Money problems in marriageWritten by Lori Hollander | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Money problems are commonly regarded as one of largest stressors in a relationship. It is easy to imagine how the threat of foreclosure, drained savings or income reductions can amplify a spat by epic proportions.
When a couple finds themselves with no choice but to make significant budget cuts, the tension can ripple across a relationship. Often, those tensions quickly translate into resentful feelings toward the partner or feelings of guilt and failure directed inward.
No doubt, a tough economy is not easy on a relationship.
Yet, a lack of money is not the actual reason for most relationship problems.
The real culprit is how you deal with money as a team of two: are you teammates sharing the same game plan or are you each playing by a different set of rules?
Even when money is plentiful, overlooking the “we” in your financial relationship creates a cost too steep. In fact, divorce lawyer and writer, Wendy Jaffe, notes that wealthy couples often divorce because of financial problems.
But here is the good news. Regardless of income level, you have everything you need to whip your relationship into excellent financial shape if you make the time. Doesn’t sound like a romantic way to spend your night? Hmmm, maybe not. But a sound and trusting financial connection boosts your relationship intimacy. Romantic, indeed.
Here is how to improve your intimacy (financially).
1. Get playful (with the numbers)
Many people slip into unnecessary arguments simply because one or both parties don’t have the full picture.
Mark and Mira needed money to prevent a foreclosure. Mark wanted to borrow against their retirement, but Mira felt risking their financial future was irresponsible.
Was it possible to protect their financial future and protect their home?
Getting playful with the numbers allowed them to consider the actual possibilities together rather than resort to slinging opposing opinions at each other.
And according to the numbers, if they borrow against their retirement and then commit to make monthly payments for several years thereafter, their financial situation will improve. The numbers are worth a thousand unhappy words – averted.
2. Jump in
When a money issue becomes prickly, your partner’s push-back may appear like an all-or-nothing stance. Feeling forced into an opposing corner may trigger you to say white to your partner’s black.
This pattern often sparks feelings of loneliness in a relationship.
For example, when Jane needed a new car, she began eyeing a new, red one. Jim could not believe she would utter such words when their income was stretched thin already.
He could barely resist outlining the sizable flaws around her spending ideas, but he didn’t want the coldness that ensues after these arguments. Instead, he diffused the situation by digging below her expressed interest to find common ground.
“What if I search with you until we find a used car that is very red and very shiny?”
His jumping in with support made his used car idea sounded worthy of careful consideration rather than a fast dismissal.
3. Pass the ball
Often, one partner has more financial aptitude (or pays bills punctually). But if one partner takes full control financially, risks of “financial infidelity” increase.
Some financial experts report that a partner may feel more inclined to short-circuit the system (for example, use secret credit cards) if that partner has no say. Also, if finances suffer a storm, it is easy to blame the driver for the accident.
Following an 80/20 rule, the financially inclined partner takes no more than 80% of the responsibility your finances. The partner with 20% must sign off on major decisions or initiate an alternative plan.
Pass the ball and you become a team sharing responsibility and trust.
4. Bare all
Elliot didn’t think it was a big deal that he under-reported the costs of his various purchases. And Joy “forgot” to mention a loan she never paid off from years before they met. But keeping a financial secret from your partner is akin to misleading intentionally. And that is akin to, ahem, lying.
And lying is never romantic. But playing on the same team, becoming more open, and building trust throughout your relationship is.
Lori Hollander, MSW, MBA, is a couples and sex therapist for the Center for Real Intimacy, 3365 Washtenaw Ave, Suite 208, Ann Arbor, MI 48104