles. Money management is often where we see the issues, but isn’t necessarily where the issues can be fixed. Since the mechanics of the problem lie elsewhere, couples see no solution to their financial woes which can be taxing on even the strongest marriages.
2) Men and women are different.
Regardless of who works or doesn’t work or who makes more or less money, spouses are bound to view finances differently. Rarely do two people of the same gender have the same ideas about money management, let alone two people of opposite genders. We simply see the world differently.
3) It doesn’t matter how much you have.
You will never have more money than you can spend. Money can create a mentality of scarcity which translates into competition. There are a few ways to healthily compete in marriage, but competing over necessary, shared resources is not one of those ways. Unnecessary competition creates unnecessary negative emotion toward one another that can compromise positive sentiment override.
4) It’s impossible to make every purchase together.
Sharing finances requires trust. Spending unwisely or without consulting your partner first becomes an act of betrayal instead of mere irresponsibility. Betraying a spouse’s trust is one of the most frequently heard complaints from a damaged marriage.
When you understand how money management is (or is not) impacting your relationship, you are better equipped to have constructive conversations about it without spiraling into destructive types of conflict. To effectively manage finances together:
1) Explore underlying issues
Let money conversations be only about money. When things come up that trigger emotions, explore together the reasons for those emotions. No need for lengthy conversations about communicating better, just try to understand each other.
2) Accept and embrace differences
In marriage we often hear that “communication is key.” Actually, accepting differences is key. Don’t worry about trying to change each other’s perspectives. Do your best to understand your partner, then work together to find solutions. A great source of strength in marriage comes from being able to combine forces.
3) Nurture gratitude for what you have.
Live contentedly within your means. Most financial discontent stems from spending more than you earn, or coveting things you can’t afford. No matter how much you have, being grateful will change the way you look at and communicate about money. Being positive about finances can make a significant difference for many couples. A positive outlook can help you get out of debt, invest more in your marriage, or even help just by calming other sensitive topics that come up relative to finances.
4) As much as possible, decide on expenses together.
This almost always means planning ahead. Make a plan (also called “budget”) together that you both feel good about. This provides boundaries to stay within to better nurture trust. It is a lot easier to be on the same page with finances when you decide what to do ahead of time.
Don’t feel guilty about it, navigating finances is a minefield for every marriage. Everyone has moments of money-induced stress. One of the best things about marriage is learning to manage stressful situations together. Try to remember that conflict can be an opportunity for growth when you approach it proactively. Finances don’t have to be a stressor in your marriage!