Money is a source of conflict and tension for many couples. Most of us have, at some point or another, argued with Hubby over the household bills or the kids’ education expenses, and had disagreements or anxiety-ridden discussions about budgets, loans and investment strategies.
With money having such a central place in our lives, we can’t avoid it being a trigger topic at times. But there’s no reason why it should come between you and your spouse.
When it comes to money, communication is key
Nobody likes talking about money, but in a marriage, this is essential. With regular and honest communication, you and Hubby will feel more secure about your family’s financial future and be able to make better money decisions together.
Willy Ho, founder and lead counsellor at The Counselling Paradigm, says that couples must communicate closely with each other when it comes to prioritising investments and expenses, and setting a budget based on their income. If you and your spouse are in debt, you should also come to an agreement about how to realistically pay it off so as to enjoy financial freedom faster.
Discuss your money values
If you and Hubby have different money values, close communication will also help you understand the deeper significance of these values to each other.
Says Jessica Lamb, a psychotherapist and mediator at Relationship Matters: “Making the effort to discuss these differences and really listening to your partner is the best way to move forward when it comes to resolving your money issues. But the way you raise these issues is crucial to how successful you’ll be in discussing them.
“If you start the discussion with a statement like, ‘You’re so irresponsible with money!’ for example, it’s hard for your partner to listen as he will immediately feel criticised and judged, and he may get defensive.”
This is because money tends to be what Jessica calls a surface issue. Underlying our financial beliefs and habit are actually deeper issues, to do with self-esteem and identity, security and stability, care and support, and control. These are really the topics that couples are trying to pinpoint when they discuss money.
Jessica continues: “It’s more helpful to own your feelings and to talk about your specific concerns and needs in more positive terms, for example: ‘I’ve been worried lately because we need to replace the car soon, and I’m not sure how we’re going to afford it. Can we talk about where we can cut back to save some money?’”
Dealing with common money issues in your marriage
According to our experts, these are the five money issues couples argue about the most. Here are a few tips to prevent them from putting a strain on your relationship:
(1) Lack of transparency about finances
There needs to be some level of transparency. This may mean letting your spouse know about your existing debt, such as credit card debt; financial commitments, such as seeing to your parents’ medical needs; and even your spending habits, like your penchant for designer bags.
“Transparency and honesty are at the core of a strong and stable relationship,” says Willy. “Many couples struggle to be open with each other for fear of losing their partner if the truth were revealed.
“But, if you’re not honest about your debt and financial commitments, they may create problems for your relationship down the road, triggering arguments about spending habits, savings practices, and so on.”
(2) Financing your first marital home
Your first home is probably one of the biggest financial investments you’ll ever make as a couple. It’s important to agree on the amount you’re willing to pay for the home as well as how you will finance it.
“You may still be trying to pay off your wedding expenses when you move into your first marital home, so you have to work out how to pay off this huge debt together,” Willy advises. “Failure to do so may result in unnecessary tension and squabbles, especially if you opted to purchase a home that you can’t afford.”
(3) Inequality when it comes to finances and financial decision-making
Jessica says that many couples struggle with this, especially after they have children and one partner decides to stop working to be their kids’ primary caregiver. “If your husband becomes the main breadwinner, he may feel pressured to provide for the family and start to make financial decisions on his own.”
The way around this is to make important financial decisions together, regardless of who’s bringing home the bacon, and to discuss ways to budget and save money in order to ease the pressure on the sole or main breadwinner.
(4) Your kids’ educational expenses
Many couples disagree about how many enrichment and private tuition classes their children really need. Willy says that to avoid this becoming a source of anxiety and tension for you and your spouse, you have to agree on whether or not these expenses should be a part of your family budget, and if so, what percentage?
(5) Over-generosity to friends and family
Do you have a problem with your husband always treating his siblings to expensive dinners or picking up the tab when he goes out with his friends? Does Hubby dislike the fact that you’re always indulging your children’s requests for the latest gadget or sports shoes?
Instead of bickering, talk about it, Jessica advises. For instance, it may not be your husband’s constant treating that irks you, but the amount that he spends each time. Discuss these issues and come up with some rules that you can both agree on.