The objective of this article is to present a discussion of how money affects relationships.
By: Susan Adams M.Ed.
Summary: Money is seen as power by many people–he (or she) who has it has the power and the partner without is is out of power. Too much money or too little produces a negative effect on many relationships. People marry with different priorities and expectations about money. These need to be negotiated along with the other issues in the marriage in order to avoid power struggles. This article seeks to explain how money matters can become problematic and makes some suggestions for keeping things more equal between couples.
Understanding and realistic expectations have strong effects on family spending. Each marriage partner brings to the marriage certain values about spending money. Sometimes these are generalized values, such as putting money away for children’s education versus traveling or buying expensive clothes. Sometimes, the outlooks are more specific like it is better to buy four pairs of fifty cent socks that can be easily thrown away than to buy one pair of two dollar socks which may last longer.
These culturally conditioned values are also modified by the individual personalities of the partners.
Some marriage partners compulsively gamble and others worry compulsively about having enough money. Some people get psychological satisfaction out of spending while others get it through saving. For there to be contentment in the marriage, there needs to be a great deal of understanding about what money means to each partner. This comes from having conversations with your partner about the meaning of money–to the partner and in the family from whence the partner came.
After arriving, hopefully, at some understanding about how your partner sees money, it is important to negotiate how the family will spend. This is where the idea of “keeping the deal” comes in to play. Marriages that work well are marriages in which people do make agreements and keep them. So, once the money deals are made–to buy a car or take a trip; to put money away for children’s education or retirement, these agreements need to be kept unless they are re-negotiated.
Realistic expectations are important as well. Many bankruptcies are brought about by people who buy too much on credit. Sometimes this is a partner decision and sometimes it is the behavior of one partner who spends out of control.
Sometimes the conflict in a marriage is fought over money. One partner stays gone and working. The other partner, lonely and feeling overwhelmed, spends the money as a replacement for the emotional support of the partner. This can escalate into divorce. The fight can also occur over alcohol and drugs with the money being the compensation for the non-using partner.
Sometimes one spouse seeks power by wanting all the money and doling out bits of it to the other partner. This makes the partner without their own money, dependent and usually angry. I recommend to couples that each partner have a certain amount of money monthly for which they don’t have to account. The amount is based on the budget.
When both couples work, everyone has some money of their own. However, I don’t believe that a marriage can be solidified unless money is also shared in some form of joint account as well as whatever is separate.
Sometimes a partner makes too much money. This may result in a loss of goals and ambition and the idea that the individual who made the money or the couple can live above the rules of society. Sometimes, without the goals for which to strive, alcohol and/or drugs become a problem, as bordom sets in and there is no longer any perceived reason to get out of bed in the morning.
One of the most needed areas of realistic expectations for most young marriages is the realization that spending patterns change as the marriage goes along. The money needs are different right after the wedding for many couples when they are accumulating things. This changes when the children go off to school. Most couples recognize that the greatest expense for families occurs when they go off to college. Making use of that information and planning for that event may make the difference between success and failure for many marriages.
Issues of money can make or break marriages. It is therefore important to keep the money equalized and the spending negotiated reasonably.