Few issues in life can bring about the demise of your relationship faster than financial issues. It’s been the bane of married couples and live-ins since the beginning of the monetary system, and is one of the No. 1 reasons for divorce. It’s right up there with fighting about the kids and serious medical illness. Knowing your partner’s spending habits and state of financial affairs early on is surely a plus when forging a partnership, or considering forging a partnership, but it’s no guarantee there still won’t be problems.
Deal with it Early
When you both decide you’re ready to take the next step and you’re ready to make a commitment, establish early on what roles you’ll each play in your relationship as far as financial arrangements and what your expectations are for each other in that regard. Establishing clear goals and boundaries that you both agree upon early on can alleviate a lot of stress from the get go with financial issues. Don’t avoid this for fear of rocking the boat right out of the slip. This is crucial.
Give and Take
When it comes to financial issues, recognizing your own and each other’s strong and weak points is extremely beneficial and can help you define your roles even further. All relationships are give and take, or they should be. If one of you performs better with finances and you both agree upon it, by all means let whoever it is take the reins. Be sure whichever of you accepts this role doesn’t come to resent it or the other person, though, and be careful not to fall into the blame game. Controlling the purse strings, as it were, can take its toll and lead to serious control issues and fighting.
Be an Open Book
Being upfront and honest with each other about your spending habits can’t be stressed enough. Very little else can sabotage a strong relationship faster than deceit, and financial issues surrounded by deceit can be the kiss of death for an already rocky relationship. Don’t hide shopping and spending sprees from one another — another major cause of resentment. Women who hurry home to hide shopping bags and men who hide credit card slips and ATM receipts are only buying themselves time until the final meltdown when all hell breaks loose. And it is only a matter of time. Sooner or later the juggler drops the ball or the skeletons all come tumbling out of the closet and the jig is up.
If All Else Fails…
If you’ve tried everything and you’re still having arguments and friction due to financial issues with your spouse or loved one, then it’s time to consider separate bank accounts in addition to your joint accounts. This may sound a bit drastic, but it’s saved many a relationship. Consider this for a moment: as long as your overhead is covered and you’ve both contributed to your rainy day or retirement fund, there’s very little left to argue about. Each month you’re facing roughly the same amount of bills. Anything left over is gravy. If you know in advance what each person is responsible for depositing in your joint accounts towards bills and retirement, then depositing the excess in your own personal “fun money” accounts can relieve a lot of stress on the two of you. Just be sure to set budget boundaries on what to do in the event either of you is a little short that month. This tactic can go a long way towards easing the tensions surrounding financial issues and may very well end up saving your marriage.