Marriage and Money: Match Made in Heaven or Hell?

Reading Time: 9 mins

Both marriage and money say “I do,”.

Money might not be the root of all evil but mixed with marriage it comes damn close.

The notion that love is all one needs in marriage is romantic, but not based in reality.

In reality, regardless of your wealth status, money plays a central role in marriage.

The proof is in the many studies that list money issues as one of the leading reasons for divorce.

Shocked?, you shouldn’t be, because the union of marriage and money takes place long before you say “I do,”.

Your cake, the dress you pick out, the venue, all link into how much or how little money you have.

And the moment you tie the knot, your marriage and your money forever become a single entity.

When two become one, some aspects of your life will become difficult to manage.

One if not the most tricky areas to manage is marriage and money.

But, don’t despair, there are ways for you to work together to ensure money issues don’t ruin your marriage.

Before that, let’s look at why marriage and money is such a hot topic.

Money, the lurking marriage killer

marriage and money can lead to divorce - section image 1

Money for some, is the fuel they need to stay alive. For others, money doesn’t dictate how happy they are in life.

Which leads to the age old question of money and happiness. Can money buy happiness?

History shows that wiser heads than me have tried and failed to answer. So, I’ll go the diplomatic route of, it depends!

But one thing I know for certain is money doesn’t discriminate. I need money and you need money. Too little and bills go unpaid. Too much, and you lose perspective.

In effect, money is the fuel that pays your bills and keeps the lights on.

Though money might keep the lights on, it’s no friend of your marriage. Money issues have always lingered around a married household waiting to strike.

A hidden debt here, a hidden buy there, a word in anger, and kaboom, it strikes, and down for the count goes your marriage.

With that said, it’s not surprising money is often the leading cause of marital conflict. But why do couples find it so difficult to manage finances in a marriage?

An in-depth study by Ramsey Solutions may shed some light:

Money issues have always lingered around a married household waiting to strike Click To Tweet

Financial problems in marriage: statistics

lack of communication in marriage by ramsey solutions

hidden purchases destroy marriages - ramsey solutions

Money is the number one issue couples argue about.

Minor arguments are part and parcel of marriage. And that couples argue about money a lot, shows how central it is to marriage.

Couples who rated their marriage as “great”, talked about money daily or weekly.

Nothing startling here, good communication plays a huge role in relationship satisfaction. Couples who talk often about the good, the bad and mundane have stronger marriages.

Couples who rated their marriage as “okay” or “in trouble”, neglected talking about money with some avoiding the issue altogether.

The daddy of all marriage troubles is poor communication. Avoiding a sensitive issue won’t make it go away, it will only worsen the problem.

One in three arguments are due to one partner hiding a purchase from the other.

Financial infidelity is a huge no-no in marriage. An assumption that your partner will be okay with a high-ticket buy is asking for trouble.

Moving on, it’s time to look at how to manage finances in a marriage.

Avoiding talks about money won't make the issue go away, it will only worsen the problem Click To Tweet

Is debt crippling your marriage?

marriage money and debt - section image 2

Whether it’s a mortgage, credit card or student loan, most people will start their married life in debt. This is normal, but tension can arise if one partner has a much higher level of debt.

As with any marriage issue, the best way to tackle this is together and with full honesty. For a start, if you’re bringing debt into the marriage, lay it all out.

If your debts are small, your partner most likely won’t mind paying them off together. In fact, if you both have small debts, it makes sense to combine your resources to pay them off sooner.

Being honest also extends to your savings. If you’ve got a sweet nest tucked away somewhere, it’s best to let your partner know. Likewise, and not judging at all, if you’ve got a poor credit history, get it all out in the open.

Can you imagine how your partner will feel if you save up for a deposit and then find you can’t get a mortgage? Now that will cause one or two marriage problems.

Getting back on point, once you pool all your resources, you’ll have a better idea on how to tackle your debt problem. And tackling any stubborn problem starts with a plan which in this case is a budget.

If you’re not good with numbers, use a spreadsheet or smart budgeting software. In my household we use YNAB, famous for its “give every dollar a job”, slogan.

To sum up, debt is very much like glue, always holding you back, keeping you rooted in the past. To build a strong and long-lasting marriage, you need to move forward with positive intent and a plan.

Debt is very much like glue, always holding you back, keeping you rooted in the past Click To Tweet

Money, marriage and your attitude

marriage finances and your attitude - section image 3

Our outlook on life often shapes our attitudes towards money. If you’re a carefree soul, you’ll find spending money a lot easier than someone who’s a natural worrier.

When you’re single, it’s your life, your money, you do what you want. And that’s okay, no one will point fingers or tell you you’re wrong.

However, the day you say “I do” things change. Now, your actions both positive and negative affect your spouse and your marriage.

This doesn’t mean you need to do a 360 and redefine who you are. No, being different is fine, but financial irresponsibility is a cardinal marriage sin.

Couples often do their best to understand each other’s personalities and worldviews. In the same way it’s important to learn about each other’s attitudes towards money.

The sooner you have this conversation the better. Think about your upbringing and life experiences which might have shaped your views.

Once you have a better idea of how you both approach money matters, you are better equipped to create a budget. One that is custom made to fit your attitudes and personal circumstances.

Also, don’t forget to set ground rules. For one, don’t hide purchases from each other. Assuming your partner will be okay with a purchase is a recipe for disaster.

This doesn’t mean, you need to run every sandwich or coffee cup past each other. Instead, agree on a trigger amount, say $250.00, which will prompt a discussion.

Don't hide purchases. Instead, agree on a trigger amount, say $250.00, which will prompt a talk Click To Tweet

Married couples and split finances

how to split finances in marriage - section image 4

Coming on to our next point, which is how to handle your finances. Now, I’m not a financial advisor, but I have worked with couples troubled by money issues.

Here is some basic advice that has helped many couples in the past:

  • Open a joint checking and savings account.
  • Find and list all your outgoings, make sure you cover everything.
  • Agree on how much each of you will contribute towards expenses.
  • Agree on a savings goal, and how much each of you will contribute.

Fund your joint accounts with the salaries paid into your personal accounts. This is the amount you already agreed to contribute towards expenses and savings.

To simplify this process, you can setup a regular payment from your personal to your joint accounts. What’s left in your personal accounts is yours to spend as you see fit.

With this method you keep your financial independence. You also have full control over your spending once you have met your monthly obligations.

In brief, budgets and rules are important but don’t have to be stress inducing. You can make your budget work to suit your attitudes and circumstances.

However, if you’re still struggling to find a solution, it’s best to see a professional financial advisor.

Budgets and rules are an important part of marriage but don't have to be stress inducing Click To Tweet

Financial abuse and power plays

financial abuse and power plays - section image 5

The elephant in the room in any marriage is abuse. Often the line between occasional controlling behavior and abuse is thin. And any form of abuse, be it emotional, physical or financial is unacceptable.

Financial abuse usually starts out as small power plays. A financial power play can occur when one partner has greater access to money.

For instance, one partner works, the other doesn’t, or one earns a lot more than the other. Here, the higher earner considers it his or her right to dictate the spending situation.

If small power plays go unchallenged, this can lead to full-blown financial abuse. This involves controlling the victim’s ability to access and control funds.

If your partner shows the following behaviors without your support, then you need to act:

  • Controls access to your credit cards or bank account
  • Makes important financial decisions without you
  • Puts bills in your name, but doesn’t contribute to them
  • Takes out loans in your name without your knowledge
  • Refuses to contribute to household expenses
  • Stops you from working or controls your work

Even if one partner earns more, there’s no excuse for this controlling behavior.

Remember, marriage is a partnership of equal footing. If one partner assumes a higher stature, then it’s no longer a healthy relationship but a toxic one.

And a toxic relationship only ends one way, that is with a lot of heartache.

To clarify, if one partner makes the financial decisions with the full support of the other, that is fine.

However, never assume your partner has no interest in financial decisions. If you’re unsure, double check, run your decisions past your partner.

This is both common courtesy and will also help strengthen your relationship.

A financial power play occurs when the higher earner dictates the spending situation Click To Tweet

Summary: master financial harmony

Marriage is a melding of hearts, minds, ideologies and trust. There has to be mutual trust between both partners to meet your current and future goals.

You won’t always see eye to eye and that’s fine, but remember, marriage is a fragile union. You’ll find many banana skins placed in your way, waiting to slip you up.

To dodge these banana skins, you need to strengthen your financial harmony. This begins with understanding the value you each place on money. And respecting each other’s opinions and values to decide together.

There’s no doubt that respect and tolerance is a huge part of marriage. So it’s important to realize that respect is more than asking, it’s also respecting the decision itself.

As covered above, rules and guidelines are your friends. Remember, rules aren’t designed to punish you. Instead, they help manage your finances in a way beneficial to your marriage.

All said and done, respect each other and work towards mastering the art of financial harmony. With respect, tolerance and financial harmony, marriage and money needn’t be difficult to manage.

Signing Off!

If you found this post helpful, will you help it spread, by sharing it on Facebook, Twitter or with anyone who would benefit? I’d be very grateful and thank you!

Now it’s over to you.

Which tip in this article did you helpful?, and do you have any special rules to help manage marriage and money?

Let me know in the comments below.


Happy Together is my free book that will better your marriage in 30 minutes or less. This book contains case studies of real marriages, and practical advice you can use today.

The 2018 edition of my 8-part email course, ‘Marriage Matters‘ is now live. This is a free 21 day course for couples who need a more intensive solution. Download the book below to get started.

Mary Holmes – As a former marriage counselor, I’ve helped over 250 couples rebuild their marriage.

Further Reading:

Social Media and Your Relationships: Caution Alert

How to Survive Living in a Sexless Marriage Prison

How Healthy is Your Marriage – Take the marriage quiz to help assess your relationship. Passion Flames Marriage Quiz

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