We have been living in a financially insecure economy for over seven years. Some of the stress from that has seeped into our relationships, which has led to a rise in divorces. Seventy percent of married couples fight about money, which is more than they fight about household chores, kids, and who left the toilet seat up.
Ironically, for some couples, these fights are actually a great chance to address some larger issues that they are facing. Here are eight actions you can take to save your marriage from becoming another statistic.
1. Accept You Have an Issue
Acknowledge with your partner that there is tension in your marriage over money and make a date to sit down together to discuss it. Make sure you have total privacy — don't involve your kids, do turn your cell phones off, and don't have any other distractions.
2. Get Organized
Each of you should make a list of your concerns, pet peeves, and things you've always wanted to say, but were afraid to bring up. If you think your partner makes poor money decisions, or has unreasonable expectations for how you should spend money, this is the time to discuss it.
3. Be Vulnerable
Nothing builds emotional intimacy better than each admitting all your fears and what conflicts cause both of you to struggle.
4. Know What You Want
Once you have both shared your feelings and observations, make a list of goals. They can be things like building a savings account together, agreeing to discuss all purchases over $200, or even taking a temporary position until you find a great full-time job.
5. Have Fun
You married each other because you liked each other. Make a list of things to do together without the kids that are more fun than expensive. Focusing on each other is the best investment in your relationship.
6. Keep Three Accounts: “Mine,” “Yours,” and “Ours”
Decide together how much should be contributed to each account. If your salaries are fairly predictable, you can create a budget and keep your commitments to each other. This will help build respect and trust between you.
7. Stay on Top of the Problem
If you are struggling to pay off a debt, have a weekly update so you can stay accountable. This chat will keep you on track with your payments and ensure that important expenses, like your life insurance premium, don't get ignored.
8. Build an Emergency Fund
This fund will keep the panic away when unexpected expenses arise — the dishwasher goes on the fritz, the transmission in your car needs to be replaced, your dog needs surgery, and more. Make space for this in your budget. Even if it's a small contribution, the consistency of doing so builds self-trust and trust in your accomplishments as a couple.
At the end of the day, you can manage the money issues in your relationship; it just requires you to be frank (without pointing fingers), committed, and mature. You chose to marry your partner for a whole range of reasons and sometimes the road gets challenging. But never fear — sharing the difficulty will make your relationship stronger.
Pegi Burdick is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.
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