Money and Marriage: How to Survive Both

Money and marriages are hard.  So hard that this is my third fourth attempt at writing this post. Usually, when I have an idea for a post, things start rolling around in my brain and I can get the basics down pretty quickly.  Three days and 4 attempts later,  here I am still struggling to craft the perfect prose to help you navigate the muddy waters of money and marriage.

 

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A Startling Revelation

To get this post going, I consulted some of my friends.  I wanted to see what was working for them and what wasn’t. I was trying to get a handle on all things money and marriage.  I asked questions, pondered responses and tried to find some commonalities in all of their answers.

All of this questioning and pondering brought me to a disturbing conclusion.  As much as I feel like I have a good marriage,  money plus marriage gives me an icky feeling in my gut.  I hate discussing money matters with my husband.  

This was a pretty striking revelation to me.  My husband and I talk about a lot of things and are generally very open with our feelings about things.  To have struggled through the last few days trying to figure out where this writer’s block was coming from only to realize it comes from deep within me was a bit startling.

So dear reader, we will learn together.  From me, from my friends and from any of you that would like to leave your hard-earned wisdom in the comments section.

Together or Separate?

The first question I asked my friends was “Do you handle money together or separately?”  I was looking for the magic answer, the one that leaves people feeling like they have it all together.  Instead what I got was a mix of answers and systems.

My friend Phyllis just celebrated her 50th wedding anniversary.  Phyllis will know exactly what the right answer to this question is I thought as I sent her a Facebook message asking if she was willing to share some of her insight.  She did have a great answer, but it wasn’t quite what I was expecting.

Instead of giving me a well laid out, concrete plan, Phyllis and her husband shared expenses in different ways over the years.  It all depended on what was going on at the time.  The only constant was there was always a bit of “he” money and a bit of “she” money for each of them to spend how they pleased.

Next, I went to my friend Heather.  After 3 failed marriages, Heather has found the love of her life and has been in a wonderful, stable marriage for the last 8 years.  Someone with some very varied marital experience I thought!  Heather would know what worked and what didn’t.

Heather’s answer was much different than Phyllis’s.  She and her husband are very traditional in their money matters.  They combine everything and work together at deciding where their money goes.  Any purchase over $100 must be discussed beforehand.

This line of questioning was not going where I had hoped.  There was no magic answer here, so I searched on.

What the Experts Say

A quick google search and several hours and articles later and there seemed to be two very important things in all things money and marriage.

Communication, but How?

The need to communicate in a marriage doesn’t come as a surprise to anyone.  We all know communication is a big key in all aspects of a marriage, but communicating about money is hard!  It is obviously something I struggle with and I am sure I am not alone in that.  Just the thought of bringing up money with my husband makes me want to run in my room and hide.

The key question here is HOW to communicate.  I found this article from Family Life and loved how well it covered the how, more than the what.  In the article, the writer has a couple sit down and discuss the issues they have in communicating with each other and uses some great Biblical references to illustrate his point.

This article really got me thinking, why do I want to run and hide instead of talking about money?  It also made me wonder how my husband feels and the things I may inadvertently be doing to cause him stress when it comes to marriage and money.

Money and Marriage Mindset

The other key factor was your mindset about your spouse and your money. In this article from Key Bank the authors really explore the right and wrong mindset to have when it comes to money and marriage.  It covers not blaming one another and not looking down on one another when it comes to money matters.

Good advice for any topic in marriage but doubly true when it comes to money.

Is it Really the Money?

My friend Heather had an interesting point when she was telling me about the ups and downs she had dealt with in her past marriages.  She said “Money issues are never actually about money. They are about differences in mindset and heart issues.”  

Now I think we are getting somewhere.

Heather went on to talk about the difference between abundance mentality and scarcity mentality and the different ways it affects how she and her husband approach money.  This is not the first time I have heard this theory.  Stephen Covey discusses it at length in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”.  The scarcity mentality is one in which you believe there is only so much pie to go around, so if someone else has some pie that is less for you.  The abundance mentality is one in which you believe there is pie enough for everyone and just because someone else has some pie, does not mean you will have less.

I don’t think most people fall all in one camp or the other.  I think it depends on the topic.  There are certainly some things I feel like I fall in the abundance club and others in the scarcity club.

Leave Your Behind in the Past

Your past will effect how you handle money today.  The way your parents handled money, the things you have spent money on in the past and the way you handled money with another partner will all color how you perceive money.

If I have learned anything in researching and writing this article it is to leave your past in the past.  Your spouse is not your parents.  He is not your former partner.  Your spouse is here today because you both want to share your lives and support each other.  Don’t bring past problems into the present.

via GIPHY

The Road Forward

I have learned a lot in the past few days, both from my friends and the countless number of internet articles I have read.  Here are my five big takeaways.

  • It’s time to run through my Life Plan again, and this time, my spouse needs to be more than a head nodding support.
  • I need to reach out to my husband and find out what money means to him.
  • I also need to tell him why talking about money bothers me, and LISTEN when he does the same.
  • We need to put some of our money demons in the past.
  • We need to set a monthly date to talk about money.

I would love to hear your thoughts on money and marriage.  Is there anything I missed?  Anything you would like to add?  Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

14 Comments

  1. Keli

    July 7, 2017 at 7:08 pm

    Awesome article!

    1. Michele Cook

      July 7, 2017 at 7:12 pm

      Thank You Keli!

  2. Patty

    July 7, 2017 at 7:21 pm

    Money is definitely our biggest point of stress in our marriage. Lots of it or not enough… doesn’t matter.
    Communication has been HUGE. We plan for monthly budget meetings. Doesn’t always happen but the months we name every dollar (thanks Dave Ramsey 😉) we feel so much better about it.
    What an awesome post!!

    1. Michele Cook

      July 7, 2017 at 8:33 pm

      Thank you Patty!

      I love Dave Ramsey! We have started and stopped his program about three times in the past 10 years. Some has stuck, some hasn’t. We probably need to work a little more on it!

  3. Karthik

    July 7, 2017 at 7:56 pm

    Awesome article!

  4. Jordan

    July 7, 2017 at 7:59 pm

    My hubs and I keep our money separate except for some incidental items. We each have things that we cover and then have to discuss things that come up. Each even has a retirement plan for themselves. That said, we do share our worries, successes, and details. I like Dave Ramsey’s advice on how couples plan money together, along with the budgeting of “blow money” for each and the personality issues you mentioned. If there is debt or money troubles then I’d think he’d say seek help and open communication but to budget once a month and don’t talk about it otherwise so it doesn’t ruin your relationship.

    1. Michele Cook

      July 7, 2017 at 8:36 pm

      We work very similarly. We do need to work on the monthly money talks though!

      1. Jordan

        July 7, 2017 at 8:42 pm

        I liked that he said that, and I could tell others in the Financial Peace University class liked it a lot too. That way the negative only had to be hashed once a month 😬

  5. Amy @ LifeZemplified

    July 10, 2017 at 1:11 pm

    Personal finance is truly personal. What works for some won’t work for others. With that being said, I’ll share one thing that really helped. We focused on not just looking at today, or next month, or even a few months after that, but to look years ahead. Where did we want to be financially – debt-free, amount $X saved, financially independent, retired early, etc.? What were our long term goals? Travel, self-employment, pay for kids college, etc. Then we figured out what it was going to take to get there. We got on the same page with each other and are working towards the same agreed upon goals. All financials are combined for us. Best of luck!

    1. Michele Cook

      July 11, 2017 at 4:59 pm

      Amy that’s such good advice. I really hope to get that type of set up with my husband.

      Thanks for the comment!

  6. Kay

    July 10, 2017 at 3:48 pm

    Such an important issue to think through! I’m thankful my husband and I have always been pretty much in agreement when it comes to money, because I’ve seen the struggle it can cause. Differing personalities and goals can really affect how couples view the use of money. I really do believe that communication is the key. And it is never too late to start!

    1. Michele Cook

      July 11, 2017 at 5:01 pm

      Kay you are so right, it’s never too late to start. I hope we all remember that when we are grumbling at our significant other 😉

  7. Terri

    July 11, 2017 at 2:57 pm

    My husband and I have been married over 40 years. Our biggest fights were about money. We solved it, for the most part, by each of us having our own checking account, and being responsible for certain bills. It seems to work for us.

    1. Michele Cook

      July 11, 2017 at 4:56 pm

      Thanks for the perspective Terri! I think this is an approach that works for lots of couples.
      Congratulations on 40 years of marriage!

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