How Finances Can Affect Marriages for Better or Worse

wedding rings

Serious money problems bring many couples to the brink of divorce. But other couples find working through such difficulties brings them closer than ever.

Finances are the greatest stress on marriages. Money is about more than covering the bills each month. It represents safety and long-term goals. If you aren’t in sync about an issue as big as money, chances are you are having challenges in other areas.

Getting on the Same Team

Money problems are the second leading cause of divorce after infidelity. Couples who make it through financial stresses intact take some or all of these steps:

  • They see a professional financial counselor to turn off the power struggle (state and local agencies provide free or low cost advice and support).
  • They talk to friends and family to find out what tools have worked for others.
  • They stop blaming each other and start looking objectively at the strengths and weaknesses of each person’s approach to money.
  • They visit a marriage counselor. Counseling can help couples recognize destructive communication patterns that underlie financial concerns. Counseling can also raise important questions about needs and desires, delayed gratification, and priorities for the marriage.

When One Person is a Spender and the Other is a Saver

If you don’t see eye to eye on spending, agreeing to a certain amount of splurge money for each person in the budget (that you don’t have to justify) can ease tensions. Likewise, agreeing to put a certain percentage of your respective incomes into saving can be a lifesaver.

Tools such as those on Money Habitudes can help you understand and respect each other’s money habits.

What Doesn’t Work

Here are some things that don’t usually work: hiding money or debt, over- or under-spending, or using money to control the other person—particularly if one person earns a lot more than the other. These solutions erode trust, which is the foundation of marriage. About 31 percent of people say keeping credit cards from a partner is worse than physical infidelity, according to a report.

Talk Money Before it’s Gone

It is best, of course, to look at your finances together before you find yourselves under water. When you are in crisis, anger flares, communication breaks down and affection dies. Diving into financial disconnects before an emergency can help couples learn to disagree without fighting, set priorities, get creative about enjoying life while spending less, and make sacrifices for a joint desirable future.

Money problems affect both the individual wellbeing of each person as well the relationship. Money in marriage is connected to everything else: communication, sex, spirituality and health. No particular strategy works for every couple. You may have to explore several solutions, or start all over after a failure.

It can be scary to talk about money. For some couples, it is even more difficult than sharing concerns about sex. But doing so provides an opportunity to assess and strengthen the relationship that can increase your chances of living “happily ever after” together.