debt

The Truth About Money and Relationships

7 Minute Read

Are you arguing with your spouse about money? You’re not alone. When you put together couples and money, you’re bound to get a few spats. Did you know money is the number one issue married couples fight about?(1) When it comes to marital problems, money fights are the second leading cause of divorce, behind infidelity.(2)

It’s no secret that cultivating a solid marriage takes time and work. No matter how much you love your spouse, trying to merge your lives—and your money—can be a bumpy (but still beautiful!) ride.

Here are seven mistakes couples make when it comes to their money and relationship—and how you can avoid them.

1. They Keep Separate Bank Accounts

Some couples think the best way to avoid money arguments is to keep separate checking accounts. His paycheck goes in one account, hers goes into another, and they each pay bills separately. No harm, no foul, right? Wrong. This lays the groundwork for financial problems as time goes on.

Couples in Great Marriages Talk More About Money

How to work on it:

Marriage is a partnership. The officiant said, “And now you are one.” Both parties need to be involved in the finances. Separating the money and splitting the bills is a bad idea that only leads to more money and relationship problems down the road. Don’t keep separate accounts. Put all of your money together and begin to look at it as a whole.

2. They Disagree About Their Lifestyle

Let’s say you’re perfectly content shopping at Goodwill when you need to update your threads, but your spouse loves to buy name-brand items at full price. If you have an income that doesn’t support expensive tastes, that’s going to be a problem.

How to work on it:

Marriage is all about compromise. If one of you is attached to name-brand items, consider shopping at an outlet mall to snag those brands at affordable prices.

Because the bottom line is: your lifestyle needs to line up with what your actual income is—not what you wish it was. You might want to live like a perfectly curated Instagram post, but don’t let yourself fall down that rabbit hole. Especially when there aren’t enough zeros in your bank account.

3. They Let Personality Differences Come Between Them

Everyone’s personality is different, and opposites tend to attract. Chances are, one of you loves working numbers (the nerd) and the other one would rather not be tied down by what the numbers show (the free spirit). One of you might be the saver and the other is more inclined to spend.

While that can cause some marital problems, it isn’t the real issue. The source of the problem is whenever one of you neglects to hear the other’s input. Or when one of you bows out from participating in the financial dealings altogether.

How to work on it:

Listen up, financial nerds. Don’t keep the money details all to yourself. And stop acting like a know-it-all while using your “knowledge” to boss around your free-spirit spouse. And if you’re the more carefree spouse, don’t just nod your head and say, “That looks great, dear.” You have a vote in the budget meetings! Give feedback, criticism and encouragement.

News flash: you’re both on the same team here, so work on the budget together! Use your personality differences to become a united, stronger team.

4. They Let Salary Differences Divide Them

For most couples, one of them probably makes more money than the other. Rarely will you both be making the exact same salary. But whether the amount comes to $50 or $50,000 more a year, the same problem can arise.

Instead of seeing the full pot as “our money,” you might think you have leverage over the other—all thanks to a few extra digits on your paycheck. Sometimes the spouse bringing in the most money can feel entitled to the most say. Don’t even go there. That’s just asking for more money and relationship troubles.

How to work on it:

It’s not “yours” or “mine”—it’s “ours.” There’s no reason to hold a higher income over the other’s head. You’re on the same team. Start acting like it.

5. They Commit Financial Unfaithfulness

Being unfaithful to your spouse doesn’t always involve an affair. Sometimes it’s when you’re unfaithful to a shared financial vision by opening a side bank account or stashing away cash. That’s deceitful. The same applies if you have a credit card your spouse knows nothing about.

Hiding purchases from spouse

How to work on it:

Be open and honest about any side checking/savings accounts or secret credit cards you have. It’s time to own up to the truth and clear the air. Then, work toward establishing financial trust again. Recommit to your shared goal and remember why you’re doing it. You’re in this together!

6. They Let Their Expectations Get the Best of Them

One of the biggest dividers between couples and money is when they have unmet expectations. The quickest way to feel unfulfilled and unsatisfied with your spouse and financial goals is when you expect things to go a certain way only to find out reality is a bit different.

If you’ve always thought you have to immediately buy a house after getting married, you might feel let down when you celebrate your first anniversary in the apartment you’re renting. Don’t let your unrealistic expectations pave the way for marital problems and discord!

Healthy couples dream together

How to work on it:

There is no rule stating married couples have to buy a home, start a family, or go on a trip to Paris during their first year of marriage. If those things aren’t feasible for you right now, stop worrying. Get your finances in order now so that later you can make your dreams a reality.

(And when it does come time to buy your first home, we recommend you save at least 10% for a down payment—or 20% if you want to avoid PMI—and only take out a 15-year, fixed-rate mortgage.)

7. They Let the Kids Run the Show

Your kids are begging you for the latest video game. You think about how well they’ve behaved lately and figure, why not? But your spouse is upset because it isn’t in the budget. Hello, impending money argument! Whether it’s buying them toys, giving them an allowance, or just paying for their sports equipment—kids have a way of shedding light on couples and their money habits.

How to work on it:

Talk about it and make a plan. Decide together how to budget for the things your children need. But what about all of their pesky wants? Discuss the possibility of establishing chores and a commission (or allowance) for the work they do. This can help them establish a great work ethic all while teaching them how important it is to wait for the things you want in life!

Couples and Money Should Go Hand in Hand

Marriage is a partnership. It’s time to stop making these money mistakes and find common ground. Sure, it’s tricky to figure out how to not fight about money, but you can learn how to discuss your finances in a more productive way.

You married your spouse for a reason. Believe it or not, you need their skills—especially the ones you don’t have. That free spirit or nerd can bring valuable insight and knowledge to the table. They’re your teammate, and it’s time to start treating them like one.

Are you ready to get on the same page as your spouse when it comes to money? Join money expert Rachel Cruze and relationship expert Dr. Les Parrott at one of our world-class Money & Marriage events this fall! It’s a date night worth investing in—reserve your seats today!

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