Marriage isn’t always easy. Making good financial decisions, like getting a mortgage, as a couple has its challenges, too. Put those two together and it could be a recipe for disaster. According to popular TV Psychologist Dr. Phil McGraw, money is the number-one cause for divorce in the U.S. And according to a recent survey released by SunTrust Bank, 35% of respondents were experiencing marital stress due to money difficulties.
Two of my longtime friends have been married for three years and say that they’ve faced their fair share of marital debates over money. She attributes these debates to their contrasting family values and that they spent so little time talking about finances prior to their wedding day. Since money touches every aspect of our life, it’s impossible not to face our money issues head-on. Yet some couples not only avoid discussing them, but they also hide spending and financial details from each other. This no-no leads me to seven do’s and don’ts that may be helpful for couples experiencing financial woes.
Don’t Dwell on the Past
If there are underlying sentiments of blame and anger, they need to be resolved as soon as possible. If these feelings aren’t handled, it may be impossible to work together without resentment. Both parties must accept responsibility for their role in the marital difficulties. Additionally, you have to accept past mistakes that your spouse may have made without repeatedly bringing them up.
Rather than verbally shut down, couples should communicate true feelings to each other. Communicating feelings of anxiety or pressure allows your partner to offer the support, comfort and hope needed to move forward and can help significantly in coping. Reaffirm your commitment to each other despite the challenges you’re facing and stay focused on the current priorities.
Don’t Avoid Hard Money Talks
It’s imperative to put all of your cards on the table when it comes to money. It’s productive and fair to share all of your outstanding loans, debts and financial obligations so that your spouse has an accurate picture to create a family budget. Likewise, be honest about your assets and sources of income that should be considered. Don’t hide money!
Things can get difficult when it comes to disclosing bad habits to a spouse, like gambling or compulsive spending. But it has to be done in order to create trust and solutions. Sharing well-kept secrets may actually bring you closer together because your mate will recognize your vulnerability.
Do Align Your Values
It’s imperative to have a conversation to explain where each other’s views on money and spending originated. It’s ideal to have this discussion prior to getting married, but it’s never too late. It may help to share information about how your parents’ and family’s money habits impacted you.
Understanding each other’s money mindset will also help you understand each other’s financial values. Sharing this can be a helpful starting point to build your joint values so that your budget and spending reflect them. Establishing your top values as a couple will require some give and take, but are well worth the end goal — to build wealth and assets together for the future.
Do Stick to the Shared Budget
Once you’ve compiled your income and bills, create a budget on which you can both agree. According to a 2013 Gallup poll, only 32% of people actively use a budget. But this step will be the key to your financial success. More important than any other point on this list, commit to sticking to the budget. It’s a sincere way to honor your spouse and marriage.
If you’ve worked together to improve your financial health and strenghten your marriage, don’t blow everything with frivolous spending or selfish behavior. Realize your financial situation can’t improve if there’s a hole or two in your budget. Realistically, neither of you are going to do everything right, but your efforts to improve will show. And your participation will help restore your spouse’s confidence and happiness.
Don’t Act Single in Your Marriage
I know several married couples who come across as if they were single. I realize it’s healthy when married people can enjoy a little independence, but the reality is, a “we” mentality should replace your “me” mentality. It’s crucial to consider your spouse’s feelings and opinions when making important financial decisions.
Respect, appreciate and admire your spouse and the relationship that you’ve built. Your priorities, spending and actions should all align with your “we” mentality. Don’t put money, material things or other people before your mate. For example, faithfully spending every Friday night at the bar with your buddies may not be the best use of your finances and time.
Don’t Share Your Finances with Others
It’s a common mistake to confide in your siblings, parents and others about your marital finances before confiding in your spouse. It could make your partner feel betrayed or embarrassed when you disclose financials to friends and family. This private information includes: salaries, debts, legal problems and investments.
Sharing info could open a can of worms if other people start expecting things from you if they assume you have enough money to foot lunch bills. It also may draw judgments, gossip and unwanted pity from the people around you. Once you’ve put this private information out, you can’t take it back. And most people won’t forget personal details like these. Sharing your marital finances can also make it tough for family and friends to remain neutral and on the sidelines — where they belong.
Do Consider Financial Counseling
Financial turmoil can cause a huge breach of trust that can destroy both your marriage and finances. If you’re dealing with financial infidelity, then a marriage counselor may be able to help get you back on track. If you can’t get on the same page about money, a reputable financial advisor may be an effective mediator.
These professionals may be able to provide resources and solutions for deeper-seated problems, like addiction or mental illness. Above all, it’s important to have an open mind and heart in order to have productive individual or joint counseling sessions.
If you’ve never set aside time to have financial discussions, start today! The key is to be an empathetic listener and hear your spouse’s side. More talking and strategizing will help reduce financial stress and bring you closer together. It also will foster an environment that is hopeful and positive. There’s no such thing as a perfect marriage, but these seven tips can help you work together to achieve harmony and resolution. If you would like to add your personal lessons, please share them in the comments section below. If you and your spouse have decided to invest in a mortgage, contact a Home Loan Expert today!
If so, subscribe now for tips on home, money, and life delivered straight to your inbox.