Dont let finances ruin your relationship When you’re married, all of your financial decisions, both past and present, have an impact on your partner.

Laina Makuzha-LOVE by DESIGN

Financial stability plays a huge role in the  quality of life we live. In relationships and marriages, money and discussions about money can be some of the biggest stresses that couples experience. With the rising cost of living, people across all income brackets are struggling to make ends meet. Financial strain for many couples has increased in a way they never could have imagined.

Sometimes money arguments happen because of underlying issues in relationships. These can be about various issues, from past mistakes, such as defaulting on a loan, to differing money management philosophies, such as one partner being a saver while the other is a spender. 

Whatever the reason, the effects of conflict about money can be far-reaching and cut deep into the well-being of a relationship and family at large.

Money related disagreements and stress go hand-in-hand and it’s not just the mother and father in a family that feel it. It can rub off on the children too. 

Finances can actually be more damaging to a marriage than arguments about children, sex, the in-laws or anything else. That’s the case from both sides of the marriage (from husbands and wives) according to research, and it applies regardless of the level of income, net worth or debt. But which financial matters, in particular, are the triggers for marital problems? What should you be looking out for in your own marriage?

Another study by Ramsay Solutions in 2017 backed up the findings, reporting that money was the second most common subject that couples fight about — after infidelity. 

 When you’re married, all of your financial decisions, both past and present, have an impact on your partner. And if those decisions are preventing your family from achieving financial goals or even paying monthly bills on time, anger, resentment, and conflict are inevitable. 

A 2021 study by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) found that a staggering 73 percent of Americans who are married or cohabitating say financial decision-making is an ongoing source of tension in their relationship.

Of that same group, 7 in 10 of the respondents (69 percent) reported having a disagreement with their partner about finances in the past year. These conflicts were most often triggered by disagreements about: 

Needs vs. wants (36 percent)

Spending priorities (28 percent)

Making purchases without discussing them first (22 percent)

Paying off debt (21 percent)

Saving for larger purchases (19 percent)

A look  at the most common money issues in marriages and how couples can work together to resolve them had some interesting indications.

How to resolve common money issues

   High amount of debt

Excessive debt, whether it’s from credit cards, student loans, or big-ticket purchases, can quickly lead to anxiety as you make payment after payment with no end in sight.

No doubt the prolonged emotional stress will eventually impact your relationship with your spouse due to frequent arguments and lack of trust and may even result in divorce.

One-sided spending

This scenario occurs when one partner makes unilateral decisions to purchase items that the other partner doesn’t agree to. For example, your spouse goes out and spends much needed money buying a motorcycle knowing that you hate them. 

One-sided spending puts stress on a relationship in multiple ways. First, there is the perceived lack of respect for the other partner’s needs, both by the person who wants to make a purchase and the person who opposes it. One-sided spending causes resentment because one partner may have to make sacrifices to pay off debt for something they didn’t even need or want.

Financial imbalance

Although it’s not uncommon for one partner to make significantly more money than the other or to bring more assets into the relationship, a financial imbalance is a frequent money issue in marriages and causes tension for couples. 

A common case is when the spouse who makes less money feels guilty about buying something for themselves or not contributing as much to household expenses. The spouse who earns more, may feel resentful that they are working longer hours or paying for more shared expenses but perhaps aren’t realising the same benefits as their partner.  

Communicating honestly and often about your finances

Many couples avoid planning their finances together, preferring to just leave money matters to chance. According to the AICPA survey cited earlier, only 56 percent of married or cohabiting Americans say they are very comfortable talking to their partner about finances. It would be interesting  to know what the situation is in Zimbabwe, 

This inability to communicate openly, honestly, and calmly about finances causes dissent between couples that, in many cases, could be avoided. 

You can reduce money-related conflict in your relationship. Here are some tips picked from for making financial conversations more comfortable and productive so you and your partner can stress less, communicate more, and work together to solve money issues. 

Start small and work up to the big stuff

No one likes to be blindsided, especially with a difficult conversation. Set the stage for your talks by casually bringing up money-related topics, such as the price of groceries, then start digging into deeper subjects, such as retirement and long-term savings, as your comfort level increases over time. 

Practice empathy

Remember you are a team. Your partner’s success or failure also impacts you. If you and your partner really are in it for the long haul, when things get heated, it’s important to remember that you care about the person you are talking to. It’s easy to point fingers and assign blame for your financial problems. But the goal isn’t to win the argument — it’s to find a resolution you both can live with. 

Don’t be rigid, keep an open mind

Desist from being judgemental, even if you’re financially savvy and your partner isn’t. Couples often come from very different financial backgrounds that have influenced their attitudes about money management. Looking at the source of a disagreement from both sides—not just your own — can help you understand why your partner feels the way they do, and maybe you can find common ground.

No user manual, so learn together

There is no user manual for handling money issues in marriage. However, there’s no shortage of resources you and your partner can use to become more informed about finances. Use this as an opportunity to learn together by reading books, listening to money-focused podcasts, or even signing up for an online course.

You could even consider scheduling a regular financial talk “date night.”

Once the ice is broken, keep up the momentum by setting aside one night a month to talk money. . 

If you are following a budget, check in on how it’s going and where you are struggling. Talk about long-term financial goals and whether you’re meeting the targets you set. Most of all, just talk openly about money. 

Issues such as excessive debt, one-sided spending, and financial imbalances can indeed cause tension and resentment between couples. But when ’’red flags’’ are recognised early, there are things you can do to address them before they cause irreparable damage to your relationship. I would love to hear from you, your experiences or thoughts on the topic.

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