Over the centuries, many have said that money is the root of all evil. Whether or not we agree with the sentiment, the pervasive influence of currency can be felt in many key areas of life, including work, health, social activities – and failed marriages.
Financial issues are among the top three most common causes for divorce today, but it may not be immediately apparent what exactly is happening. What is it about money that causes so much marital disruption – and how can potential issues be avoided?
With over three-quarters of the British population reportedly experiencing money-related stress (source: Metro/Toluna), it’s hardly surprising that many of us also find that it can cause tension in our relationships. There are a number of different forms this pressure can take – let’s take a look at some of the most frequent.
4 ways in which money plays a role in failed marriages.
1. Different financial value systems
Many of us have different outlooks on money, and often this can be a major source of friction in a marriage. A person who likes to save their money and only spend when absolutely necessary might be made to feel unhappy if their spouse views the same money as an abundant resource, and is more frivolous in their spending.
Likewise, the opposite is also true – a person who likes to spend on luxury non-essentials might feel frustrated with restrictions imposed by a partner who values frugality.
Of course, there is no “right” or “wrong” outlook – a sensible case can be made equally for both saving and spending, and a healthy financial plan often involves a balance of the two. However, many of us do have an innate preference, and when this is routinely challenged by a spouse, over time we can become defensive, upset, or even resentful.
For some people, the perfect happy family life is as much about having a wonderful house, a beautiful car, and so on, as it is about enjoying time with their partner and children – but if only one of the people in a marriage values these ideals they can result in disharmony and a resentment of spending habits.
Money is a deeply personal subject for many people, and their attitude towards finances may originate from the circumstances in which they grew up or their life experiences gathered to this point – and contradicting somebody’s view of the value of money can seem like a very personal judgment.
For many couples, it can make sense to identify early how each partner feels about money and ultimately plan a lifestyle that both find fulfilling, with clearly defined priorities and boundaries for a minimum of friction.
2. Lack of funds
We all know that financial hardships can lead to interpersonal tension, and it’s perhaps no great surprise to find that there seems to be a correlation between recession years and divorce rates.
Especially where children are involved, monetary struggles have the potential to cause great pressure in a marriage. There might be resentment directed at a partner who is unemployed, difficulties with self-esteem, mental health issues such as depression, or a number of other negative emotions motivated by worry – and if the lack of funds might be a direct result of irresponsible behavior by one person a marriage can be put under significant strain.
Periods of financial difficulty can also lead to mounting debts, the long-term repayment of which can prove to be a source of ongoing tension in a relationship (especially if one partner hasn’t adjusted their spending habits to allow for a challenging fiscal situation).
Of course, there often isn’t a magic wand to wave that can improve a lack of household income – but a general attitude of good financial planning and the sensible allocation of emergency savings during more solvent periods can go some way to easing the tension when the chips are down.
3. Lack of communication
Many of us aren’t good at opening up when we are concerned about something, and money is no exception. Aside from psychological and emotional relief, there are also practical and pragmatic reasons for sharing the burden of unmet bills and debts with a spouse, and letting them know about any financial difficulties; withheld information can cause monetary problems to snowball.
Many debts can be overcome with a careful strategy and diligent repayments, but if a spouse is unaware of a problem they may continue to spend money as normal. Marriages in which both partners are able to communicate openly about their stresses and worries are often able to tackle financial difficulties with much greater efficiency than those with less transparency.
Even if finances are going well, many couples find that good communication is still key to establishing strategies, boundaries and shared goals; often, resentment over a partner’s spending habits is as much a failure to discuss priorities and expectations as a matter of one party being “wrong”.
4. Money is a fact of life
Taking a long-term view, many things in life come and go. We move from house to house, change jobs, take up new hobbies, meet new people, lose contact with others, and so on.
However, for the vast majority of people, money never really stops being a concern. For most of us, keeping ourselves financially stable is essentially a lifelong act of maintenance – and to set oneself up well in later life can require careful planning and dedicated effort.
Many married couples find it tempting to sweep financial problems under the proverbial rug, but they rarely go away when left unaddressed; those who make an early habit of speaking openly about their finances, goals, ideals, and values are much more likely to have this unavoidable part of modern life under control and be able to go the distance as a strong team.
Money is one of the leading causes of divorce – this is inescapably true. However, sound financial planning and good communication can mean that it can also be a sturdy foundation on which to build a stable and abiding marriage that is able to withstand life’s inevitable ups and downs.
Marriages can be costly, and so can failed marriages By taking the time to establish a joint understanding of values, a married couple may still be able to work together on their objectives and ride the waves of fiscal fortune through thick and thin.
This post was contributed by Girlings Solicitors in Canterbury, Herne Bay and Ashford. With nearly 140 years of experience providing personal, business and not-for-profit legal services, Girlings is one of the largest and oldest law firms in Kent. www.girlings.com/solicitors-canterbury