We touched on the role of money in marriage in the past, but today we’ll be taking a closer look into the matter. It’s no secret that a lot of couples have been split apart because of money problems.
The very act of mulling over a lack of finances is a source of great tension in a marriage. Left unchecked, arguments about money will feed on themselves and worse, create a generally negative sentiment in your relationship.
But like other marital issues, this can be properly managed. Money doesn’t have to a reason for contempt in your marriage, and here’s why:
#1: You Got Each Other’s Back
Generally speaking, teamwork is the best approach to many types of problems. However, having a common mindset will greatly impact any team’s problem-solving process.
For married couples, this feeling of “we-ness” is especially important when tackling financial issues. Otherwise, a couple will find it next to impossible to come up with a solution if they’re not on the same page.
Like any other couple, you and your spouse are different people. These differences resonate in key areas of your marriage, especially when it comes to managing money in the family.
You can’t do anything about the fact you and your spouse grew up under different circumstances, causing you to have varying – or even clashing – perspectives on money.
What does money mean to you? How much or little of it was there to go around in your family while growing up? How about your spouse?
Your differences aren’t a threat – NOT being aware of them is. Addressing these questions today may feel uncomfortable today, but it will help you work towards a common vision with your spouse tomorrow.
Chris, a graphic designer from Maine, told us about his difficulties living with his in-laws. “I grew up in a family where we were taught to be independent at an early age...especially in the financial sense,” he explains.
Since he was twelve, Chris has been earning has always been on finding work, such as part-time or summer jobs to support himself to a certain extent. “That’s why I found it a bit emasculating to live with my wife’s family since she often asked for their help even if we could manage on our own,” he says.
To address this issue, Chris gently brought up discussions with his wife regarding their respective thoughts on money.
He shares, “During our moments alone, I casually asked my wife about her experiences with money while growing up. We’ve been married for two years now…looking back, we should have talked about this much sooner.”
When Chris’ wife told him that she has a more relaxed attitude towards money, it confirmed his hunches and allowed him to share his own values with her. “Eventually, we moved to our own place after I helped her understand why it was important for me to live apart from them.”
Chris confesses that it’s taking them a while to get used to living on their own, but he’s confident things will pick up soon.
Chris confesses that living on their own has been challenging, but now that they’ve had a chance to come up with a solid financial plan, he’s confident that things will pick up for them soon.
“I’m slightly annoyed that my wife still occasionally asks for her family’s help, but it’s much better than it was before,” he says with a smile.
Empathizing with each other’s viewpoints is a successful basis for any sort of teamwork. It may be difficult at first to accept your differences, but the sooner you talk about them, the better you can work around them and move on.
(For more help on this, read about the importance of the willingness to be influenced.)
# 2: Don’t Sweat It, You’ve Made It This Far
Perception is a powerful thing, and the way you see marital problems greatly affects the way you handle them. You’ve braved other storms together, so issues about money will come to pass as well.
Don’t let the wind get knocked out of your sails; keep moving forward by focusing on a plan, and not your emotions.
For instance, what are your general goals as a couple? Is it to save for a house by next year? Do you plan to eliminate that nagging credit card debt? Are you saving up for your children’s college fund?
Once you've gone over your basic objectives, you’ll be able to create smaller goals which will help you move in the direction you want to take.
We know a lot of couples who sort out their clutter as one of their sub-goals so they can sell things they no longer need. Even better, they’re ridding themselves of the rubbish that’s only taking up precious floor space at home.
You’ll be surprised by how much you can earn from a garage sale! Plus, living in a cleaner house does wonders for your peace of mind and reduces money-related tensions.
Here’s another idea: put numbers on the board (such as your monthly budget) to get a clearer picture of how much you have to work with.
This will help you create specific sub-goals which will take you closer to your general objectives. This includes putting “wants” on hold (e.g. eating out, splurging on luxury items) and committing to save a certain amount every month.
Some couples might need help streamlining their budget, so it wouldn’t hurt to enlist the help of a financial adviser. He or she can give you a different perspective on how to cut the fat, suggest other approaches you might have overlooked and develop a realistic strategy you can follow.
#3: You Can Look For Alternatives
Speaking of other approaches, perhaps you and your spouse have other marketable skills that you haven’t tapped yet. Browsing the web will help you come across opportunities to earn on the side.
For example, some people make money through affiliate marketing, which is selling other people’s products and earning commission from sales. Sites like afilorama.com and amazon.com will help you get started on how to make money online.
On the other hand, the internet can also help you discover a profitable niche where your interests can be turned into a part-time career, such as writing and singing.
#4: Every Threat Presents An Opportunity
If anything, let your financial challenges be a test of your strength as a couple. Though you might have to cut a few corners here and there for now, it’s important not to lose sight of the bond that you share with your partner.
Work from a perspective that treats problems as a chance to grow rather than an end-of-the-world event. In fact, this trying time could be the proverbial silver lining.
For instance, a financial crisis is a chance for you to improve your communication skills and reconcile your opinions about money (see #1).
What’s more, financial issues in a marriage don’t exist in vacuum. Are you really arguing about money, or are there deeper issues beneath the surface?
It’s possible that money could just be aggravating other existing problems in your marriage. If so, then tackling your financial challenges will help you identify and address these underlying problems as well – another hidden benefit for you!
Here’s something to remember: You may not have total control over the external circumstances surrounding your marriage (e.g. a bad economy, getting downsized, unexpected financial emergencies), but you can control your reactions to them.
With the right approach, any type of marital issue – especially money-related ones - doesn’t have to bring you apart.