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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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