“Financial stress is killing my marriage and I have been only seeing the darkness in the last two months,” a friend of mine told me recently. My friend was working in a company for the last 22 years and last month she was given the pink slip. Her husband’s company did a 30 per cent pay cut since the lockdown happened. They have a home loan, a loan for their son’s studies abroad and they have to look after their ailing in-laws, which includes buying medicines and paying caregivers. “My husband and I have been fighting like cats and dogs and we don’t know how to deal with this financial crisis in our marriage,” she said.
It is common for money matters to plague marriages and money issues are the most common thing that people fight about. Since the lockdown happened after the coronavirus pandemic more marriages are dealing with money issues now.
How Can Financial Problems Affect A Marriage?
Very few people talk about money matters and set financial goals when they get married. In fact, this very important topic is hardly discussed although they might be discussing kids and birth control. Usually post-marriage savings and investments are the last thing on a couple’s mind and they are more than happy to have a good life with what they earn. But if you go for pre-marital counseling then they would usually harp on financial compatibility, among many other things to make a marriage work.
After being married for 20 years my friend realized how important financial compatibility is and how money imbalance can affect relationships. Her husband has always been the kind of person who liked the good life and was willing to spend through his nose for that and if it meant taking frequent loans, he would do it. His credit score was always low. But, she was not a spendthrift and I tried her best to save by budgeting and invested in property and built assets. But it was not easy doing it alone.
Constant financial stress and the skirmishes that happen because of different spending habits of a couple hinder relationship-building immensely. Financial problems can directly affect a marriage. The issues that arise from financial stress can go on to become blame shifting, there could be a lack of communication and that could lead to no effort at joint financial decisions. Most couples don’t have a joint family account where they would keep aside money for a rainy day so when they are faced with a tough financial situation they don’t know what to do.
Is financial stress a cause of divorce?
A poll of over 2,000 British adults by legal firm Slater and Gordon found that money worries top the list of reasons why married couples split up, with one in five saying it was the biggest cause of marital strife. In an article published in The Independent over a third of those questioned said that financial pressures were the biggest challenge to their marriage, while a fifth said that most of their arguments were about money. One in five of those polled blamed their partner for their money worries, accusing them of overspending or failing to budget properly.
“Money is always a common issue and if one person feels that their partner is not pulling their weight financially or at least trying to then it can very quickly cause resentment to grow,” said Lorraine Harvey, a family lawyer at Slater and Gordon.
What percentage of marriages end in divorce because of money? According to a survey conducted by the Certified Divorce Financial Analyst 22 per cent divorces take place because of money issues and it’s the third important reason for divorce after basic incompatibility and infidelity.
Relationships and financial stress go hand-in-hand finally resulting in a divorce. Money does break up relationships.
Most couples are inept in handling the following money issues:
- They can’t deal with liabilities like loans and mortgages and end up spending more than they are capable of paying back in the future.
- They don’t have a household budget. In the rare cases, they have they almost always overshoot the budget.
- There isn’t a separate allocation of funds for emergencies like health issues.
- There are no rules of spending.
- They don’t have a joint income account.
- They go completely overboard while buying a car and property and are rarely within a budget.
My friend very honestly told me, “Financial stress is killing my marriage and I would not be honest if I say that I have not contemplated divorce. But right now in this situation when one of us is jobless and another limping in the job and with a mountain of EMIs to pay, jumping a sinking ship is not really my kind of thing. I would rather try to mend the situation and see if we can survive this marriage despite the financial issues.”
That’s when we at Bonobology thought of devising ways and means to show a way out of financial issues that could be killing marriages.
How To Deal With Financial Stress In Your Marriage
Money imbalance affects relationships the most. And with money trouble in a marriage you are never at peace. You are always planning ways and means of wriggling out of the mess you have landed in. But in our opinion instead of repeatedly saying “financial stress is killing my marriage,” you should sit with a pen and paper to work out the money matters that could put you in a better financial space. Here are the 8 things you could do.
1. Evaluate your financial position
No one is completely without savings. Sometimes in their life they make an attempt to save and could have bought insurance and forgotten all about it. So take stock of that to see if your savings could help handle your liabilities. Taking stock of your assets will help you realize you have more kept away than you had ever imagined.
Related Reading: 15 Clever Ways Of Saving Money As A Couple
2. Allocate a budget
A Gallup poll shows that only 32 per cent Americans have a household budget. If you have a tight budget to run the daily household expenses and try to stay within the budget by all means then you could find that you are dealing with your financial issues better. One of my friends has a budget for buying toys for her daughter and her daughter also knows that she could never go above $7. We want the best for our children but keeping a budget also teaches them the value of money.
3. Work as a team
You should keep your differences aside and work as a team and straighten out the financial issues in your marriage. You have so far played the blame game but now that you have been pushed to the wall you have no option but to work as a team and straighten out the financial issues. Make two columns on what he thinks you should do and what you think you should do and work on it together.
4. Set new goals
You could be in the financial doldrums but that does not mean you will be there forever. You have to try to pull yourself out of it and that is only possible by setting new financial goals for yourself. You could have a business idea for a long time maybe this is the time to take the plunge.
5. Have a talk with the bank
Everyone is going through a tough time because of the coronavirus situation and the lockdown and the economic downturn. Banks are being sympathetic to debtors so they are relaxing the timeline of paying interests. You could have a word with other people who owe you money and you could ask for some more time to make the payments. Most people have been generous with time right now, realizing people are going through a difficult financial situation.
Related Reading: How Much Money Should My Husband Give Me?
6. Change how you think about finance
You should think constructively about finances in future. If you start a new business or get another job the first thing you should do is save and invest every dime you make. There is no denying the fact that money issues affect a marriage. If you had saved earlier your relationship would have been better now. It wouldn’t have reached the nadir it has gone into now.
You could have started making your financial planning a bit too late in the day but at least you have started. You know our credit score well now, about your liabilities, budget, you have rules of spending which you are following, and most importantly download a daily accounts app to keep track of your expenses.
7. Learn to make financial compromises
Financial stress kills a marriage because both the spouses are not willing to make any financial compromises. Or sometimes one spouse makes all the compromise and takes all the hardship and the other stays unaffected. My friend who is under a huge debt in a Gulf country has sent back his family to India. While he continues with a good lifestyle he isn’t sending much money home because of his debt and his family in India is making all the compromises.
This is unfair in a relationship and both spouses should make financial compromises to straighten out money matters in a marriage.
8. Take help
When you are drowning in the sea of financial issues and you don’t see the land anywhere close by you might remember that friend who is a chartered accountant or that one from kindergarten who is a financial wiz. Without even thinking twice make that call. Be ready to get a scolding but they could also land up home and guide the two of you out of the mess. So never hesitate to ask for help from friends and family if they have a knowledge of finance.
Money imbalance in relationships can create huge stress. My friend reiterated, “We were already standing on a quicksand of financial crisis and the COVID 19 situation pushed us further into it. Financial stress was killing my marriage for a long time but finally I am in a space when I feel that both my husband and I have taken the bull by its horn. We are not trying to wriggle out of the situation by finding quick escapes we are trying to clean up the whole mess.” Your small efforts could lead to big consequences and you would reap the benefits in the end.