Money fights may be the top predictor of divorce, but it’s not money’s fault. Our emotional attachment to money is the problem. Some financial experts such as Suze Orman even say that we have a relationship with money. Our emotional attachment to money doesn’t just affect our human relationships, it can destroy our marriages.
Are money problems causing stress in your marriage? If you can identify and deal with the underlying reasons you’re fighting about money, your relationship has a good chance of growing stronger.
These nine practical tips will help you protect your marriage from money problems. You may think you’re fighting about money – or even simply talking about finances as a couple – but there are underlying emotions, experiences and memories that have the potential to change your entire married life.
“Spend less than you make so you can whack away incrementally at the debt dragon with all you’ve got,” says Cherie Lowe, author of Your Money, Your Marriage: The Secrets to Smart Finance, Spicy Romance, and Their Intimate Connection. “It’s not exactly an algebraic formula reserved only for financial whizzes. Indeed, paying off debt isn’t complex; it’s just not easy. You don’t need a graduate degree, a fancy calculator, or a smarty-pants cap and gown. You are smart enough already. God has given you all you need.”
Dealing with debt as a married couple requires a different conversation than “just” protecting your marriage from money problems. This article focuses on simple ways to prevent money from destroying or even unnecessarily straining your marriage.
9 Ways to Protect Your Marriage From Money Problems
The five most common money fights married couples have are:
- Workaholism and income (typically husbands, but women too)
- Credit car, mortgage, and other types of debt
- Investing in smart money portfolios
- Spending money wisely – and also enjoying it
- Purchasing life, home, health and car insurance
Arguing about these types financial issues is normal. These are big money decisions for married couples. They’re also emotionally laden! For instance, your husband may want to pay off the credit card debt but you want to invest in a hot new tech business. Which is a better long-term strategy? What is smartest in the short-term? And when you have kids, a house, health issues and a life then you’ll need to consider insurance, education, and retirement.
When you stop and really think about how serious these financial decisions are, it’s clear why money fights are the top predictor of divorce. Finances can lead married couples to divorce court, but they don’t have to. These nine tips will help prevent money fights and protect your marriage.
Have financial problems already destroyed your marriage? Read How to Deal With Money Stress After a Breakup.
1. Keep separate credit cards and bank accounts
I have a MasterCard card in my own name, and I’m keeping it clear of debt. My husband has a credit card in his name; we also share a credit card in both our names. We also have separate bank accounts – in our own names, without joint access. Some financial advisors recommend having a joint account for household bills. Both husband and wife can access this account for to make bill payments. The separate accounts help married couples stay individually and jointly responsible for their financial future.
2. Always sleep on – and discuss – a big purchase
The other day my husband decided to get the clutch on our truck replaced; it’s a $1,500 mechanic bill. I think the truck is too old to put money into, especially since we’re planning on selling it within a year. Now as I write this I realize we really had no choice. The clutch needs to be replaced. Even so – even with financial decisions that are inevitable – make sure you talk about it and sleep on it. If the purchase is really expensive, wait five days. Sit with it for awhile. This is one of the best ways to prevent money problems and protect your marriage.
3. Make sure you both understand your financial earnings and household budget
It’s important for husbands and wives to understand their financial situation. This means creating a budget together, as a couple with the same financial and life goals. Your household budget should list your income and expenses, include your financial plans for the future, and state your financial priorities. Both you and your husband have to be involved in your finances. This won’t just protect your marriage from money fights, it’ll strengthen your bond as a couple.
4. Make investment and retirement decisions together
If you invest money, what are you investing in? How long will you keep the money in that stock or mutual fund? What are your plans for the investment? Sit down with a financial advisor and talk about your retirement goals, hopes and plans. Don’t hand over all of your decision-making power to your husband. Married life is sweet and honeymoony in the beginning, but it gets rocky when money problems crop up.
5. Be honest about your saving and spending habits
One of the biggest financial problems in marriage is lying. Secret spending habits, hidden debts, avoiding credit card or household bills – those aren’t just money fights. Those are serious problems that will destroy a marriage. Lying or hiding financial decisions is surprisingly common, for a variety of reasons. The bottom line is to tell the truth about how you spend money. It’s often painful to be honest about how you’re spending money, but it is crucial. If you want to stop fighting about money and protect your marriage, you have to be truthful.
6. Deal with your money triggers as a couple
Ironically, fighting about money can lead some husbands and wives to spend more, gamble more, or even give more away! These are known as “money triggers” and they can compel people to shop and spend money they don’t have. Or, perhaps your money triggers involve work stress, family problems, or health issues. If you want to protect your marriage from money problems, you have to know what triggers stress.
7. Learn the difference between “need” versus “want”
You know that high you get when you busy something new? It’s physiological. The emotional money high is a burst of hormone that makes you feel good, like you conquered a victory or won a race. You want to buy something that you don’t need because of the feeling it provokes. Emotional spending is similar to emotional eating: it avoids the root of the problem and creates bigger problems in the long run. Are you an emotional spender? Maybe your husband is. Talk about it. You’re a married couple, you’re committed to spending your lives together. If you can learn how to talk about money without fighting, you may be one of those “happily ever after” couples celebrating their 70th anniversary!
8. Make financial decisions thoughtfully and slowly
Will your husband stay home and parent your young children? How will this affect your family’s health, well-being, and overall lifestyle? If you have debt, you’ll have to factor in your Social Security income, health insurance costs and a dozen other financial factors. Talk to other married couples who have worked through their financial issues. Talk to your parents, even your coworkers. Learn how people navigate money tension in marriage – especially married couples who have experienced financial highs and lows.
9. Avoid dealing with financial stress by spending money
Spending money (shopping) is one of the most popular ways to cope with financial stress. Ironically, it creates far more problems than the one-minute burst of good feelings it brings! According to psychology professor Karen Pine of the University of Hertfordshire, 79% of women said they’d go on a spending spree to cheer themselves up if they were in a financial crisis. Pine’s research leads her to conclude that women use shopping to avoid negative feelings or life dissatisfaction. Ironically, worrying about how money fights are affecting their marriages could lead wives into the trap of spending more, getting further into debt, and fighting with their husbands.
Which of these nine ways to protect your marriage from money problems stand out to you? Feel free to share your thoughts below.
If your marriage and your finances are both a mess, you are not alone. How to Leave Your Husband When You Have No Money is one of my most popular articles. Read through the comments, and learn how other women are coping with financial problems in marriage.