Financial Mistakes that can Doom a Marriage

When clients visit my office here in NYC for couple’s therapy, they present a particular issue that they would like to deal with or they have a general feeling of unhappiness and dissatisfaction.  There are a few general categories in life that couples struggle with and finances, for some, is at the top of the list.  Money issues are very common in a relationship either because of different values, commitment and/or lack of communication.

What are the common problems couples experience around money?

  1. Hiding:  Hiding issues having to do with money sometimes come from embarrassment, insecurity or a need to hoard/protect wealth.  We usually see this in couples where one individual does not have a substantial amount of money or may have debt that he/she is embarrassed about and/or the partner is scared to share wealth for fear it will be squandered away.
  2. Ignoring:  it is all too common for one or both partners to completely ignore money problems.  When bills are due and the money is not available or you do not want to deal with talking about a budget or the impending bill for college – it can be easier just to ignore the problem.  You may have said “oh, we will talk about it tomorrow,” or “let him/her take care of the finances.”
  3. Different values and styles on money:  If one of you is a saver and the other a spender, your difference in values regarding money can cause significant problems.   If you feel you should go and buy a new suit for work when your partner wants to save money for retirement, or you invest in a mutual fund and your partner wanted to use that money for home renovation, that is going to cause problems.
  4. Jealousy of others:  In today’s world of instant gratification it is hard to see others advancing up the economic ladder when you are not.  It can be hard to be left behind with less purchasing power when friends are in a position to do more because they have more. You may feel that your partner is not pulling his/her weight and that resentment, fueled by your jealously is going to be a problem in your relationship.
  5. Letting the other person handle it:  you may just hate to deal with money.  And not knowing can sometimes feel better than facing reality.  The problem is that since money is how you financially support your life you should be an active participant.  And, to leave all financial decisions and management to your partner may cause them to resent the extra pressure.

As with all parts of your life, you and your partner should discuss financial issues and money management is an important one.  Making decisions together and discussing goals and problems will allow you to support each other as you plan your future and tackle financial obstacles.   I can meet with you individually and also as a couple to find better ways to communicate and help you deal with differences you and your partner face around money.

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