What causes financial conflict in marriages and how to prevent it

financial conflict

Written By: Lyle David Solomon

Far too often money-related issues cause conflict in marriages. While roughly half of marriages overall end in divorce, money issues could last through separation and be a post-marital problem. We all could experience financial issues at some point in our lives, which is understandable.

However, when it comes to marriage, money doesn’t truly become an issue with most until deprivation of needs, general wants, or standard of living happens. Having to follow a strict budget can be one thing, but a couple going into debt because of one spouse’s poor spending habits could be another that has other negative effects.

Couples must understand the very circumstances that lead to financial conflicts in marriages, how to prevent them, and what actions promote a financially healthier marriage.

Couples may have disagreements on spending money

Everyone has their perception of how money should be spent whether they have a spouse or not. This perception can be viewed as a ‘financial personality’. It is not uncommon for two people to have different financial personalities within a relationship, but the differences can still co-exist well with the right communication and understanding.

Ask your spouse questions that show more clarity to their views on spending. You want to know if you have a spouse that would be responsible if funds were low or if they would buy a new pair of shoes with money that had another purpose.

Impulsive spending can drive a bank account down to zero if you’re not careful. It would be advised that any impulsive spending from either spouse should be identified and addressed. Got a spouse that repeatedly buys coffee at Starbucks? Discuss making coffee at home. Have a spouse that can’t resist always buying the latest sneakers? Discuss a clothing and shoe budget that could be followed as a compromise.

The biggest spending issue in couples is hiding spending from one another. Whether it’s hiding shopping bags in the trunk of the car or avoiding to-go boxes to hide evidence of dining out, hidden spending can harm a marriage more than financially.

Purposely hiding spending can result in serious trust issues between spouses. Matters can be worse if hidden spending is a contributing factor to couples experiencing too much debt. Dealing with debt in a marriage can be challenging in itself.

Couples could be experiencing issues handling debt

Debt matters in marriages and should be ideally addressed before tying the knot. Debt accumulated by one spouse can directly affect the other. Therefore, any debt that was accumulated separately as well as the debt they could be accumulating during the relationship should be analyzed.

Couples need to ask questions to determine how much debt they can handle. Does my spouse have too much debt for us to pay down and pay off? Are there any major purchases that we desire to make within 12 to 36 months that we may need to temporarily go into debt for?

Under any circumstances should debt be hidden in any way from a husband or wife. The main reason being is that you never know how unpaid debts can affect your spouse’s finances. For example, if a spouse suddenly passed away and had hidden debt, there is a strong possibility the owed party could seek payment from the surviving spouse.

Married couples need to have a debt repayment plan in place to achieve being debt-free. Find a repayment method that suits the total income of the household and even consider debt consolidation if it’s a step closer to being debt-free.

While accumulating debt and spending habits are the major areas of financial concern, there are underlying factors that also contribute to financial conflicts in marriage.

Other circumstances that cause financial conflict

Even though the financial habits of each spouse seriously matter in the financial well-being of a couple, their unique circumstances can cause financial conflict.

Financial inequality

The state of financial inequality in a marriage is far from uncommon. In many cases, you’ll find that one spouse may make substantially more than the other. While men typically take on the role of breadwinner, this has been shifting over to women, especially in recent years.

Roughly 26% of women in marriages or relationships tend the be the breadwinner in scenarios where both partners are working. Some men are not comfortable with making less than their spouse and some women don’t prefer to be the breadwinner. This can in time lead to some resentment within the couple.

Sometimes one spouse being at home could cause stress on the other spouse who has full financial responsibility if their income is insufficient. The situation may be what’s best if there are children in the home to take care of. Also, in other scenarios like continuing a college education and disabilities, could be the major reason behind one spouse staying at home.

It’s best to be transparent about what your household needs financially, and what it will take from both partners to make it happen.

Helping relatives

It is not uncommon to be of help to your family when they need you. Marriage involves collectively discussing finances with your spouse, and sometimes people may give help without thinking twice.

If helping a relative in their time of need is not reasonable for your household’s finances, then it may not be wise to do so. Especially when it has to be a secret from the other spouse. It can cause mistrust in partners when it comes to money in the event helping relatives gets too repetitive.

Spouses should be able to come to one another whenever a relative is asking for financial help. A decision must be made between both people if helping family is within their needs.

Leisure activities and living standards

Although married, each spouse is their person. There may be different activities that you both partake in that can be more than a small expense. It doesn’t have to be an impulsive buy, but a recurring cost that makes a difference to your budget.

The standard of living could have been different for each spouse growing up and into adulthood. If the standard of living was different before marriage, a common ground should be reached along with the plan to maintain it.

Steps to prevent financial conflicts in marriage

There are habits and changes to keep finances transparent between every married couple. Good practices build trust and partnership promoting an effective marriage.

Using Joint Accounts

Having a joint account with your spouse can be the most transparent way of knowing where the money goes from both sides. Even if withdrawing cash to use, the transaction is on the statement as a bank withdrawal.

Anything concerning can be addressed as reviewed. Joint bank accounts or credit card accounts establish trust in marriages.

Developing spending budgets

Part of being married has a lot to do with compromise. If you and your spouse have different activities or hobbies, discuss a monthly budget for each. It shows your partner that you can compromise to make both of you happy which can prevent financial conflicts from spending habits.

Using apps to help track finances

You don’t have to limit yourself to banking applications only to review finances. Some apps can help couples such HoneyFi, Honeydue, and Zeta that help determine the set budgets that need to be created, more precisely categorize transactions and discuss them right on the apps. These apps are designed specifically for couples as they are likely to use financial resources and expertise collectively.

Financial therapy

People may personally seek therapy and discuss finances from a personal standpoint. However, couples financial therapy is becoming more popular in recent years. Colleges are even beginning to add financial therapy to their curriculums and degree programs. A university like Kansas State could offer a financial therapy certificate program or offer it as an elective course like Florida State University.

Therefore, financial therapy should be considered if money has been an issue in your marriage previously. It can help both partners gain a better financial understanding of one another. It could also save a possible failed marriage as money issues are among the most common reasons for divorce.

Proper actions prevent matters from becoming worse

Financial conflicts in marriage can last much longer and possibly never go away if left unresolved. They can worsen which intensifies the conflicts that can often lead to a failed marriage.

Making finances a priority just like emotional health or day-to-day functions are necessary. This cannot be achieved without couples being very well at communicating with each other. A very communicative couple could make you aware of everything to avoid mishaps or misunderstandings.

The last thing a couple wants is thousands more in debt with a negative bank account due to overspending. The lack of the ability to maintain a standard of living, or cannot expand and progress can all be an unfavorable result to a marriage.

About the Author:

Author bio: Lyle David Solomon is a licensed attorney in California. He has been affiliated with law firms in California, Nevada, and Arizona since 1991. As the principal attorney of Oak View Law Group, he gives advice and writes articles to help people solve their issues, including debt problems. Connect with him on LinkedIn or tweet him at @lyle_solomon.

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