I heard on a podcast recently a statement I had to take into my heart to evaluate a bit more.
If you are not fighting about money (as a married couple), you aren’t talking about money.
Money fights are reality, apparently.
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Marriage & Money
You have probably all heard the statistics reporting that approximately 50% of all marriages end in divorce — and that the most common factor/reason stated for ending a marriage is finances.
Indeed, the way a couple deals with money is often a very good indication of the way they deal with one another in a myriad of ways. The communication that exists (or doesn’t exist) regarding money lends itself to general conversations about goals, dreams, needs, and wants important to the health and viability of marriage.
So, it goes without saying that having open and honest dealings with finances is extremely important in any marriage.
Our Marriage & Money
Back to the podcast quote.
I had to take it in and evaluate it in my heart because I didn’t agree. My husband and I have been married for almost 17 years. We have never had a money fight. Not one.
Could it be because we aren’t talking about it?
Nope. We talk about money all the time. My husband will bring up the long term business and retirement related expenses regularly. I bring the household purchases and needs up for discussion on a regular basis, too.
Retirement? On the same page.
Savings? On the same page. (finally! without a fight)
Spending? On the same page.
How did we do it, then? How did we become the couple who doesn’t have money fights?
I can’t be quite sure because I only have one couple’s worth of observations. Us. But I have two ideas which come to mind each time I think about our finances.
Our Best Marriage & Money Advice
The best bit of advice I would give to a newly married/engaged couple is to commit to a spending cap. A spending cap is a specific amount of money you can spend without asking one another. It doesn’t matter what the dollar amount is, the promise you make to one another is what matters.
Once you determine together you will not spend over that set amount without a conversation and an “okay” from the other person, you will probably find that your communication about other things really opens up, too.
This sort of an agreement comes with lots of upsides.
A spending cap rule:
The most basic thing a marriage needs is trust — and trust regarding money is no different than regarding fidelity.
Knowing your partner has committed, and will stay committed, to what you have entrusted him/her with is the starting point of a healthy marriage, whether it be money or your heart.
If you pledged not only your hearts to one another, but also “all your wordly goods,” you have laid a lot on the line. Setting a spending cap on your purchases when you are away from your mate, helps build trust in a small way that will pay dividends later.
Forms a firm financial foundation.
When you are assured your partner is spending within the limits of your agreed spending cap, you know you are staying within the limits of your budget.
The money fights that tend to break marriages up are usually not related to having too much money, but having too little money. Spending over the limit and splurges are budget busters that can lead to marriage problems.
This is not to suggest you can’t splurge every once in a while, rather that you communicate your desires to spend over the spending cap to insure both of you are on board with each purchase. You are both in the same boat, building your financial future together.
Talking about each purchase over the spending cap leads to more conversations about all manner of things. It opens up opportunities to work through conflicts in your marriage in a positive way. When the item you want to purchase is over the cap, a conversation is necessary.
Sometimes you may not agree with your spouse about spending over the cap. This can lead to a good back and forth discussion of the merits or disadvantages of a purchase, while still having a safety net of assurance that your spouse is not going to just go out and purchase an item without thinking of you and the commitment you made (this can lead to another rule we have around here, “If it is a no for one of us, it is a no for both of us.”).
Helps you discover needs, wants, desires, and goals
Discussing even the smallest purchase reveals to our spouses what we value and what we dream of owning. It also helps us discover what we don’t find valuable or what we don’t understand about one another.
You may see value in purchasing a particular item your spouse would never buy. That doesn’t mean you should never have it, but it does create an opportunity for them to see it through your eyes and for you to see it through theirs.
These conversations are also great for getting to know what your spouse would really like to have (something handy for birthdays and holidays).
Develops a teamwork relationship in regards to money
This is almost an automatic by-product of positive communication about money with your spouse. Setting a limit or a cap on spending creates a “you have my back, I have yours,” kind of understanding. You know you would not want your spouse to violate your agreement, so you honor it as well.
Because of the trust and communication you create through your spending pact, you take all the questions and problems about money to one another to solve together. This is not a give and take kind of relationship, where you are on opposite sides of the table, negotiating a kind of peace. Rather it is a couple sitting down together to face the problems they have head on.
As I stated before, the limit of your spending cap does not matter as long as it fits with your budget and your marriage. Each couple will have a different limit, for different reasons.
We came up with our spending cap in the early days of our marriage and it has never changed. Our spending cap is $20. We find we discuss almost all of our purchases, even the ones that fit under our spending cap.
Marriage & Your Money
How is the health of your marriage when it comes to finances?
If it is on shaky ground, you might consider sitting down with your spouse and discussing or creating a spending cap. Even if your finances and your marriage is good, you still might think about discussing a spending cap with your partner to insure bumps in the road don’t throw you off course.