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Money Problems and Solutions

One of the most contentious issues that couples fight about is money. Couples that have different values about how money should be spent have the most problematic issues to deal with. When one of you is a spender, and the other a saver, your values will clash. You will have to come to some agreements and some compromises if the relationship is going to have peace.

The two most important issues to resolve before you get married is who is going to create the family income, and how will you divide the household tasks. The concept of two family incomes is new. Two generations ago, the husband went to work and the wife stayed at home and took care of the children and the house. Mum did all the housework, and dad took care of the outside of the home. Today it is entirely different. To financially survive, the majority of couples need two incomes to produce enough money for the family to survive. This means if both work outside the home, then when they are at home, both should be willing to do half the household work.

Yet, in too many marriages I see in therapy, the female not only works 40+ hours a week at her career, but she also does most of the work when she gets home. Most males don’t justify this; they just take advantage of the female’s nature to nurture. Once in therapy, I have not witnessed a male who does not philosophically agree that if both people work outside the home, then both should divide the workload equally when home. In my experience most couples lack the follow through to keep these new agreements. This is where therapy can really assist a couple. The therapist is witness to the agreements you reach in therapy. Being non-judgmental, and not taking sides, he or she can be neutral which is essential for the couple to feel safe and share their issues with a therapist. The therapist can motivate both to follow through. It is human nature to do better when others are observing, and this is one reason therapy can be so effective in changing human behaviors.

When both parties in the marriage have careers, I recommend those couples divide their money into three sections, ‘his’, ‘hers’ and ‘ours’. Once you know how much money each is making, and once you are clear on household spending, then the ‘his’ and ‘hers’ is easy to decide. But if one partner makes substantially more money than the other, it might work best if the couple can decide upon a percentage of their individual incomes they put into ‘our’ account. You will have to spend time coming to agreements about what is included in ‘our’ account. Typically such things as household expenses, family savings, family vacations make up ‘our’ account. Each couple will need to negotiate what is ‘his’ and ‘hers’. At times you will have to compromise if there is no movement. When you compromise, it is always helpful to ask yourself the rhetorical question, “do I want to be right, or do I want to live in peace and harmony with my partner?”

If you are lucky enough to survive on one salary, then sharing your money is a necessity in a family. A mother’s work is priceless. No income will adequately recognize or justify what she does. If you can afford to have the mother or the father of your children stay at home with the children, then you are very blessed. Sharing your income with your partner should not be a problem. But if it is, you might want to seek some professional help to reconcile your negative feelings, because the bitterness about “how she spends my money” can eat you alive. If you have these feelings, settle agreements with your partner. Both of you will have to make some compromises. Once you have established agreements, write them down, sign and date them. If you have grievances, go back to your written and signed agreements. Ask for clarification if something is not being followed that had been agreed to.

The last thing I wish to say about money is that everyone needs his and her own small safety net. This is actually more than a safety net; it is the need for personal privacy. We all need to feel some independence in a committed relationship. This affords both to experience dignity. Each couple will have to find their comfort level about this issue. Secrecy can destroy marriages, and everyone needs some privacy within their marriage.

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