April is tax time and, as a result, money becomes the topic of conversation in households across America at that time. If you and your partner are in sync financially the level of stress in your relationship is probably low during tax season. Unfortunately, finances are one of the two major problem areas affecting a marriage. The other is intimacy. This article addresses how the ideas you each have about money influence your own financial behavior as well as the expectations you have regarding your partner’s behavior.
In their book Your Money or Your Life, Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin state “Money is life energy”. You expend energy by working and receive money in return. You then use this money to buy things you need or want. Money is neither good nor bad. It is merely the currency you use to get desired goods and services. So why then is it the source of so much tension and distress in marriage?
One of the main reasons this occurs is that instead of looking at money as a means to an end, it gets imbued with a sense of power; or it’s used as a way to define us. Many of life’s decisions are determined by how much you have. It determines the house you live in, the car you drive, the clothes you wear and how you spend your free time. It can be used as a way to measure your self worth and as a way to define your priorities. The problems in marriage come when you and your spouse have different definitions.
Disagreements involving money arise from multiple sources:
- How much money does the household have?
- Which spouse makes more?
- How is the money managed?
- Who makes purchasing decisions?
- Do you save or spend?
- How is debt handled?
- What kind of lifestyle do you want?
How you address these questions will determine how finances impact your marital happiness. The more disagreement you have on these issues, the less harmonious your relationship will be.
Money and finances are always seen from a very personal perspective. What you do with your money is often viewed as an extension of yourself. It is a barometer of your values, desires and priorities. What you have is viewed as a reflection of who you are, especially in this society. Thus, any discussion you and your partner have about your financial circumstances is emotionally laden.
When you both open the door to that part of yourselves, you lay yourself bare. Is it any wonder that money is a source of tension in a marriage? You each want your partner to see things your way so you don’t have to delve too deeply into your reasons for wanting it that way. Having to explain or defend your financial decisions leaves you open to the judgment of others. If that person is your wife it can create defensiveness and stress in the relationship.