Marriage and money: Working on your financial relationship

Marriage and money: Working on your financial relationship
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Published August 31st, 2015 - 04:00 GMT via

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A joint account for household expenses may be the transparency needed for discussions about spending. (Shutterstock)
A joint account for household expenses may be the transparency needed for discussions about spending. (Shutterstock)

Marriages fall apart over money issues. From financial disagreements and perspectives to actual crises that lead to foreclosure or bankruptcy, the institution of marriage often fails to make collective sound financial decisions.

The reasons for why spouses may not be able to align financially vary, but one common factor is miscommunication. Because of personal sensitivities and cultural contexts, many spouses feel uneasy talking about money — or even avoid the discussion altogether. There are also many concerns that come with asking someone — especially if that is a person you love and appreciate — to tighten the belt because you can’t really afford this person’s spending habits.

But after the phase of hesitance, followed by a phase of hinting, people eventually come to terms with the fact that it is time to have a talk. But even if this talk happens, the clarity of your message and your goals is really what matters.

In many cases, people handle this talk in a way that communicate the wrong message or complicate the relationship. Here are a few points to avoid this situation.

Yours and mine

When income is channelled into separate accounts, it is easy to see who is spending what. But it is also uncomfortable to ask the other person to cut back and take more responsibilities. Even though in many cultures, having separate finances isn’t frowned upon, this approach may complicate your discussion, especially if you’re a man trying to assume the full provider role.

That is why starting out with a joint account for household expenses can be a good idea. In this case, when a decision is made to cut back, it’s a joint determination. Everyone — including your spouse and older children — will be able to see its causes and effects.

Giving mixed signals

Let your family members or at least your spouse know the magnitude of the problem or the goal of your discussion. Are you just trying to save some extra money? Do you know that credit-card debts are building up and you’re trying to get back in black? Are you trying to be careful in anticipation of a crisis like a job loss, medical expenses, etc.? The more context you provide for your goals, the more likely you will enlist everyone’s cooperation. But again that is an area where people — who serve the provider role — may be uneasy with bringing it to the table.

In fact, your lack of clarity could hurt you and your relationship. Your spouse could take it as a sort of criticism or fails to see your motivation, which opens the door to speculation and grudges. So be clear and direct in communicating your point.


Because of guilt or impulse, many people may compensate for tough financial times with small splurges. Knowing when these splurges are not harmful takes a lot of self-control. Meanwhile, if you overact to your spouse’s method of coping with the tightened financial, you could lose this person’s sympathy and cooperation, leading to even more financial losses down the road.

Of course, having frequent splurges could up quickly. But if you think about them as a well-deserved reward, you probably could make it a matter of exception. For example, talk with your family members about these splurges not to eliminate them, but to organise them. For example, set a budget with clear objectives and times, which should help everyone keep track of the discretionary income that can be spent on a treat.

Seek help

If your financials are taking a toll on your relationship, and you’re unable to get back on track, get professional help. A financial adviser can shorten the recovery time and serve as an independent voice that lacks the emotions and constraints that you may be struggling with. An adviser also can set you some achievable goals that help give a financial boost immediately or at least avert a crisis.

By Rania Oteify

© Al Nisr Publishing LLC 2016. All rights reserved.

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