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Top 6 Marriage-Killing Money Issues
Top 6 Marriage-Killing Money Issues
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Top 6 Marriage-Killing Money Issues

Money254
Doreen Gathoni
January 14, 2022

The word couple refers to more than one; so, you’d be right to appreciate the differences and similarities between you and your partner. 

While love may be the major reason why people choose to marry, it is not the only one. Each couple commits to marriage because it supports their dreams and values and serves their needs. Top among these is financial goals and needs, which means your partner can be your biggest asset or liability to your financial future.  

To help start and set you off to better marital finances, here's the low-down on six top financial issues that end marriages.

1. Vague or Lack Of Communication & Collaboration

Is it Mine? Yours? Ours!

It’s normal and expected for a couple to have different opinions on what their financial priorities, goals and habits should be. Problems arise mainly due to a lack of mutual agreement, for example, one wants to save for a new home, while their spouse prefers to save for a new car and a home is down the priorities list.

Tips: 

  • Each couple owes it to themselves to have all finance-related conversations, well before any crisis happens.
  1. Aim to understand where you spouse is coming from – this may give each partner a better understanding of the other’s money habits and attitudes
  2. Additionally, a couple can find ways to meet halfway and possibly find ways to alter / update personal financial perspectives, where one’s views are better suited as-per-situation
  • Avoid the “split the bills” option - This may have worked well when you were friends or dating but as a married couple, you are a single unit. Your teamwork is the favourable option, to avoid resentment and to foster fair, equitable solutions.

2. Debt

“To have and to hold from this day forward for better, for worse, …” remember this part in the marriage vows? That includes your spouse’s debt and all debt-related baggage.

It may look like a two-for-one solution for your debt woes but if your spouse is an impulse buyer, a gambler or lazy about their finance management - nothing’s solved

  • In instances, where one spouse has more debt than the other does; discussions about debt management, investments, spending and income management must occur 

Here’s Why:-

  • Debts incurred after marriage are jointly owned by both spouses, whilst, debts incurred individually (before marriage) are still owed by an individual, with the exclusion of child-care (which is a two party obligation)

3. Unexpected Expenses

This is a revealing experience and often neither person’s fault.

When blind-sided by circumstances, like unplanned expensive house / car repairs, school fees increase and unexpected large medical bills, your best efforts are how to solve the problem. 

Unfortunately, whether this breaks a relationship or strengthens a relationship depends on how well each spouse’s personality complements the other. 

Tip: Though this specific challenge may be completely out of either person’s control, a couple has the option to take a step back before having a conversation and/or including a professional or unbiased party to mediate. 

4. Extended Family (In-Laws Included)

Dealing with family is a sensitive issue and you’re better off keeping all discussions open and cordial rather than leaving financial matters as a vague affair for everyone involved – before and after you get married. 

For example, if your spouse financially supported their parents before you got married, the reasonable thing is not to expect them to abandon their parents. Instead, discuss how to protect your financial future while honouring their caregiver role to your in-laws

Tip: Include a financial planner / expert / mediator (no family relation); to provide unbiased views and solutions on how to co-manage finances that respect the goals, needs, and expectations each spouse has regarding their own family, in-laws and extended family members  

5. Power Play Tactics

Power play is the act of trying to gain an upper hand by deliberately showing the other person you are more powerful than them. 

Some examples of power play tactics in a relationship include deliberately delaying responses, ghosting, shaming, blaming, stonewalling, feigning disinterest and withdrawing affection or interest with no reason. 

This leaves the other partner in a waiting or chasing role - such that they are forced to wait on the other partner to make decisions on their relationship when their needs remain unmet. 

To really grasp how “power play” destroys relationships (marriage include), lets share some synonyms: uproar, seizure of power, turmoil, sabotage, tizzy, brawl, fuss, rebellion, coup, fracas - are just a few out of over fifty alternative words

So, how does one recognise “power play” as the problem? 

Here are four scenarios that often lead to unconstructive damaging “power play” moves:-

  1. One spouse earns considerably more than the other
  2. One spouse comes from a wealthy family and the other doesn't
  3. One spouse has a paid job / steady income source(s) and the other doesn't
  4. Each spouse would like to be working but one is unemployed

Tips

  • Money is power and for the sake of your marriage and financial fidelity – use money as a tool to empower each other. 
  • If one spouse makes enough to start and maintain a side-hustle, support your spouse’s choice to work’ by teaming up to kick-start the more flexible earning option of self-employment
  • Work as a team – even where individual financial decisions are in play. Though it may sound rational to have the highest earner dictate a couple’s finances, it is still important that both partners are transparent and work as a team  
  • Do not copy what other couples’ do. If it is relevant to your situation - you may borrow some tried n’ tested tips

6. Financial / Investment Access & Distribution

A key conversation to have before marriage and continuously during your marriage is about each person’s finances, such as whether to keep your money separate (or) to open a joint account (or) have both options. 

Learn more in this article on the benefits of opening a joint account with your spouse and find out whether that is the right option for you. 

Tips:

  • Keep in mind that while joint ownership access offers greater transparency and access, it is not a rock-solid solution to a marriage’s unbalanced money dynamic
  • For a “trial basis” consider sharing a joint account to cover day-to-day/regular expenses; which doubles as a team activity to estimate how successful your financial compatibility might be
  • Another option is to set up a shared account for the day-to-day expenses that you will share. Also maintain individual savings and investment accounts so each of you can make purchase or saving decisions, independently 
  • Consider a prenuptial agreement, that is, an agreement by a couple before marriage that details the ownership of their respective assets in the event their marriage fails. 
  1. While relatively rare, it is not just for the wealthy. If a prenuptial agreement exists, be aware that it is legally binding and upheld in court 
  2. If you are already married, you can also set up a postnuptial agreement. However, each spouse should be comfortable with the idea as some may argue that coercing one to sign may have a negative effect on the marriage.

In the event that one spouse is for and the other is against – with the help of a financial-legal expert you can draft a modified division of assets agreement to suit your request as a couple 

Bottom Line: A Problem Shared Is A Problem Halved

More factors exist that could end a marriage; nevertheless, as long as you are attentive and proactive, you will get to a suitable solution.

Key Takeaways:- 

  • Honesty is the best policy
  • Be clear, intentional and specific in your conversations. It’s not always easy but it's better than avoiding it

There is no magic wand… yet!

Gathoni is a skilled content developer with over 5 years of experience in content development as a graphic design and copywriter, in different industry sectors. Her passion to nurture positive, stronger, communication impact continues. You can find her on LinkedIn here.

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