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May 11

Are Money Problems Ruining Your Marriage? Here Is How You Can Stop Financial Arguments.

Traditional wedding vows usually contain the phrase “for richer or poorer.” Meaning that you love each other and the amount of money you have will not affect that love, for better or worse. I am pretty sure that our ancestors added that in because they knew that money problems are one of the most common troubles married people face.

But ask any divorce attorney and they will tell you many married couples forget that particular financial vow. In fact, there is probably no single factor, for good or bad, that influences any marriage more than money.

Because money reaches into a relationship and touches nearly every part of it.

This can become a huge problem if you don’t manage your finances well and especially if the couple are financial opposites.

According to a survey by SunTrust Bank, 35 percent of respondents said that financial worries are the leading cause of stress in their relationship. This was enough to land money as the #1 relationship stressor as annoying habits came in 2nd place with 25 percent.

This survey by the New York Times found that couples that argue about money and finances about once per week were 3 times more likely to divorce than couples who disagreed less than once per month.

As all-encompassing and important money is in our lives, it doesn’t have to create trouble. Done right, money can actually create a stronger bond in your relationship. While I never believe in any one-size-fits-all answer, I have a multitude of techniques you can pick from to fix money problems in your marriage.

You might need these tips as about half of us marry our financial opposites – that means savers married to spenders. It doesn’t matter how much your household brings when it comes down to different spending habits, arguments will occur unless you talk with each other.


It really all boils down to communication.

Many couples rarely talk about how they are going to manage their money. This often ends up with one partner handling all the finances and the other just doing their own thing. Over time, this creates more “money battles” as both partners start to resent the behavior of the other financially. The one not handling the finances might think the other a penny-pincher while the saver thinks the other is spending money wastefully.

If this sounds familiar, you need to sit down with your partner and defuse this ticking time-bomb. We all have our differences and so every couple needs to come up with a plan that each can live with – a compromise.

Here are some ways that can help:

  • Give each partner an “allowance” that they can freely spend in any way they wish. The spender will have a limit that can be budgeted and the saver can spend their portion guilt-free (or continue to save it as a personal “dragon horde”). Sometimes the budgeter really wants to buy something but has held their urge back to counterbalance the spendthrift.
  • If the “allowance” idea doesn’t work, try to come to an agreement that purchases over a certain amount must be agreed to by both partners.
  • Swap roles for a week (or a month). This allows each person to view their finances from the perspective of the other. You might come away with a firmer understanding of the others way of thinking.
  • Understand that differences in the way each of you handles money can be a good thing for your marriage. You are like a Ying to your partners Yang, you balance each other. The spender gets the other to live a little while the saver gets the spender to put something away for the future.

Becoming a stay-at-home parent.

With the huge costs of childcare, many couples are discovering that it just makes sense for one of them to stay home and raise the children. Studies have shown that children who spent all day in child care had higher levels of stress and more aggression than kids that are cared for at home. So while it is great for the child, it can be less than great for the household finances when that second income is lost.

Sometimes the spouse that is bringing in the paycheck forgets all the work that the other is doing. Taking care of one or more small children all day is not easy.

This is something that I am personally guilty of. What I had to realize is that we are a team and financial decisions have to be made together.

The last thing you want is for the income earner to withhold money from the other. This will only create friction when the parent staying at home feels like they are being questioned for every dollar they spend.

How to handle this situation:

  • Ensure that you both have access to the family finances. Not only is this prudent in case one of you is injured, but just knowing that the information is available will help both partners feel in control.
  • Handle the finances equally. Have bills that each of you pays. One person might be in charge of paying the credit cards while the other ensures that the mortgage and utility bills are paid each month. Talk with each other about your financial plan at least monthly.
  • Give the stay-at-home spouse a weekly paycheck for all that they do. It is also VERY important for the working spouse to give the other a complete break from watching the kids. It might not seem like it, but going to work is a break for you. The spouse that stays at home doesn’t get that. So even if your work is stressful, find time to watch the kids so your partner can have some time away for those duties and recharge.
  • Have at least one “date” a month. You two need to spend time together, away from the kids. If you have a free babysitter like your own parents nearby – great! If not, try to find another couple that you can agree to swap babysitting nights so that each couple can have a night off. Or you can do what the wife and I do, we get paid to babysit and then use that money to pay someone to watch ours on our date night.

If unemployment strikes.

When one person in a two-income marriage loses their job it can cause quite a strain financially. If that person fails to find another job fast enough, it can cause resentment in the relationship.

The working spouse could start to feel taken for granted, especially if they don’t think the other is trying hard enough to find a way to bring in income. What they need to realize is that by not bringing in money to the marriage your partner can feel that they have lost their status in the marriage. It can be as devastating to them emotionally as losing a close relative. You have to reassure them that you still love them.

The partner that lost their job has to realize that while they might not bring in any income, they should use the time they have to keep up on the day-to-day household. The last thing your spouse should see when they come home from work is you relaxing on the couch when the house is a mess. You need to do your part to stay an equal partner in your marriage.

Other tips to survive a job loss in your relationship:

  • When times were good you should have been saving up an emergency fund. This would allow you a safety buffer for times like this.
  • Reduce expenses. It could be months before they are hired and if one income is not enough to cover your bills, you are digging yourself a hole. The longer you wait, the deeper that hole will become. Do this together so you are both on the same page.
  • If resentment starts to set in, talk about it with your partner. Keeping it bottled up will only make you explode sometime in the future. You need to stop it at the first sign.
  • Don’t blame your spouse. Blaming doesn’t do anything but hurt the situation you are in right now.

Dual incomes, but still living paycheck to paycheck.

Just because both partners have jobs doesn’t mean that they aren’t just keeping their heads above water.

It appears that roughly 38 percent of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck – no matter the size of that paycheck.

What I mean is that there is a large range of incomes that have nothing left at the end of the month. In the same town, one household could earn $3,000 a month and another $6,000 and they both end up with nothing. How could that be?

It has long been said that spending rises to meet your income. That, for some people, whatever they make they will spend.

That means if you are living on this thin edge between ‘making it’ and not, you can cut expenses to give yourself some room to breathe. Because someone else out there is probably living on less income, and if they can do it on less you can save something.

Bottom line is that there is NO income level that cannot result in at least some savings every month.

How to get out of the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle:

  • You have to make a budget and then follow it. If you are so close to the edge you must be the most disciplined. I guarantee that once you start tracking where you spend your money, you will be shocked as to how much those small purchases add up to per month.
  • CUT CUT CUT those expenses. ‘Wants’ can be cut out completely and ‘Needs’ can be trimmed back. You need to become hardcore frugal to free up as much money as you can.
  • Pay yourself first. Start by putting at least a little bit of each paycheck into savings. Even $10 or $20 a payday can add up after a while.
  • Earn extra money. With today’s gig economy and the internet, all you need is the drive to use your extra time doing things that people will pay for. Maybe you have a skill that could earn you money. Find a side-hustle and start working it!
  • Pay extra towards high-interest debts. You need all the money you earn, so stop giving away your valuable dollars towards interest payments!
  • Stop trying to appear better off than you are. Nobody really cares.
  • You are in this money emergency together, so talk about it! Celebrate the small wins until you start getting the big ones. It will take time but you can create a marriage where money worries are a distant memory.

Becoming financially fit can be an enormous task for any marriage. But it is something that needs to be done if you are to stay together.

Husbands and wives with completely opposite spending habits can make things work, but only if they are willing to be open and communicate about it. It will require compromise, but the outcome will vastly improve your life.

I listed some techniques that couples can use with each other to overcome common money problems in a marriage. If you have more to share I would love to read them in a comment below.

3 comments

  1. Team CF

    We are very fortunate to be (almost completely) on the same page financially. There is never any strife about financial issues. The only thing we differ in is our preference for assets to invest in. But this just added to the relationship in the form or good discussions and compromise.
    Compromise being the key thing in a marriage too! But for that you do have to be able to openly talk about all aspects.
    Team CF recently posted…April 2017 Cheesy IndexMy Profile

    1. MrDD

      That’s great that you guys are on the same page financially. For those times where you might be on different sentences on that page, you turn it into a positive discussion. 😀

  2. Troy @ Market History

    This is why I think people should be financially stable before they get married. I know the media likes to make it seem as if “the only thing that matters is love. all you need is love. money is irrelevant”. That simply isn’t true. A lot of marriages fail because of money problems.

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