Are you looking to understand how to resolve financial conflict in a marriage? If so, you are in the right place. Marriages have a range of problems that can be difficult to deal with. Whether it is about living in a joint family, the decision to have kids, keeping the spark alive, resolving conflict – one addresses all these problems.
However, we often fail to talk about the more realistic issues that can really turn your life upside down. One of those is financial conflict in marriage. Money drives people today and it drives marriages too. If one does not figure out the best way to handle their finances or give each other financial independence, problems are bound to occur. We give you an insight on how to resolve financial conflict in a marriage so you can make better and smarter decisions.
Best Way To Resolve Financial Conflict In Marriage
I was asked if I’d write about prenuptial agreements, those iffy things that I had never thought of before my wedding. I said yes but I cannot speak to you about them before I speak of ways to avoid financial conflict in marriage.
Twenty-four years ago, when I was getting married, the things that I had focused on were the love and trust I had felt in the person I was about to marry. We were stepping out to start our new life, and by God, we were going to do it right! We were the lucky ones!
I didn’t even need the home loan application, which he had brought from HDFC, to believe that I had a concerned, right-thinking person who had my – our – best wishes in mind. Which was true at the time. The error was in believing that he would continue to remain so. He did not.
I would continue to retain my love and trust. I did not.
Unrealistic optimism about the future
I look around and I understand today that I was not unique in being optimistic about my marriage. There’s a near-universal segment out there that holds an unrealistically optimistic view of one’s own future.
According to a Harvard study in the United States, although respondents recognized that the national rate of divorce was around 50 percent, they believed that their own chance of divorce was only 11.7 percent. Apply that belief to marriages here in India, think of the near-100 percent intact marriages of just a couple of decades ago.
Can you see what I chose to see before my wedding? That it’s so easy to believe that this thing called divorce isn’t going to happen to us. And that’s fine too because while the divorce statistic inches higher each day, it’s true that many marriages will not be at the threshold of divorce, not today.
Financial conflict in marriages
So let’s leave that divorce prospect aside, and let’s not talk of prenups for now. Let’s simply talk of marital conflict, which is real, and the fact that most married couples face conflict with a degree of severity that leaves scars on them. Financial conflict in marriage is just one such that can drive your marriage to the rocks without you even realizing it.
We don’t often see marriages like Vanita’s, in which her husband would hand over his salary to her, taking just the 100 or 200 rupees – back in the ‘70s and thereon – that he needed for the month.
It’s equally unusual to see a marriage like Smita’s in which the husband checked the household purse in the almirah from time to time and filled it whenever it ran low.
These couples discuss financial matters with the readiness to listen and with an honest give-and-take. They work with the shared understanding that most of us would wish to have about income, expenses, and savings.
The more common occurrence though is continuous conflict, due to which both feel the need to keep some amounts tucked quietly away. It turns into serious conflict when money becomes tight—debts have piled up, or both are out of work, or they are living on a pension, and so on—and one spouse spends on comforts or luxuries with the money that is really stretched for even covering the month’s necessities.
Some common couple complaints
Marriage and money go hand in hand and one simply cannot differentiate the two. Common financial conflicts I have heard or experienced are:
“She buys a sari without looking at its price.”
“He spends on high-priced branded stuff which is such a waste of money.”
“He wants to go on a holiday when school fees are coming up.”
“She doesn’t see the need to invest. I may lose my job any time.”
“He lost money in bad schemes.”
“He loaned money to his family and none of it came back.”
“I am giving so much to manage the house! Why does she need more?”
Then there are matters of stridhan, the bride’s property. As Nandini says, “My husband sold the land that my father had given and invested it in the family business, which is managed by my father-in-law. Left unsold, it would have multiplied in value many times over.”
She adds, “When we need money for our children’s big expenses, we are short. It isn’t that the family doesn’t help, but why have we placed ourselves in a position in which we need to ask?”
How to resolve financial conflict in a marriage?
When we don’t discuss these key issues before the wedding, we are raising our chances of financial conflict in marriage. As much as we need fusion and sharing in marriage, we also need our autonomy in things that matter to us, to truly appreciate the merits of marriage. Financial independence is necessary for both people to be happy in a marriage.
Nothing highlights the need for fusion and autonomy in marriage better than how the couple handles the finances:
- How is the bride’s property going to be invested?
- What happens to the income from it or its proceeds?
- How does the groom’s property fare against this?
These questions need to be discussed at the same time since it is common to give the bride her stridhan, which is then managed by the groom or his family.
Related Reading: How Money Issues Can Ruin Your Relationship
The questions to discuss before starting a marriage
The best way to resolve financial conflict is by understanding the right questions to ask before marriage and figure out the answers. Ideally, both the husband and wife should have equal say in financial management and planning. When it comes to the assets the bride gets at the time of marriage from her parents, the autonomy to manage it should be hers.
If she isn’t in a position to do so, she ought to be helped. If that is not possible, her property should not be sold, invested or converted without her real consent, consent in which she truly has the option of saying ‘no’.
In addition to this, newly married couples should make short-term and long-term plans about managing money, based on the following:
- What is the family income – his and hers?
- What part of it will go into household expenses? This answers the need for sharing and fusion in marriage.
- What part of it will be set aside for each partner’s individual expenses? This answers the need for autonomy in marriage
- What are their financial goals?
- What part of the income will go into savings? This gives the understanding that helps them work towards the common financial goal
- What happens when one – usually the wife – takes a break for childcare or other family needs?
- What if the break remains permanent?
Discussing these matters well before the wedding and continuing to discuss financial matters whenever the situation requires it helps create financial harmony, which is a big element of marital harmony. To avoid financial conflict in marriage, be aware and alert of what you are getting yourself into. Don’t let the tide take you anywhere. Stand your ground, ask the right questions and hold on to your independence.
The best way to resolve financial conflict and to protect yourself monetarily, is by first signing a prenup. Declaring your assets and stating your rights before you get married at all, is the best way to protect yourself.
Accounts that contain specifically marital funds are considered the marital property that belongs to both wife and husband. Meanwhile, couples who each own their separate accounts or property can consider it their personal assets.