Step one: Talk about what’s bugging you
Before I got married, my husband and I talked about our financial situation, and we both agreed that I’d support our family so he could focus his full attention on school. I love my job and building a career for myself, so I never thought being the sole provider would be difficult for me. In fact, I thought it would be empowering.
However, I slowly started to feel resentment and discontent within the first year of marriage with regards to money, and I knew I had to address the problem.
Addressing these six issues were essential to helping us overcome the financial tension in our marriage:
Talk About What’s Bugging You
You must be open with your spouse about your feelings — no matter how uncomfortable the conversation might be. If your partner doesn’t know you’re upset, how can you resolve the issue?
I’d lived on my own and supported myself for years before I got married, but paying for one person is very different than paying for two people. I hadn’t really thought about the increase in expenses, so when utilities, groceries, tuition, and entertainment costs started adding up, I felt overwhelmed and annoyed. I didn’t want to spend my money on his tuition.
After a few months of mounting resentment, I finally told my husband how I was truly feeling. First, I had to shift my perspective. After all, it’s not just my money anymore — it’s our money. Second, my husband validated my feelings. While I still pay for most expenses, a change in perspective and a simple conversation about what was bothering me improved my attitude significantly.
Don’t Forget About Fun Money
Sometimes, being an adult is less glamorous than romantic comedies might lead you to believe. For one, it’s not likely that you’ll have a beautiful home with matching furniture right off the bat. Utilities add up, and it’s not logical to buy artwork when you need groceries. I quickly realized that what used to be my “fun money” was now going toward our household’s increased bills.
While staying out of debt is my top priority, I still occasionally spend money on myself. I’ll take myself to dinner or get a pedicure. My husband and I are building a life together, and that requires financial discipline. But deciding together on a reasonable splurge helps us feel in control of our money.
Realize You Have Choices
In most scenarios, there is usually an alternative. Remembering you have choices is incredibly empowering. I had to remember that we chose to live on one income at this point in life. I was the sole provider because that is what I chose.
If need be, my husband could get a part-time job, or he could take a semester off to save up some money, both of which we’ve considered. It may seem like a simple realization, but remembering that there is always another option helps overcome the stress and pressure of being the breadwinner.
Keep the Future in Mind
Nothing is permanent. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and think this reality will last forever. However, the future is yours to shape. My husband is applying for medical school, and one day, he will likely be the primary breadwinner. Our future will look very different in five, 10, and 20 years.
Things may seem overwhelming now, but it’s important to talk with your spouse about your long-term goals, and make sure you’re on the same page to get where you want to be.
Write Out Your Long-Term Goals
On that note, it’s helpful to write out your long-term goals and talk them over with your partner. If you have children, will you both work? Will one parent stay at home while the other is the primary breadwinner?
Right now, living on one income makes finances tight. But, we know where we want to be. And we know that what we are doing now will help us achieve our ultimate goal.
Share Your Goals With Each Other
My husband and I have clearly defined goals and ambitions for our lives. We both want successful careers and a family. Ideally, one day he will be the primary breadwinner. I’d love to work while raising a family but use my income for bigger picture goals, like retirement funds, higher education savings, and travel. We haven’t achieved our financial goals yet, and I don’t know when we will. But I do know that we are on the same page about where we are going.
If you have conflicting ideas about finances and career goals, life and marriage are going to be more difficult than they need to be. Plan together, have open discussions, and be honest with each other. You might be surprised at how far that can go, both in your relationship – and your wallet.