Marriage basics 101: Money
Remember the big four sources of marital strife?---Sex, money, children, and in-laws. Today’s blog is all about money.
This was not a big problem in my marriage. My wife and I had similar values about money. We both discussed big purchases, and we both didn’t sweat the small ones. Whatever differences we had were pretty minor. And we definitely did not save enough money for our kid’s college! We were both shortsighted.
But for some couples, money is a huge topic. Financial concerns bring up other issues that have nothing to do with money---security, control, independence, self-confidence, and future orientation.
For example, Molly loves to buy clothing! She likes to look smart and up-to-date. She doesn’t mind using her credit card when she runs low on cash. Her husband Bob is a saver. He doesn’t like to spend a penny. Let the fireworks begin!
He goes nuts when the credit card bill arrives. Molly works, and earns her share of the household income and she feels that she should be able to spend “her” money however she wishes. Bob disagrees. He thinks that they should have a budget. Molly sees it as a “control issue” (“He always has to have his way!”). Bob sees it as a security issue (“We need to have some money in the bank for a rainy day!”). Molly has always been a hard-working independent woman. She feels strongly that if she wants to buy something, she shouldn’t need to ask permission. Bob is dead set against credit card debt. He is concerned about saving for their children’s college education….And on it goes.
These conflicts generate strong emotions--anger, resentment, fear and anxiety. Bob and Molly frequently fight over money. Yet, they get along well in almost every other way.
As you can see, there is a common theme in all marital strife. Couples need to talk. They need to discuss what is really important to them, what they imagine their future will look like, what they hope and dream for, how they want to live, what they want for their children, and how they will manage their money.
This takes time. This takes space. This takes perseverance. This takes patience. This takes courage. Who said marriage was easy?
Bob is not going to want to run up big credit card debt. Molly is not going to give up her right to spend money on clothing. But what they can do, what they must do, is compromise. Molly and Bob can agree on a set amount they she can spend on clothing. They can agree how much they will put away in savings. They can agree on their family’s financial goals.
There is one more step that each partner must take. Each person must look within and try to figure out what these issues mean. Why is Molly so fierce about her independence? What does this mean to her? Why is Bob so worried about the future? Only when you understand what money symbolizes to you can you more openly explore the common ground of compromise.
Then it is important to develop a financial family plan. Establish clear goals, understand where you are spending your money, and establish a plan. Recognize that this will have to be re-crafted from time to time. It will always be a work in progress. If you need help, read books, take a class or hire a financial planner to help you.
So when it comes to resolving differences about money:
Examine, what does money represent to you?
What is important to you, and why?
What are your long term family financial goals?
Talk, talk, talk, and talk some more with your spouse about these issues!
Establish a family financial plan?
Revisit and revise your plan periodically.
What has worked for you? Share your experiences. Join the Family Talk conversation!