from The Couple's Guide to Love & Money
The Main Reasons Couples Fight About Money
Here are the main reasons why couples fight about money. When you read
each one rate, from one to five, how much each reason contributes to
your arguments or negative feelings about money in your relationship.
1) How to Spend Money
Anne announced, "I have to have a new car with airbags -- thatís
my bottom line. I donít want to be stranded and I donít want to be
hurt in an accident."
Tom looked at Anne with a concerned expression. "I understand that,
but we can get a nice, solid used car thatíll work fine. Youíre
talking about safety. Hanging onto that extra $10,000 will keep us a lot
more secure than airbags. Itíll help me expand my business, and we
need some money for a cushion. People have been driving cars without
airbags for almost 100 years. Thatís really not a priority."
"Security" meant two different things to Tom and Anne. For
Anne, physical protection was important. Tom saw money itself as a form
of security. Both were using money to protect against their worst fears,
fears that they had learned from past experiences and the experiences of
friends and family.
You no doubt have your own "bottom lines" about how money
should be used and spent. You also have ideas about the kind of
lifestyle you should have, and ideas about how decisions should be made
in your family. Every couple has disagreements about these arguments.
You can learn how to settle these disagreements without damaging your
How big are the problems caused by disagreements over "How to Spend
Money" (circle a number below)?
2)Where money should come from.
"It's just temporary," Kim pleaded. "We can move in with
my parents until we can get on our feet. It'll give us a chance to save
some money and we'll have the whole upstairs to ourselves."
Fred was tired of their tiny apartment too. But he wasn't ready to move.
"I know your parents mean well. But we're adults. We have to stand
on our own feet. I couldn't respect myself -- I'm not a moocher."
Fred had always heard "there's no free ride," and he knew that
living with Kim's parents would have many costs. They'd lose privacy,
he'd feel embarrassed about not completely supporting his family, and he
worried about being a burden. Kim felt that her parents should help her
out when she needed it, and, by everyone sacrificing a little, she and
Fred could have a better future.
There are a few different ways that people can disagree about where
money should come from. Kim and Fred had a different philosophy about
accepting support from parents. Other couples might disagree about which
of them should earn most of the money. There may be disagreements about
accepting other kinds of financial support, such as government
Now consider how much your partner and you differ about where your money
should come from. How much of a problem has this difference been?
3) Security vs. Risk
Pedro had worked as an attorney for the County for five years. He got a
small raise each year, vacation and sick time, health benefits, and a
retirement plan. But he was becoming restless. His future was limited,
he was tired of the politics, and he felt he could do better on his own.
His wife, Maria, was nervous about the change. If Pedro opened his own
practice, it would mean long hours and lower pay for a few years. There
was the potential for more money in the future, but the baby was due in
two months. This just wasn't the right time to take a risk.
A lot of life's most important decisions involve weighing risks. Should
I stay home tonight or go to the party and try to meet new people?
Should I quit my day job and pursue my dreams? Should I keep my money in
the bank or invest in real estate? Should I get more education or work
with what I have?
If you and your partner have a different tolerance for risk, you can
expect some disagreements. If you take risks that your partner is
uncomfortable with, and things don't work out, it may be hard for your
partner not to blame you and feel resentful.
Do you disagree with your partner about how much risk you're willing to
take with money? How much of a problem is this?
4) Meaning and Importance of Career
Sally had worked as a real estate agent since she and Tom were married,
ten years ago. She made a good living at this, but she couldnít see
herself doing it the rest of her life. She cautiously brought up the
"Tom, how would you feel if I did another kind of work? Iíve
always wanted to do something to help kids. Like teaching or social
Tom felt stuck. He really wanted Sally to be happy, but he also knew the
bills had to be paid. "Weíve got our own kids to look after. This
just isnít the time to switch careers."
Career satisfaction is important. If you like your work, you feel
happier about your life, and your good feelings can enrich your family
relationships. But what if job satisfaction places a burden on your
family, by requiring them to make financial sacrifices, or by taking too
much of your time and emotional energy?
Have you felt frustration or conflict about your partnerís career and
job choices? Do you feel that your partner doesnít understand how
important your work is to you? Or has your partner mentioned these kinds
of frustration to you? How big a problem have these things been?
5) Family Roles
It had been a long, tiring day at work. Ralph came home to chaos. The
baby was screaming and the house was a mess. He slumped into his
favorite chair and turned on the TV. He turned up the volume to drown
out the noise around him. Anita was exhausted and infurited. She stood
in front of the TV screen and shouted, "I could use a little help
"I donít know what youíre doing all day, but the place is a
mess. Iíve already done my work -- taking care of the house is your
When you were growing up, you got certain ideas about what men and women
did, and how responsibilities were divided up. It takes a conscious
effort to change these ideas. We all have certain ideas about what
weíre responsible for and what our partner is responsible for. You may
feel that these assumptions are so obvious that you donít even need to
talk about them. Hereís a few ideas about roles and responsibilities
that Iíve found in my clients:
Iím a man, so I shouldnít do housework.
Iím a woman, so I shouldnít concern myself with money.
I bring home more money, so I should have less responsibility
Iím better looking than my partner, so I should be pampered.
Iím more educated, so I should make the important decisions.
The list could go on and on. Some assumptions might seem reasonable to
you, others might seem ridiculous. The trouble comes when you and your
partner disagree about roles, or when being too rigid about roles keeps
you from trying better arrangements.
To what extent do you feel that ideas about roles have caused problems
for you and your partner?
At the root of almost all marital and relationship disagreements are
problems with trust. When you feel that your partner has your best
interests at heart, and you feel that they are able to make good
decisions, deciding things together is a much more comfortable process.
If you feel that your partner is looking out for themselves, at your
expense, or you feel that your partner makes bad decisions, then
disagreements are bound to become a struggle.
A lack of trust may be based on experiences with your partner. For
instance, your partner has spent the grocery money at bars, or your
partner has invested in one harebrained scheme after another. But a lack
of trust can also be your own issue, based on experiences that have
nothing to do with your relationship now.
How much have problems with trust caused problems in your relationship?
New Harbinger ē Relationships
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