Is Money Taxing Your Marriage? 10 Tips to Better Money Matters in your Relationship
By: Risa Ganel, LCMFT Owner/Principle Therapist
When I was a kid, tax season meant that my Dad wouldn’t be home for dinner, we’d rarely see him, we couldn’t travel for Spring Break, and Passover (which we celebrate) was all on my Moms shoulders to take care of preparing. I’d help her spend hours cleaning every nook and cranny of the kitchen, making sure no crumbs were left behind. We even burned the “chametz” (the last of the unleavened bread) in the driveway every year. I think our neighbors looked sideways at us for that one! We’d cook for hours preparing the traditional foods for the Passover Seders and the 15-25 guests we often had for the first two nights of the holiday.
My Dad is an accountant and built his own accounting practice. While I got my entrepreneurial spirit from him, I did not get his knack for numbers! In fact, the thought of balancing my checkbook used to give me anxiety attacks and I did everything I could to avoid the task. This is not something I’m proud of, just a fact and one of my struggles. Thankfully, I married a man who says that numbers speak to him. He can make spreadsheets that would make your head spin, and mine always does when he tries to show me one of his masterpieces!
Read on for help tackling money issues that you may be experiencing in your relationship.
Money is one of the leading causes of marital conflict and divorce. According to financial analysts who deal with divorce, money and financial issues rank 3rd as the leading cause of divorce, right behind irreconcilable incompatibility and infidelity. Some studies suggest that money conflicts are the number one cause of divorce. Communication about money and finances is an essential ingredient of relationship success. According to one study, couples who said they disagreed about finances more than once a week were 30% more likely to get divorced than those who disagreed about money less. Individuals often come into marriage with very different ideas and values about money; how it should be spent, saved, etc. Money represents different things to different people. Money is so much more than dollars and cents. It is often equated with love, power, self-esteem, control, and independence. How we were raised and how our parents managed money affects how we manage money as adults. Money is powerful and failure to address how it will be managed in a marriage has potentially damaging consequences. Is money is a continual source of disagreement and stress in your marriage? Here are some things to consider:
Communication is the key to reconciling money conflicts in marriage.
Talk about finances – Money matters are often sensitive and deeply personal, therefore, couples avoid having conversations about financial issues. Schedule a time to discuss money matters, kind of like a date night or a marital business meeting. Most of us won’t miss a business meeting, so commit to a regular “marital money meeting!” It doesn’t have to be long but a regular check-in is a good thing. This is also a good time to turn off the TV’s and put away the cell phones and electronics!
Don’t ignore spending habits – According to scholars, we are attracted to people who share a lot of similarities with us. This is not true in the case of money. We are often attracted to people who manage money differently than ourselves. Studies conducted at the University of Pennsylvania, University of Michigan, and Northwestern University all showed that couples who had similar spending habits fared far better in marriage than couples where one partner was a spender and one was a saver.
Don’t fall into the trap of believing that money can buy love… It CAN’T! In a study at Brigham Young University, couples who were both materialistic scored lower on marriage stability and relationship quality tests. Couples with one materialistic partner also had lower scores. Couples where neither partner was materialistic had the highest level of marital satisfaction.
Be completely honest with your partner about your expenditures. Hiding one’s debt, credit cards, and secret shopping sprees is like marital infidelity; in fact, it is referred to as financial infidelity. Secrets are never good and undermine intimacy and trust.
Sharing credit reports and tax returns prior to the start of a marriage is a great way of avoiding financial surprises later. If you are already married, it’s never too late to start. When both partners know what the checkbook and bank statements look like, it levels the playing field.
Establish a budget and stick to it. That way, money conversations are more likely to be factually based and not emotionally charged or based on assumptions. Allow each partner to have a set amount of money which they can spend freely so that neither partner feels totally constricted. We all need to feel like we have a little financial freedom!
Make big purchase decisions together. That new big screen TV is going to be enjoyed a lot more if both partners agree on its purchase!
Be open to doing things differently and willing to compromise on your partner’s ideas about money. Often, we think that our thinking is the only way and that will lead to head butting and distress.
Agree to not allow money conversations to turn into fights. If the conversation escalates, take a time out. Don’t discuss money matters when you are tired or already upset. If money conversations are super challenging for you and your spouse, agree that one person speaks at a time without interruption. This is a great time to practice the art of listening. Express your concerns and frustrations without being accusatory or judgmental.
Work like a team. Accept that you may never be in perfect agreement about money issues, respect each other’s perspective, and remember, the outcome will always be better if you are working with each other instead of against each other! An important fact no matter what issue you are struggling with.