How to Deal With Money Problems in Marriage
These six tips will help you take care of your financial problems while keeping your relationship strong. They’re especially helpful for couples whose finances are intertwined.
If you’re buried under an avalanche of money problems, read MONEY Master the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom by Tony Robbins. You’ll learn how to secure financial freedom – and save your marriage from the problems money brings. Robbins interviewed several wealthy people to learn how to ensure that money stays where it belongs: in your pocket and for your future, not in the middle of your marriage.
The following tips for married couples are based on current research about husbands, wives, communication, support, and money problems. These tips are based on psychology research from the University of Iowa. Surprisingly, an overly supportive husband or wife can have a detrimental effect on a marriage or common law relationship.
A series of University of Iowa studies shows that too much support – or the wrong kind of support – can wreak havoc on a marriage.
6 Ways to Deal With Money Problems in Marriage
“The idea that simply being more supportive is better for your marriage is a myth,” says Erika Lawrence, associate professor of psychology in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “Often husbands and wives think, ‘If my partner really knows me and loves me, he or she will know I’m upset and will know how to help me.’ However, that’s not the best way to approach your marriage. Your partner shouldn’t have to be a mind reader. Couples will be happier if they learn how to say, ‘This is how I’m feeling, and this is how you can help me.'”
Lawrence and colleagues discovered that receiving more support than you need when you have money problems in marriage is a greater risk factor for marital decline than not being there for a spouse. “If you don’t get enough support, you can make up for that with family and friends — especially women, who tend to have multiple sources of support,” she said. “When you receive too much support, there’s no way to adjust for that.”
These tips will help you give and receive the right amount of support in your marriage. These researchers did not study money problems from previous marriages specifically – their tips can be applied to any type of marriage problem.
1. Learn about the different types of support in marriage
In Lawrence’s study, four kinds of support were identified: physical comfort and emotional support (listening and empathizing, taking your spouse’s hand, giving your spouse a hug), esteem support (expressing confidence in your partner, providing encouragement), informational support (giving advice, gathering information), and tangible support (taking on responsibilities so your spouse can deal with a problem, helping to brainstorm solutions to a problem).
Are you critical of your spouse – or vice versa? Read 5 Ways to Cope With a Critical Spouse.
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2. Figure out the type of support your spouse needs
Just like there are different ways of giving and receiving love in relationships, there are different ways of giving and receiving support in marriage. For instance, your husband may feel most supported when you find and share information about saving money on medical care costs. Or, maybe he doesn’t want to hear suggestions for coping with money problems from his previous marriage – maybe he just wants to focus on solving his financial problems on his own. In contrast, you might feel supported when your spouse does extra chores around the house.
To help your husband deal with money problems from his first marriage, ask him how he would feel most supported. Don’t guess!
3. Avoid giving too much “informational support”
The results of the University of Iowa study showed that too much informational support – usually in the form of unwanted advice-giving – is the most detrimental. Lawrence says husbands and wives can’t go wrong with esteem support.
So, encourage your husband by expressing confidence that you will overcome your money problems together.
4. Don’t assume that your spouse needs a particular type of support
“The assumption is that men just want to be left alone and women want to be held and listened to,” Lawrence said. “In reality, different men want different kinds of support, and different women want different kinds of support.” Also, remember that spouses may appreciate different types of support at different times of the day, week, or month.
Sharing articles like How to Set Boundaries in Marriage is a good example of support that may not help your spouse cope with serious money problems! It depends on how his personality and situation.
5. Ask for the type of support you need
Talking about your marriage and financial problems is key to a happy, healthy relationship. If you need support, ask for it – and be specific about the type of support you’d like. Don’t assume your spouse knows how to help you through these financial difficulties. Afterward, talk about what worked and what didn’t, and adjust accordingly.
6. Remember that it’s the effort that counts
Don’t give up if you’re not immediately successful at helping your husband cope with money problems from his previous marriage.
“Both parties are more satisfied if the husband gets the right kind of support, and if the wife feels like she’s supported,” Lawrence said. “Husbands shouldn’t throw their hands up if they’re not sure what to do. They need to stay in there and keep trying, because we found that women appreciate the effort.”
For more tips on husbands with previous marriages, read Successful Second Marriages – 10 Tips for “Happily Ever After”.
If you have any thoughts on supporting your husband and dealing with money problems in marriage, please comment below. I can’t offer advice or counseling, but it may help to share your story.
Source: This research study, called “Couples Can Overdo Being Supportive”, was published in the journal Personal Relationships. Lawrence was the lead author, with co-authors from the University of Iowa, CIGNA Health Solutions, Santa Clara University, the University of California, San Francisco, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.