If you’re having money issues, you’re having relationship issues! Financial stress is the top cause of relationship failure. The chorus line of a song I listened to when I was a teenager sums it up: “Love Won’t Pay the Rent…” Couples who responded to a recent USA TODAY poll said that spending too much and saving too little were the leading causes of relationship friction. Fifty-seven percent of divorced couples in the United States cited financial problems as the primary reason for the demise of their marriages, according to a survey conducted by Citibank.
Money issues were one of the major stressors in my marriage. For twenty years Michael and I disagreed and fought over everything from the smallest purchase to the amount of debt we were struggling to manage. My way of handling money issues was to control all the finances; Michael’s way was to avoid any financial problem. It wasn’t until we agreed to go to a money management class (Financial Peace University with Dave Ramsey) that we realized what we were doing to our relationship. I’m happy to say that after working on this and becoming a team, we rarely disagree anymore in the financial area.
As unromantic as it may sound, it is absolutely crucial that couples learn to communicate effectively and honestly about finances (and of course other issues too!). It is never too late to start this process, whether you are preparing for a wedding or have already said “I Do!” The following tips can keep your relationship from becoming another statistic in the “till debt do us part” dynamic:
- Communicate about your current situation. Tell your partner about any financial problems that you have. While this may be a hard thing to do, being honest now may prevent problems in your relationship down the road.
- Discuss financial priorities. Discuss how you would like to spend your money in the future. Talk about the large and necessary costs as well as the recurrent leisure activities such as weekend entertainment and hobbies. After you prioritize your finances, create a budget around these costs that you both can agree to.
- Discuss financial goals. Write out your individual short-term and long-term financial goals. Then, share the goals with your partner and discuss the similarities and differences. Remember, if you and your partner are headed in different directions, neither one of you will achieve your goals. Agreeing on your goals is agreeing on your values.
- Plan to share financial responsibility. Both partners in a relationship must be aware of the overall financial situation. Plan monthly budget meetings to discuss your finances and keep files regarding accounts organized and accessible. Make all significant financial decisions together to help avoid unnecessary disagreements, disputes and communication problems.
When you and your partner spend less time talking about bills and financial woes, you will have more time you can spend dreaming, laughing, enjoying each other's company and getting a good night's sleep.