Tips for Dealing with Marital Money Conflicts

by Jessica Sommerfield · 0 comments

For many couples, the topic of money management is a delicate one, and at the root of many marital conflicts. After all, marriage brings together two unique individuals with often very different upbringings, financial standards, and habits attempting to share everything and run a household — no small undertaking! Unfortunately, incompatibility in handling money is a common source of the ‘irreconcilable differences’ often cited as the reason for a divorce.  How you and your spouse handle finances is an important aspect of your relationship that can carry over into many other areas of life. Being on the same page financially increases unity and the ‘oneness’ that marriage represents; disunity in money management creates financial instability, conflicts, and barriers to your relationship and growth as a couple. The following are suggestions and tips on ways to deal with financial stress in your marriage before it causes larger problems.

Make finances a topic of discussion early on. Premarital counseling that includes personal finance is an excellent step for engaged couples. Problems arise when couples (1) fail to understand how their spouse handles money and/or (2) choose to ignore warning signs or address potential issues about money management. Many failed marriages may have had a chance if couples had gone into them with a solid understanding of the good, bad, and the ugly about their spouse’s financial habits.  If you didn’t discuss finances before your marriage, it’s not too late. When conflicts arise because of differences in how each of you handles money, sit down and talk about it. Don’t choose to ignore or avoid the topic just because it causes conflict. Conflict isn’t necessarily bad. It can show you what you need to work on.  If you can’t work out your differences between the two of you, you may need to seek professional help to facilitate real communication and find ways to compromise.

Don’t let your emotions get the best of you. If you are the ‘responsible one,’ frustration with your spouse’s stubborn, irresponsible, lazy, or selfish behavior with money can cause resentment and anger to drive a wedge in your relationship.  Choose to distance your emotions, see the actual problem, and remember that your spouse’s upbringing and lack of good training on how to handle finances many be partially to blame.  This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hold your partner accountability for decisions that affect joint finances; just try to be patient. Correcting poor financial habits is difficult and can take time. If you’re called out for poor money management, don’t become defensive. Try to take an objective look at your habits and be honest about your need to change.  Spouses can bring out the best and the worst in us; in other words, they allow us to see how we really are, which is the only way we can take steps to improvement.

Consider your options and compromise. Before you either choose to ignore money problems (they’ll come back to haunt you) or decide they are irreconcilable, consider ways your can find an acceptable compromise.  Many couples have experienced so many conflicts with joint checking that they decide to keep separate accounts. Some share one joint account for household expenses with separate accounts for personal spending. Still others provide an ‘allowance’ for  each partner’s personal spending within the household budget. Some may criticize that keeping  separate checking accounts is a way of avoiding financial conflicts rather than working through them, but that’s not always the case. For some it may indeed be an avoidance technique, but for others it may be a statement that harmony in their relationship is more important than money and fighting over it.

The former security we felt when we were the sole masters of our finances can feel threatened when we begin sharing our money with someone else. It’s an eye-opening process that can help us re-examine our priorities, eliminate selfishness, and become better at handling our money, together. The most important thing to remember as you tackle joint money management is that your relationship is more important than money…always.

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