Perhaps it won’t come as a surprise, but many couples can have real difficulties when thinking about their finances.
This is because money is often difficult to talk about, or is avoided as a subject. There may be many reasons for this, including societal messages about discussing it. There can also be family of origin messages about what is, and isn’t, discussed where money is concerned: for example, it’s OK to speak at length about debt but not about what one earns – or financial goal-setting, or what happens with the money each brings into a relationship.
One partner might feel that it’s not OK to discuss money if they earn less. Problems can arise from thinking like ‘I don’t have a right to determine how money is spent as I don’t earn it’. Patterns may emerge around who pays for what – but then this doesn’t change even if circumstances do.
This can go still further. For example
• issues become compounded and are more ‘charged’ when there is a second marriage and children involved
• people have ideas about the allocation of resources but don’t communicate these, as if their partner should just ‘know’
• one person can be used to paying all the bills and the other just leaves the responsibility with them because it’s too hard to discuss
• money can be tied to self-esteem/self-value. Unfortunately, our culture itself is very tied to this idea, which can make broaching the subject difficult
• one or both people can feel defensive about the subject for their own reasons; or money just feels mysterious and too complicated to discuss. Or ‘it’s been a contentious issue so we have avoided it’ (sometimes for years or more!)
If any of these apply to you, you will also know that a stalemate in this area has wider ramifications for the relationship. When such a fundamental issue is left to ‘luck’ or hope to sort out, the tendency is for the issue to arise in other ways, such as increasing resentment over small, seemingly insubstantial things; also blame, confusion and hurt, heightened conflict in other areas and left-field references to money when the discussion is about something else.
Click here for more about Conflict
Click here to read AARC member Amanda Stuart’s article on How to Resolve Conflict in Marriage about Money