The obvious answer to this questions is “yes.” Yes, money is affecting your marriage. It can either be affecting your marriage in a positive or a negative way. Hopefully, money is a positive aspect in your life, but if you’re like the majority of married couples, it isn’t.
You have heard the statistics over and over again. Money problems are the #1 cause for divorce in America and money causes the most stress in relationships. The truth is, while money can be the #1 problem in your marriage, if you manage it correctly, it can be an extreme blessing and sense of security and peace in your life. Money can definitely be a positive rather than a negative if you and your spouse get on the same page with your finances.
In order to keep money from destroying your marriage, we need to look at the common mistakes that are made with money. Some of the common money issues are:
In many relationships, there is a saver and there is a spender. Often, the saver is afraid of the spender’s money habits which is what they use to justify their “secret savings.” This extra money can be found in the form of a hidden bank account or a secret stash in the back of a drawer.
What’s the problem with hiding money? As you know, relationships are built on trust. Hiding money doesn’t usually cause any problems, that is until the spender finds out about it. By hiding money, they are saying they don’t trust the other spouse which leads to trust and commitment issues. These fights have the ability to spiral out of control into other issues that all revolve around money. Do yourself a favor and don’t hide savings – if you need to hide it, you have a communication and cooperation issue.
On the opposite side of the spectrum is the issue of debt. Do you have a credit card your partner doesn’t know about? As you can imagine, there is a myriad of issues associated with hiding debt and the psychology around it. Those who hide debt do so for many different reasons. These reasons can include a spending problem that they are ashamed of or cannot control, or the other spouse is so controlling with money they feel this is the only way they can ever spend money on themselves.
Guilt and deception are two of the most common factors behind hiding debt from the other spouse which will not end well if it is not immediately addressed. In an ideal situation, both partners know about each other’s debt and they each work at destroying the debt together. There is a danger that the savers may become resentful of the spenders if the spenders have considerably more debt. That initial resentment will wear off if the spender resolves to worth together with the saver towards a common financial goal.
Refusing to disclose debt has the potential to destroy a marriage, both emotionally as well as financially. Avoid hiding debt at all costs – resolve to have that tough money talk ASAP!
This one hits a little too close to home for me. If you ask any of my extended family members, they will tell you that I am cheap and too frugal. While I would obviously totally disagree, it’s true that my frugal lifestyle and spending habits have influenced my family. In the past, my wife has felt guilty about buying anything for herself. This can be just as bad as overspending because I inadvertently put a financial box around her. By being so strict with money, she felt out of control and guilty every time she spent money.
Luckily, we caught this issue of mine early on. We have since remedied this by giving ourselves “fun money” accounts. Each month we deposit a predetermined budgeted amount of money into these accounts and are allowed to spend it on whatever we want without feeling guilty. If she wants to get her hair and/or nails done, she no longer feels guilty spending money.
This is plain and simple. If you and your spouse have a budget, it is your responsibility to follow it. Doing a budget together means you both agree on the plan and it is your job as a partner to follow it. If you don’t have a budget – that is step one. You can’t blame the spender for spending too much if they don’t have a budget to guide them. Be fair, and come up with clear money expectations to set you both up for success. There are tons of resources online to help you start a budget.
In order to be successful in your marriage, you two need to be on the same page and working towards the same goals. If you are in debt, both of you need to be committed to destroying that debt. If it’s time to start investing, both of you should have a goal and direction on what you want to accomplish with your money. Communication is huge! Compromise may be needed in some areas, but I’m willing to bet you two share common money goals that have yet to be discussed!
The whole “two become one” thing is seriously a really good idea to live by. Before you were married, you two had separate accounts and controlled your financial life just fine. Now you’re married – if it’s not broke don’t fix it right? The idea of two accounts does somewhat make sense – you pay the utilities and I’ll pay the mortgage, and we will share the groceries. That doesn’t sound like a bad plan. Do you know what that sounds like? Roommates – roommates that sleep together.
I’m just saying – when you married, you two decided that you would live as one – live for common goals, fight battles for each other, and generally be the left and right hand for each other. You made the commitment to no longer be roommates.
A shared bank account forces you to disclose the good, the bad, and the ugly with each other. If one of you has $30,000 in credit card debt and the other is debt-free, the debt-free one may feel some initial resentment. This is where you two come together and deal with each other’s shortcoming – pay off that debt together, that much faster. Build up wealth together, that much faster. Two is better than one and by living as one, you two will be financially unstoppable when you get on the same page!
His debts are your debts and her savings are your savings. Can you imagine what you two could accomplish if you worked together towards a common goal of paying off debt and building wealth? By owning each other’s shortfalls, you also can delight in each other’s strengths! Usually, opposites attract, so when they fall down, you pick them up and vice versa. It’s time you start living the life you deserve and get on the same page with your finances!
There is some serious honest reflection needed to determine your financial mindset. Who are you, the saver or the spender – or maybe a combination of both? Look at your spending or saving habits and be honest with your spouse about them. Let them know your strengths and weaknesses and ask the same from them. Refuse to be a statistic, don’t get divorced over money issues. Finance issues are controllable – don’t let them control you and destroy your family’s life.
I know it may sound dumb, but just try it – you may be surprised at what you two come up with! Not too long ago I got a piece of paper and a pencil and wrote down a short-term and a long-term column. I started off by writing down my short-term (5 years or less) and long-term (10+ years) goals. I then asked my wife to tell me at least 5 short-term and 5 long-term goals. They didn’t necessarily have to be financial goals but we quickly found out that all of our goals involved money one way or another.
We also found out that we shared several of the same short and long-term goals! I then categorized our goals and put our shared goals on top and our unique goals underneath. By doing this, we had a clear picture of what we both wanted together and the other auxiliary things we personally wanted. This picture gave us a game plan on how to structure our finances and spending to reach our shared goals as quickly as possible and how to include our other personal goals.
It was a great exercise! Even though my wife initially looked at me like I was a dork, (a common look in my home) she was excited to see how much we shared in goals! I encourage you to do this together to give yourself the motivation to work towards the same goals rather than just living life day by day.
If you have been following my blog for a few months and still do not have a written budget, shame on you! (I also don’t blame you!) It took me years to buy into the budget idea. I don’t write out plans, I go with the flow and it usually works outright. I never wrote out a rough draft or outline in college, I just sat down and typed up the report. I didn’t need no stinking budget to plan my finances, I could do just fine on my own.
Do you know what happened when I finally gave in and did a budget? I saw how much money I had wasted over the past several months and my wife earned the right to do the “I was right, you were wrong” dance. Since doing a budget, we destroyed our debt and are paying off our house at a record pace. I can’t tell you enough about the importance of a written budget every month!
I feel I am starting to get long-winded and I hope you are still reading. To close out this article, I want to stress the importance of communication with your spouse and being open and honest with your shortcomings. You two started this journey together as one, and it’s time to live like it. You both have made financial mistakes – some larger than others – but with a little forgiveness and determination, you can destroy that debt and build wealth at a rapid pace!
Don’t be another statistic, I don’t want to see you get divorced over money. It’s not too late to start working on your financial issues – it may be painful to begin with, but the rewards of living in financial peace is worth any initial pain, I promise!
This article originally appeared at Arrest Your Debt.