How to Overcome Financial Issues in Your Marriage

Fighting about money in a relationship is one of the leading causes of divorce in the United States. It’s the biggest reason people fight in relationships – more than infidelity, children, or anything else. And unfortunately, talking about money doesn’t seem to help – but that’s because people talk about it the wrong way. Instead of having a heated argument over money where everyone gets defensive, it really helps to plan out a strategy and have an honest discussion about money. Plan on how you and your partner will spend it and save it, and try to stick to the plan by helping each other. It’s not enough that both people agree on a plan, sticking to it is harder, but is worth it.

Start with small changes that you both make, and make sure each person is accountable for them. Examples of small changes are not using credit cards as often or for certain purchases, spending less on travel, taking public transportation, etc. Once you have a few of these small successes under your belt, you’ll be able to make bigger changes that will eventually really help you both and help the relationship.

There are a lot of financial decisions that need to be made with your partner:

Credit Cards — Do you both use the same card and share the bill? Do you keep separate cards and each are responsible for their own bill? What limits are involved?

Bank Accounts — Again, do you prefer a joint bank account where you share all the bills, or will you both continue to bank separately?

Debt — The debt in a relationship can really cause a lot of damage, because a lot of the time embarrassment will cause one person to hide the amount of debt from their partner. So you trade a much smaller problem that you can face together (debt) into a breach of trust in the relationship. This is potentially extremely damaging and can lead to a break up or divorce. Debt needs to be put out in the open, and a plan to pay it off that you both make together.

Savings — Creating a savings plan and sticking to it will also really help in the relationship. While it may seem tough to get through every month with what you have, it’s important to try and save a little every month. This will really help when something unexpected comes up, and the pain of saving a little each month is much less than the pain of not having any cushion when things don’t go according to plan.

Secrets — Out of all these issues, keeping secrets from your partner can be the most damaging. Whether you are hiding a separate bank account, a gambling problem, or holding out on debt – these issues pale in comparison to the continued lying and deception that is necessary to keep these secrets. The worst mistake you can make is to keep a secret – try to put it out there, because trust is much more important than money in a relationship.

Protecting Against Financial Abuse

For protection we often rely on banks, locks, password codes, credit cards, hiding places and even fighting skills. Yet, like the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes, we often deny ourselves the biggest threat to our own or organization’s wealth (and sanity).

I am talking about the addictive personality.

Here are some examples that I have personally witnessed:

A relative losing her house due to her son’s drug addictions.

(My mother’s house near break-in from harboring the mentioned drug addict.)

An associate losing money from trying to support their drug and video game addict children.

A gym owner whose gambling-addicted girlfriend put his business heavily in debt.

A military party fund that went missing to an alcoholic who had volunteered to look after it.

Rent and investments that have disappeared by trusting a drug addict.

And the list goes on.

I mention this because good health includes financial health.

Now, many people argue that the stigma of addiction is what is driving addicts towards suicide and more destructive behavior. (You will see public signs all over Vancouver stating that drug addicts are also co-workers, relatives, friends and generally nice people.) Well, the point here is to protect YOU and not intellectualize why THEY hurt your financial health. It makes as about as much sense as trying to reason with a grizzly bear or a mad dog. Forget it.

Instead, take note of the following behaviors of the addicted personalities:

1. Moody.

They often fluctuated between being sweet and charming and surly and angry.

2. Bursts over-achievement

Some addictive personalities actually perform high in academics, sales and athletics. I personally knew several high-performing martial artists and soldiers who drank heavily and fell into heavy drug use. Addictive types will so great bursts of work or productivity for short periods, giving the impression that they are high performers.

They often make a big display of any minor achievement such as doing volunteering or exercising.

3. Often sick.

4. Frequently take/request time off.

5. Frequent money problems.

They frequently borrow money or ask for pay advances from work.

6. Unethical behavior

They often lie, steal, cheat and degrade others, while co-workers and family will constantly cover up for them.

7. Often smoke

Not always, but most addicts smoke.

8. Tendency towards swearing and violence

9. Gulping alcohol

This is something that I witnessed in the military. The heavy drinkers could never just sip and enjoy a drink. They had to gulp it down. One co-worker would buy six beers at a time and down them one after another before “Happy Hour” was over.

10. Blaming others

If you ever talk to an addictive person, you will hear all about how things are “everyone else’s fault” and all of the psychological and family reasons why they excessively drink, gamble or play video games.

This list is not complete and it might even make the reader squirm a bit if it sounds too personal or “close to home.” The truth is, you are often aware that something is “not quite right” about a co-worker, employee, boss or associate and that you should keep them away from your money, home or business. Sometimes you cannot if you are a co-worker, business partner or spouse. Like martial arts, fighting and military skills, you have to be able to maintain a strong defense and preparation against such people.

It all boils down to trusting your instincts in the first place.

Stay healthy.

Stay safe.