Oran A. Hall, Contributor
There are many reasons why the ownership and management of money are a major wedge between spouses. Some spouses believe that separateness of individuals within the unity of marriage means there is no shared ownership of assets, particularly money.
Sometimes attitudes such as both spouses being big spenders and neither accepting there is anything wrong with their spending but seeing something wrong with the other spouse's spending create problems.
There are other factors as well, such as one spouse being a miser and the other being a spendthrift.
Where the miser is dominant and a control freak, the other feels despised and deprived. If the spendthrift is dominant, bills run up without the other partner knowing.
Another example is one spouse being a wise spender and the other a miser or spendthrift.
Additionally, if both have what they need, status, for example, but acquiring money becomes more important than the relationship, there are likely to be problems. But lack of trust is at the heart of tension over the handling of money in many marriages.
There are several ways to reduce the risk of money matters ruining relationships. Value your spouse more than money. Make informed decisions together, that is, decisions informed by God's wisdom, informed by your spouse's wisdom, and informed by the wisdom of those with long experience and special expertise in dealing with money.
See your spouse as your special adviser and confidant. Your respect and love will grow as you make decisions together as you come to know what each other wants and earn your spouse's confidence.
Even if you did so before getting married, compare money experiences. Share values and attitudes about money. Tell how money was handled in each household when growing up. Set aside time to talk to each other. Set joint financial goals and priorities.
Write down individual short-term and long-term financial goals as a basis for setting mutual goals. Develop a budget or spending plan that matches your priorities as a couple. This will help you appreciate each other's insight and improve your financial outlook.
realistic about expenses
Be realistic about the expenses of your family. Remember emergencies and unexpected expenses.
Agree which items are essential (must have), important (but not essential) and possible (may be eliminated for the sake of economy).
Hold discussions about money in a quiet, neutral place; decide ground rules in advance, and maintain your calm.
When you have planned together, stick to the plan and see how you soon avoid impulse buying and hasty decisions under pressure.
Avoid waste. Be trusting and honest with your spouse - no cheating, no secrets - not even about your earnings! Consult with your spouse about major expenditures. See the budget, money and decisions, not as 'mine' but 'ours'.
Spend money only if you can tell your spouse about it.
Determine whose primary responsibility it is to manage the financial affairs of the family but remember both spouses share responsibility and must be involved in the process.
Maintain equal voices in your partnership regardless of how much money either of you earn.
Be aware and know where important documents are stored. It is good to save money but not opinions but do not nag. Express your thoughts and combine your skill and expertise.
Determine if individual or joint accounts are better for you.
Where there are joint accounts, it is wise to give each spouse a set amount to spend as he/she wishes without, of course, doing harm to the family budget. Individual accounts foster independence and may allow spending without causing arguments.
Even where paying specific bills is assigned to a particular spouse, one person should have overall responsibility for ensuring they are paid and are according to plan.
Keep other issues out of financial matters. Should differences develop over financial or other matters, avoid words that may be misunderstood, avoid discussing the issue when either of you is tired or is in a favourite activity, not feeling well or is under pressure. Avoid pointing the finger, be willing to negotiate for a realistic settlement of differences and give each other clues such as a smile or gentle touch when tensions are easing.
Money issues do not have to have a negative effect on your marriage.
They can be opportunities for husband and wife to understand each other better, work together more closely and strengthen your unity.
Oran A. Hall, a member of the Caribbean Financial Planning Association and principal author of 'The Handbook of Personal Financial Planning', offers free counsel and advice on personal financial firstname.lastname@example.org