You get married, and it’s amazing at first. Hopefully it stays amazing, but after a few months, those inevitable differences with money will come into play. She wants to buy a new car, but you insist that it should be used. She wants to pay off a credit card, but you think that money should be invested instead.
Being different people can both make a marriage great and tear it apart. It’s often cited that money is the number one cause of divorce — and it’s true. Unresolved differences with money can lead to a marriage disaster. Are you worried that your marriage could be at risk down the road?
Here are 5 ways to ruin your marriage with money (and how to stop):
1. Don’t talk about money. If you’re not talking about money, then you’re not talking about your life together. Money is a representation of what you value in life, and where you want to end up as a couple. Just about everything in life has financial implications, and you have to talk about those implications! Money should not be a taboo topic of discussion, especially with the person you are sharing your life with.
Solution: Talking about money can be a great source of bonding between partners. Even setting a budget together can be a good thing as long as you don’t simply view it as paying bills. Have the perspective that you are planning life together. Use it as an opportunity to plan date nights and to dream about the future as you set aside money for retirement. Talking about money doesn’t have to be drudgery.
2. Hide money from your spouse. We call this “financial infidelity.” You are married and you share a life together, so you should be sharing just about everything. Hiding money is very dangerous and leads to mistrust. Small amounts here and there might be harmless, but ask yourself this question – ‘if my spouse knew about this money, would he/she be upset?’ If the answer is “yes,” then you are likely committing financial infidelity.
Solution: Perhaps you think that you should have some play money for yourself; that is completely understandable. But this should be decided by both of you and you should allot money for this purpose in your budget. Also, share your bank accounts. Keeping separate bank accounts might work for some, but it encourages hiding money and spending.
3. Hide your financial past from your spouse. If you were previously married, would you withhold this information from your spouse or soon-to-be-spouse? Probably not – that is obviously important info. The same holds true of your financial past. Are you holding debt of 6 figures? Do you have a bankruptcy in your past that your spouse or soon-to-be-spouse doesn’t know about? Well, you’re about to unload a heap of problems on an unsuspecting person that you love. Not cool. Your spouse deserves to know, and they shouldn’t have to run a credit report on you to find out.
Solution: Full disclosure of financial pasts is an essential part of any pre-marriage counseling. And if you are already married and need to deal with a financial past, counseling is recommended to work through the issues that will inevitably come up.
4. Live a lifestyle that you can’t afford. You bought an awesome house, drive nice cars and enjoy high-end restaurants. Or perhaps you have a modest home and vehicles. In either lifestyle, if you’re not bringing in enough cash to pay your life’s bills, then you’re living beyond your means. Most often, both partners in a marriage will decide on this lifestyle together – you both picked out the house and went car shopping as a couple. But if you can’t afford it, then it will all come crashing down at some point. And when that happens, blame and resentment will creep into your marriage lightning fast – and everything in your relationship will be at risk.
Solution: Budget. Treat your household as it needs to be treated – more like a business. Don’t spend more than you take in. Period. If you need help, consider financial counseling through the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.
5. Think that your breadwinner status makes you the authority in the household. If you’re the man of the house and bring in more than your wife, that doesn’t make you the ultimate decider of every financial decision. Keeping your spouse in the dark on financial matters because of a breadwinner status is a BAD idea that can often lead to a controlling and emotionally abusive situation.
Solution: Recognize that all contributions in a marriage are equal. Sit down every month and set a budget together by listening to each other. Each of you has unique gifts and abilities and should have equal input on how to use your household’s resources no matter who brings in the larger paycheck.
While it is technically true that money is the number one cause of divorce, realize that money and finances are merely the symptom of deeper issues. The above 5 ways that money can ruin your marriage are both financial and personal. If you avoid them, your relationship will have a much better chance at withstanding the stresses of life.
About the author: Lauren and her husband Mark Greutman were once in over $40,000 in debt and running a $1,000 deficit per month. They changed their life around, got out of debt, and now teach others how to budget and be debt free on their website MarkandLaurenG.com.