The real issue with money

April 22, 2010 · 11 comments

Last night, Girl Ninja and I completed another pre-marital counseling session (which I would recommend all couples do) and dabbled a little bit in the financial aspects of marriage. We have not yet gotten to the ‘finances’ section yet, so the BIG “money talk” is still looming.

One thing, though, did stand out to me during our conversation with the couple mentoring us. The husband said “Money is the number one cause of divorce in America.” Nothing shocking right? If you listen to Dave Ramsey, he spits that statistic out all the time. Call me crazy, but I’m going to have to disagree with Mr. Ramsey. I don’t believe “money” is the number one cause of divorce. I’m willing to bet behavioral issues, tied to money, are the real root of the problem.

I did a little internet research (I know the internet is not always the most reliable source) and here were a few of the most common reasons people have money issues….

Access: one family member feels another won’t allow enough access to shared financial assets and/or financial records.

Ownership: family members fight over ‘my money’ or ‘your money’ instead of ‘our money’. Variations are… who manages the family checkbooks and savings accounts, who’s responsible for paying bills

Incomes and earnings: a family member resents that another isn’t earning enough (or anything), and should ask for a raise, change jobs, or get a job. A variation is someone feeling chronically inferior (ashamed) and/or guilty because they’re earning or contributing less than a mate or other relative.

Lack of compromise: One person handles money one way, the other handles money differently. Instead of discuss things and meet in the middle, all anyone is concerned about is having things done THEIR way. The money discussions they have are not discussions, but debates. Where one person is trying to convince the other “My way is better.” Neither person is willing to sacrifice their financial preferences for the sake of a healthy relationship.

I don’t buy for one minute that money causes divorce. In fact, it’s impossible. Money is an inanimate object. It has no capacity to cause controversy. Instead, it is the differences in financial perspective, honesty, compromise, communication, and a whole slew of relational issues that are the real cause of divorce. I believe money is the symptom of divorce, but it’s definitely not the problem.

For those of you that are married, or in serious relationships, what have been the sources of your money fights? What means have you taken to work through those issues? Did you use LegalZoom for prenuptial expectations? Are there any freaks out there, that are in relationships, but have ZERO money issues? If you want to check out some of the most honest money problems I’ve ever heard, check out the comments on this post I did on financial secrets.

{ 11 comments }

1 Young Mogul

I agree with you on this issue. It's just like when people misquote the bible verse by sayin, 'Money is the root of all evil'; when the verse actually says, 'The LOVE of money is the root of all evil'. Like you said, money is an inanimate object. It has no energy except the energy people give to it. The book, 'Your Money or Your Life' defines money simply as 'what we trade our time for'. We decide the power money has in our lives and our relationships. People and their actions cause divorce, not money.

2 Rina

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh bravo Young Mogul!!! That misquote has been a thorn in my side for years. Drives me CRAZY when I hear it.

I agree – money is a symptom not the cause. But it's still a pretty killer symptom. WE give it the power to destroy relationships.

My husband and I don't have money issues, really. I handle the finances (but we do discuss major financial decisions, of course). Once we got married, it was 'our' money no matter who's paycheck was more pimpin'. We combined our bills and expenses and pay them through a joint account; whatever's left goes to savings, fun, etc.

3 psychsarah

The debate in my house is the classic "saver" versus "spender" thing. It has taken a lot of energy to work through this, and it still rears it's ugly head every so often but I am proud to say that we have a much better way of dealing with it now than we did years ago when we got together.

I will agree that money is more like a symbol or representation of other problems. Our biggest fight was when now DH (this was before we were married, but we were living together and money was purportedly "ours") spent a big chunk of money that we didn't have on a kayak and equipment to go with it (helmet, paddle, PFD etc.) I was soooooooo mad for a long time, but I have to say it wasn't the money per se that pissed me off. It was the trust that I felt was betrayed by the action.

Wow-that was a longwinded way to say I agree with you…

4 Nick

Just out of curiosity, where are you getting your counseling? Is it a church thing? Is it through a private or public practice? How much is it?

5 dogatemyfinances

I don't really understand how you could be engaged without having a real money talk, but here you are, I guess.

My husband is totally not involved with money. Today, I make him a Powerpoint — seriously — about what is going on with our money. Before we got engaged, I literally gave him a PF primer so we would be on the same page.

We didn't see things the same way, and there were a lot of fights in the beginning. But without information and communication, I don't even know how you get that far.

6 Rainy-Day Saver

Freak here. My husband and I don't have any money issues (at least none that WE have a problem with). We recognize that our incomes are a bit disparate, but it hasn't been a source of contention within our marriage. The tables could turn on that one in the future. I do manage our finances, but I let my husband know what our budget looks like, and he's learned to stay within that budget when necessary. Neither of us makes major purchases without consulting the other. It's only been little over a year, but so far, so good!

7 PunchDebt

Hey Nick.

We are actually doing two different pre-marital counseling gigs. Since we both are Christians, we are going through a four week premarital class at the church we go to. The class is free and is with four other couples.

Girl Ninja and I also reached out to a family we know in San Diego, whos relationship we really respect and admire. We asked them if they would mind meeting with us and walking us through a pre-marital workbook. They have never done pre-marital counseling, but they have a lot of wisdom and it's been totally awesome…and also free. I can give ya the name of the book Girl Ninja and I are reading through if you'd like. It has has workbooks that both you and the fiance work through which is also super helpful.

8 Kalie

My Husband and I don't fight about money, but there are areas in which we have to do alot of joint planning and talk about our views carefully, because we already know we have different attitudes to money.
Our big areas are: when my husband buys himself presents, I would usually reserve things bought for myself until a special event, he doesn't, we don't fight, but we often talk about how different our insticts are in this regard. And secondly when I want to give money away to my family, my husband often feels our money should benefit us first and my family second whereas my ethics seem to include a need to provide for my extended family as well as hubby and I. Still no fights, just extra consideration in these areas.
All of our income goes to the same place, so each of us is constantly aware of our money situation.

9 James

i would agree money does not cause divorce most of the time but sometimes it does. all in all it is the 2 people who either get along or don't. we all know things aren't always smooth but if you have problems and they turn into money issues then the root is the individual not the bank account.

10 Brandon Schmid

Money is such a hot topic….nothing new right? Of course not.

One of the challenges of getting married is that you have to share your values and views about issues in life. Since people have such strong opinions about money so it is no surprise that there are so many problems within a marriage as a result.

Make no mistake, money is not the issue. It is how people think and feel about it that is causing the problem.

Cheers!

Brandon

11 Karen, the Small Town Runner

Technically, Dave Ramsey says that "money fights" are the biggest cause of divorce. Not money. So I think you probably agree with him more than you think you do. (:

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