You fall in love and get married believing that money will never come between you and your partner. Money is a means to an end... no sense in worrying needlessly about what’s down the road. No one can predict the future, right?
While it may be correct that no one can predict the future, the frequency and severity of conflict in the marital relationship regarding joint finances may be the biggest predictor of whether or not your love will last over the long haul. Money issues are at the top of the list when it comes to those issues contributing to an already high divorce rate. So what can you do to protect yourself?
I recently sat down with Rick Fingerman, CFP, president of Financial Planning Solutions, Inc. based in Newton, Massachusetts, to discuss the psychology of money. Here is what he had to say:
"Communication, resentment and dishonesty are three areas I have seen that cause problems and stress in marriages. For almost 20 years I have been helping couples navigate their financial lives and have seen these issues crop up time and again. As you know, if couples aren't communicating how can they be successful in any area? Many times there is resentment surrounding money that has nothing to do with money. However, one spouse may use money rather than deal with the underlying issues. This is where a good therapist can make a world of difference. Dishonesty is just bad all around in a relationship. Without trust, what do you have?"
Thinking of my own work as a psychotherapist with couples in marital counseling, I thought about some of these core issues and how it resonates with the emotional aspects of spending and saving and deeply rooted issues of security and stability. We were all raised with a certain belief system surrounding money. How we spend. How we save. One spouse may have had parents that stressed saving while the other spouse was brought up by spenders. How does one learn to change their views about money?
Couples with poor communication about finances are unable to address expectations that each may have had when coming into the relationship. Often this degenerates into a power struggle in which very little can be accomplished or agreed upon. Money can become the battle ground on which other issues in the marriage are fought. Issues of power and control can ignite when the imbalance created by differing attitudes about money overwhelm the security of the relationship.
Deeply rooted insecurities may surface when the quality of the marital relationship and the connectedness of the partners are on shaky ground. Behaviors such as excessive saving (which may be experienced as withholding), and excessive spending behaviors (often passive aggression from an angry partner) may be symptomatic of conflicting primary needs by one or both partners. Frequently, by the time a couple seeks counseling, if money is on the short-list of issues, dishonesty and resentment have become woven into the couples style of communication and poor management of finances.