Posted on January 14, 2014 by Andrea Fisher
In the U.S., most of us grow up envisioning a starry-eyed future that includes a white picket fence, beautiful house, great car in the driveway and that perfect partner beaming an even more perfect smile. Unfortunately, reality isn’t quite so simple. In fact, you could call the U.S. a land of divorce—where 50 percent of the marriages are doomed.
Reality is that the white picket fence scenario may not be in the cards. The job market is still bleak and people are still hurting from the economic recession that began in 2008. In fact, according to CNBC, new job growth is the weakest it has been in the past three years. And according to a 2011 study by the University of Missouri, low-income couples who receive government assistance (like Medicaid and Food Stamps) are less happy and committed in their marriages.
Of all the various reasons that lead to failed marriages (abuse, infidelity, distrust, addictions, etc.), money continues to be the biggest one; and it makes sense. Finances can easily draw two people apart— creating a variety of marriage financial disputes that snowball out of control. For instance:
- Do you have a mutual bank account balance that continues to be less than expected?
- Does one person spend more than the other?
- Are there different spending priorities?
- Are there large, sporadic purchases?
Answering “yes” doesn’t mean a divorce is in the horizon; you can help defeat the 50/50 divorce statistic with these three steps:
Step 1: Assess the Financial Situation
Before entering a financial boxing match, know the root of the issue. One thing to always keep in mind is that marriage is a partnership— where you have to work together. The moment you work against each other, things begin to crumble. Solidarity must always be in the back of your mind.
Step 2: Communicate Openly (Without Playing the Name Game)
Pointing the finger or single-handedly blaming the other for financial disagreements won’t solve anything. Communication is vital, but it has to be constructive—so watch what words you use. Avoid targeting the other person as the source of the issue. Try replacing “you…” to an “I feel that…” conversation starter. No one likes to be attacked, so be careful with your word choices. Open communication centers around respect for one another—it’s a two-way street.
Step 3: Create an Agreeable Budget
We all wish money grew on trees; unfortunately, it doesn’t…so it’s time to make an old-fashioned household budget. It’ll help you and your partner create a financial plan together. Start by creating a spreadsheet with two columns: the 30th, and the 15th. Now view your billing due dates and add them to the appropriate column. Paying your necessary bills (mortgage, utilities, car and credit card payments, etc.) is the one priority. After that, you can assign a specific amount for savings or personal spending.
Not only will this help you keep your money in order together, but it’ll help you see how much money may have been previously wasted. A monthly budget is an eye-opener that will keep both parties on track. It’s a journey that can only be ventured together.
Money is said to be at the root of all evil; plenty of it (or the lack thereof) isn’t the basis of a successful relationship. If you’ve forgotten what it’s like to work together— to communicate and build a solid foundation of mutual trust and respect, the time to start is now. Don’t let your purse strings do all the talking.