In the list of Top 10 reasons for a marriage to end in divorce in the UK, money problems come in third. As observed by lawyers specialising in divorce law, money problems put a major strain on couples; so much so that in 2010 (the aftermath of the financial crisis) many decided to call it quits. It is difficult to keep the flame burning when bills continue to pile up, so if money’s too tight to mention, be aware of its potential to risk the stability or your relationship and take the necessary steps to ensure you and your better half are financially and personally stable.
If you are newly married and you frequently argue about money with your partner, consider this a warning sign. Researchers have found that in the ‘honeymoon’ stage of relationships, “Arguments about money is by far the top predictor of divorce. It’s not children, sex, in-laws or anything else. It’s money — for both men and women.” When you argue with your partner frequently, it is difficult to feel responsive and loving towards them. Worst of all, when you are stressed, it can be hard to find the mental clarity you need to sit with your partner, analyze your finances, and make a few necessary changes. Sound financial planning is key for couples at all stages of their lives but especially when economic times are tough. By working on resolving your difference and reducing tension at home, you can work on a long-term strategy together.
Research indicates that equality seems to promote stability – especially when it comes to finances. Couples who feel that they are part of a team in which everyone contributes money towards bills can feel that they are being treated more fairly, than those who feel overburdened by having to assume all expenses. The truth is that although modern couples don’t necessarily aim to be millionaires, they do perceive that living on a very small income can be highly stressful. This is especially true when they are struggling to pay the bills or do not have a savings account they can turn to on a rainy day. Sometimes, households simply cannot meet all their expenses unless both partners contribute.
Money can’t buy you love
While it is true that financial stress can hamper a couple’s happiness, wealth is not everything, which is something couples should keep in mind in hard times. Research shows that overly materialistic couples fare worse than more spiritually inclined couples when it comes to communication, conflict resolution, and responsiveness. Interestingly, researchers have noted that the way a couple perceives their finances is more important than the actual money they have. By keeping your focus on the value of your relationship rather than the wealth you are building up, keeping that loving feeling alive becomes easier. Sharing tasks is also important. Couples as a whole seek some sort of equity, so that if one spouse works from home while the other works in an office, home tasks such as cleaning and cooking should be fairly divided.
How can you talk about money without causing couple strife?
If money objectively does have the capacity to destroy marriages, what steps can you take to ensure this doesn’t happen to you? You essentially have three choices when times are tough financially: you can take steps to improve your situation, avoid facing the facts, or adapt to a tighter budget. The first strategy – informing yourself, making changes to your budget, and creating a strategy for the months ahead – is the most proactive and arguably the most useful in the long run. Creating a Plan B for your future will help you feel that financial worries are all temporary and surmountable.
What stops couples from moving forward during financial crises
Some of the biggest problems standing in the way of couples include lack of (or too much) information, poor communication between partners, and poor time management or lack of time to do the research. Try to work as a team, dividing tasks if need be until you talk to the right people or find interesting information online. If you have kids, try to teach them the basics of financial literacy early. As soon as they are able to, they should learn about concepts such as loans, interests, credit etc. so that as they enter into adulthood, they refrain from buying things that are simply above their means, or borrowing more than they can reasonably pay. Scientists note that today’s young couples want a big wedding, a home, cars etc. but it is sometimes important to take things in small steps, opting to spend less so as to enjoy financial stability later in their lives.
Having a talk once a year
Get together at least once a year with your partner to have a ‘reality check’. Talk about old and new financial goals – including saving for a family holiday, paying off credit, or taking out a private pension. During this talk, you can agree to discuss (non-defensively) any concerns you may be having. For instance, rising interest rates might mean one of you is paying off a higher amount on a loan, and this needs to be factored into your respective contributions if you have different accounts. This is also a good time to bring up hopes and dreams. Is there an experience or item that would make your life a lot more meaningful? Is there a caprice you would love to treat yourself to? You might be surprised to learn that your partner also sees value in what you do. It is important to support each other as much as possible, so long as any expense incurred is not unrealistic or above your means. Of course, in addition to this ‘big talk’, smaller discussions should take place throughout the year.
‘Give and take’ is key when it comes to staying together ‘through the good and bad’. Partners can agree to see their financial success as a team goal; one that both partners do their share to fulfil either in a paid or unpaid fashion. By being aware that financial instability is a stressor, and committing to tackling it proactively, couples can ensure that strife is temporary, and that stress does not take away the most important thing they have: each other.