Why Fighting About Money Is Really a Relationship Issue
Posted On August 25, 2012
Fighting about money says more about a couple’s relationship than it does about their bank account
Fighting never has been a good way to resolve any problem. Can you imagine a financial counselor saying, “I can see that there is a real inequity in your relationship. One of you makes and spends most of the money, but you both of you do a lot of work. I suggest you go home and fight about money until this problem is straightened out.”? Hard to imagine, isn’t it? If you are fighting about money, money may be a part of it, but not the biggest part.
For couples who fight about money, what are they really trying to accomplish?
If couples were actually trying to solve their financial conflicts, they would do something more constructive about it, wouldn’t they? But few even make a spending plan for how to budget their money, fewer still buy a book on the subject, and fewer still consult a financial counselor about what they should do. If it were really about the money, people would do these things just as surely as they go to a medical doctor to get help with their physical conditions. When people love and care for each other, they will find a way to work out their financial problems just like everything else. But, when relationships grow cold, financial conflicts can become a substitute thing to fight about rather than get at the real issues. For this reason, fighting about money is often an early divorce warning sign.
Will fighting about money a little more with your spouse make your relationship better?
A little hard to imagine it will, isn’t it? That’s because you know that arguing makes problems worse rather than better. It also makes people more distant rather than closer. The more people argue, the less they are inclined to share what they have or to work as partners. And, if they argue enough they will create so much distance in their relationship that they will no longer want to be with each other. Like a cyclone, financial problems grow more intense with arguments until finally they destroy relationships.
Few couples argue about earning too much money
It’s never hard to get rid of excess money, if there is such a thing. A spouse who has a low paying job, no matter how hard he is working may receive complaints about the small paycheck, may have a partner who becomes increasingly resentful because she has to also work or work extra to make up for the small paycheck, or may even leave a husband who has a low paying job. Women far more than men will leave a relationship for this reason. Women want to feel secure and it is hard to feel secure if your husband is not making enough money to pay the bills.
The line from paycheck to couples arguments about low income isn’t straight
It’s not the paycheck per se that causes the upset by the partner. In fact the partner might be satisfied but still end up in conflict. Why? Because the person with the low paying job is not satisfied with his or her own income, but feels helpless to change it. A man or woman who can’t adequately provide for the needs and desires of his or her family may become depressed and irritable, disinterested in doing even low cost or not cost activities, spend much of his or her time worried about finances, lose his or her sexual desire, and become depressed and withdrawn. You can see that there is an attempt by the man or the woman in this situation to suffer alone with their problems, but this only causes suffering for their families, mostly because of their own behavior.
It is difficult to have to struggle with paying for the basics, but it is a lot harder to do so when your spouse has detached from you
Some way is needed to put partnership back into this situation. There is a need for emotional reconnection and mutual support. Sometimes, the strength of a relationship remains untested until there are financial problems. There are some spouses who are more practical than romantic and who do not wish to stay in a relationship with a husband or wife who is not earning enough money to satisfy their needs and desires.
Not everyone marries for love, and in relationships that have a history of problems, people are not staying married for love
Many simply stay in their marriage because they don’t see a way to financially take care of themselves otherwise. If their spouse loses their job, takes a large pay cut, or causes some problem that takes most of the finances (a health condition, gambling, alcoholism, etc.), their spouse may soon divorce. This is much more likely to happen in relationships that lack a good emotional connection. This motive also explains why many people stay in relationships which have no romantic connection, even when their spouse has affairs, addictions, or even abusive behavior—because they are bringing home enough money for their partner to figure that it is worth it to stay with them.
Predicting when separations and breakups will occur
When couples argue about money, it causes emotional distance in the marriage or relationship, but will not end it as long as the couple are in some way dependent on each other. They will, however, remain resentful of one another. Until they can work as partners to resolve the financial issues, the resentment will build. When the resentment reaches a high enough level, the partner who is least dependent will seek to end the marriage or relationship. You can see the same phenomenon when resentment builds over other issues.
The spark that causes the explosion
If one of the partners manages to become more financially independent, that may trigger the divorce. Or, if the income drops below a certain level, the level of difficulty in the relationship is no longer worth it to one or both of them and again a divorce is triggered. This pattern is not limited to the lower economic class. Even within the upper economic classes, partners can be dissatisfied with the amount of disposable income. Some people really do have to give their spouses a lot of money or they will leave. It is a very expensive investment with little return.
Why people who seem to have it all often break up, separate, or divorce
You can observe every day people who seem to have an ideal situation breaking up or divorcing. One spouse earns a high income, his or her spouse is happy. They have a nice house, the kids go to good schools, but the primary breadwinner feels like he or she is getting little for his or her investment. So he or she runs off with the secretary or coworker from whom he or she gets more affection. No one, even a rich person, wants to feel like he or she is paying for the relationship. People want to be loved for themselves.
A lack of partnership is at the root of most arguments about money
The common problem for the money acquisition conflicts is the lack of emotional connection between partners. While people think an increased income is an answer to their problems, even that won’t help in the long run if there is not deliberate work on building emotional connection. The method of agreement can help with that.
There are five general areas where couples can fight about money.
These are money acquisition (as in this article), money saving and investing, spending money, paying taxes and loans, and making buying decisions. There are two major issues related to all of these problems. The first is a practical method for dealing with the financial issue, and the second is being able to talk positively and productively about the problem.
The best intervention for all of these problems is marriage or relationship coaching.
Until a couple can talk about a problem, it has little chance of being resolved in a good way. The couples who are going to do the best talking about problems are the ones who already do well talking about other things. If you and your spouse hardly talk to each other, or don’t enjoy talking with each other, then talking about finances is sure to derail your relationship. Instead, you need to build up to this by helping your spouse to enjoy talking with you. This is not a matter of hitting on the right topic, but rather is a matter of using good communication skills. I have put together five helpful skills that you can download for free in the form of relationship lessons (for women), or as an ebook (for men).