3 Unexpected Reasons Couples Start Fighting Over Money
Dr. Mario Molinaro, LMHC – a licensed mental health counselor – and Dr. Anna Yusim, MD – a psychologist – are in the crucial business of helping couples find greater understanding and live in harmony. They’ve seen their share of stressed married couples who find themselves fighting over money; and they’ve come to the conclusion that, as Molinaro puts it, “Financial issues would never be a significant problem for couples that truly have a healthy relationship.”
Here are the top three issues that they believe cause money problems in relationships, and their advice on how to get back on track:
1. Different Personal Values
“How people use money is a reflection of their values,” Yusim says. Your values are important, no matter how lavish or simple your attitude towards money is. “It’s not like some money values are okay and others aren’t. The focus should be about how everybody’s needs and values can be represented in the relationship.”
The worldview each person brings to a relationship can’t be easily changed, and it shouldn’t be.
Your upbringing and your wants earlier in life impact how you view everything, including finances. If you’re in a relationship with someone who comes from a different financial background and has different financial values, Molinaro encourages you to become a team in the face of problems that cause friction.
“It’s my job is to say, ‘You come with this perspective; they come from a different perspective. Why are you both expecting the same thing from each other?’” Molinaro says. “Understand the other person and where their shortcomings are, but you also have to do the same for yourself.”
When both people become more aware of themselves, Molinaro believes that it’s easier to find more common ground when money issues arise.
However, you don’t have to make compromises every time you have an important purchase. The couple should also celebrate each person as an individual. That means cheering an occasional splurge by one partner or being sensitive to your more frugal partner’s motivations. Becoming aware of the other’s personality can lead to a mutually beneficial financial partnership without either party feeling deprived.
2. Peer Pressure
“Social media normalizes absurd behavior,” Dr. Molinaro says. “Not just social media, but Hollywood and television.” He’d rather not see those boastful social media posts that put unnecessary pressure on some couples.
“Enjoy simplicity. Appreciate everything you have, [instead of focusing on] what you don’t have,” Molinaro says.
When it comes to this kind of peer pressure, the best thing for both individuals and couples to do? “Don’t set yourself up for failure. Have more positive experiences so you can have a reservoir to grow upon.”
Know your limits. If your environment or what you’re seeing online is making you feel inadequate, focus on what you can do for yourself. Whether it’s running your first 5K or planning an inexpensive trip that you’ll truly enjoy, use that energy toward goals that will make you happy. This way, when your friends share the awesome things that are going on in their life, you can contribute as well!
“I often recommend a financial planner for couples,” Dr. Yusim says. “When the financial roles in the relationship show intense control from one of the spouses, the financial planner could step in to educate the other spouse about money and how to be more independent.”
Financial control by one spouse could leave the other person feeling powerless; so each person can go to the financial planner separately and avoid the need to ask those awkward questions of each other.
Of course, both experts agree that coming to a real understanding on money issues can take time. From their experience, though, couples faced with adversity are often willing to come together and work through their differences, resulting in happier outcomes. Just give it enough time.