Recently, we looked at 8 tips for newlyweds in debt. Indeed, while it’s admittedly not as romantic as talking long walks at dusk, making wise and practical money-related decisions is not just important for a happy marriage. In fact, it’s essential!
Why essential? Because the number one cause of marital breakdowns isn’t what you think. The Lack of shared interests, constant arguing, pesky in-laws, lack of intimacy, or even infidelity are bad, but not the worst. According to a study by the American Psychological Association, the most common reason why couples head to marriage counseling — and then in many cases, to divorce court — is money woes.
The bad news is that there is no magic wand (or app) to keep all money problems at bay. It’s something that all couples — including the 1-percenters out there who certainly aren’t immune from marriage-induced financial pain — need to deal with throughout their relationship.
However, the good news is that there are practical and proven tips that go a long, long way to keeping married couples happy vs. hostile. Here they are:
Talk about money.
Couples will talk about all kinds of sensitive and intimate stuff: rashes, phobias, fetishes (you don’t need all 50 shades of grey — just a handful will get the job done!), and the list goes on. But when it comes to money, even the most transparent couples tend to clam up — usually for fear of sparking a fight. The irony is that unless they talk openly about money, then instead of avoiding tension, couples put themselves on a one-way journey toward conflict.
Don’t hide large transactions.
Couples shouldn’t have to report every purchase they make down to the last latte. But they should certainly share the news — preferably ahead of time — when they make large transactions. Otherwise, it’s just a matter of time before thousands of dollars that should be in an account are missing. Then, the accusations and insults fly, fast and furious. And if you think that hiding transactions is a rarity, think again! A poll by CreditCards.com found that 20% of people in a relationship have spent more than $500 without telling their partner. Plus, about 1 in 20 spouses maintain secret accounts or credit cards. Yikes!
If you need help: GET IT!
There’s one last thing to consider. Many who were good with money before marriage assume this will carry over. Unfortunately, this is not necessarily the case. A marriage is not merely a collection of two individuals. Nope. Marriage is an altogether different entity that is far more complex. There is no shame or embarrassment if couples admit they need financial management help from an expert. On the contrary, it is a sign of maturity and responsibility.
If All Else Fails…
Sometimes, even couples with the most robust spending and savings plan and the best of intentions run into massive and, frankly, un-fixable debt problems. If this is the road that you’re on — or you suspect that it’s where you and your partner will be in the future — then your best move may be to consult a bankruptcy lawyer. This doesn’t mean that you will (or that even you should) file for bankruptcy. But you certainly need to know what your options are, so that you can make choices that protect your long-term financial health and, indeed, your wonderful marriage.