Marriage and Money

Money is one of the top topics for arguing in a marriage and also one of the main reasons for splitting up. Yet as important as this topic is to discuss, it is one of the subjects couples are least likely to talk about before and during a marriage.

Most couples feel it is not romantic or too personal to discuss, and so the problems mount until an explosion occurs. People come to a relationship with their own way of thinking about and dealing with money. Your money style has a lot to do with the way your parents dealt with money and also your risk-taking versus conservative personality style. In addition, in this day and age of many second marriages and step children many couples come to a marriage with debt, alimony, feelings about how much they want to spend on their biological child versus a step child, etc. These are all issues which need to be sorted out, discussed and understood before marriage.

Differences between the sexes in attitude toward money also make agreements difficult to come by. Both men and women tend to be concerned about retirement and the wish to have enough money to do so comfortably. Men still make most financial decisions about cars and investments whereas women do about major appliances and things for the kids. Most fights occur over spending for both men and women; who gets to, how much, from what pot? Besides money being a limited commodity and therefore couples are scared about not having enough (hence arguments) it also represents power and couples will argue over who has the power in the relationship. Feeling that the subject of money is taboo or embarrassing is the reason couples tend not discuss even the basics and hence anger builds and festers, good feelings begin to erode between them and ultimately a big blow up occurs.

Things you need to do:

Ante up before the marriage. Many people either keep quiet about money or even lie. You need to reveal all debt from the start. It will all come out eventually, with much more anger and angst. Be up front. Find out what they owe, what they spend, what they consider to be priorities, what is their style of saving and spending. Discuss financial goals, retirement, credit cards and how you feel about debt. Discuss alimony and child support, mortgage, bankruptcy… if those apply. Also discuss how you both FEEL about money.  What does it represent to you? How was it handled in your family of origin?  Do you tend to be tight with it or relaxed?

Have a monthly conference. Keep up every month with a discussion of where you are financially, where you want to be. Discuss planning for children. Talk about which expenses will get a priority when money gets tight (before it gets tight). What was spent, any debt issues and plans for investing. Set aside the time and don’t have it off the cuff or in the bedroom.

Be knowledgeable. Both partners should stay informed about what is happening with the money.  How much there is? How much is spent?

Make a budget. You need to agree upon a budget so both know what the other expects.

Be honest. Many people lie or omit information when it comes to money.  Eventually the truth comes out and the betrayal can destroy the marriage. Be sure to be up front and honest about how you handle money. Being secretive about money is also a slippery slope when it comes to lying about other issues.


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