The Reality of Financial Distress in a Marriage

A recently divorced family friend was talking to my mom about her situation. It was a real shock when the family found out about what had happened. I remembered thinking about how perfect she and her husband looked as a couple and that I wanted to marry someone I was going to be in love with forever, just like her.

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“I just couldn’t stand it anymore. Our financial situation never got better and caused all sorts of problems for us.”

She went on to explain that their constant bickering and unsatisfied lifestyle led to other fights that had nothing to do with their finances. The fact that she was unhappy about the things that couldn’t happen because they just never had enough triggered a lot of resentment. The resentments led to fights about little things that turned into bigger problems, which escalated into unsolvable, more damaging issues.

I thought about the times I used to date. When you’re young and in love, you really don’t think about “other things.” The expression “love is blind” should never be ignored. Sadly, though, if your mother was to tell you that, you never would have listened to her. True, there are great love stories and couples that are the perfect match who live through anything, thick and thin, and happily ever after, but come on … Every couple will have issues about one thing or the other and more often than not, it’s got something to do with finances.

My husband and I took my son to an outdoor play gym and he overheard two women talking about their husbands. He said that one of the women said her husband works as a teacher and frustrates her to the core that she has to ask him for permission to buy even the smallest item because his salary is so terrible. The other woman said she used to be so in love with her husband, but the fact that her monthly budget doesn’t leave enough for her to even buy a nail polish for herself really frustrates her and ruins many of her days.

I’m not writing this as a way to put down or discourage anyone and their relationship, but I do wish I could talk to young people who decide to get married early without thinking about the major factor in their future, “money.” After the thoughts of being together with the person that makes your heart skip wears off, or the honeymoon stage in your relationship turn into some of the most mundane of days, you eventually ask, “what then?” The adventures and future you want to have will then be based on whether you can afford to get there.

I’m married now. So I’ve made my bed :) I’m quite happy where I am and I could honestly say that we really don’t have a lot of money, but we do love each other to death. So it is possible to live happily ever after. After all, even the filthy rich have money issues, right? They just have them at a different scale. Instead of not being able to buy a Guess watch, they might be concerned with not being able to buy enough Rolex watches.

I guess you’re waiting for me to get to the point of all this, right? Well, I don’t really have one except that now I’m a parent and will one day tell my son (before he falls in love with someone) to “be absolutely true to your mind and not just your heart. Dig deep and tell yourself what you really want for your life and then go for it. Live not just for the moment, but for your future.”

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Comments

  1. says

    Great post, Lexi…& my congrats to all those commenters who’ve figured out how to make it work in their own lives & my commiserations with those who are still “working on it.” But in the broader sense, I wonder if we’re not chasing the butterflies & letting all the elephants get away? Is it isn’t time to wonder how much longer this can continue?

    We have a problem with wealth distribution and I can’t manage a crocodile tear for those “filthy rich” & their self-inflicted financial wounds. We have (all of us) cooperated in perpetuating the myth that unlimited growth in perpetuity is possible/desirable. This has led to zero-sum thinking which has given rein to the “greed is good” maxim made famous by Gordon Gekko. We used to know better.

    We are the Stewards of not simply our own destiny, but of all life. We cannot continue ignoring what those “filthy rich” are doing in the name of another 1/2% marginal growth, in the name of that greed, if our children are to have a future. We should begin that stewardship by learning what the likes of Sheldon Adelson, the Koch Brothers & the Jamie Dimon’s of the world are doing. They are stealing our children’s birth right & we letting them. Just one broken-down, baggy-eyed gray-haired Marine’s opinion.

  2. says

    I think financial problems are one of the main reasons people get divorced. A few of our friends have split totally because of money issues. Sad!

  3. says

    Although I would not wish my first marriage did not happen( I got 3 great kids out of it), I feel I now have found my Best partner/marriage once I grew up with my current husband.

  4. says

    This is such an important post. Money can totally cripple a relationship, and it doesn’t help to have your head in the sand. Unfortunately, it takes more than love to make a marriage work and it’s better to make sure your financial philosophies are compatible beforehand.

  5. says

    I remember in pre-marriage counseling they mentioned that money was the biggest issue in a marriage. We had a few bumps about it, but for the most part we didn’t argue about that.

  6. says

    I can see how arguments can start over finances. Luckily my husband and I have been lucky in this department..but money is tight for every one. It is sad and stress can get the better of you sometimes.

  7. says

    Thankfully we’ve never had any real issues, but we have been known to argue over larger purchases. He does NOT need a new boat. :)

  8. says

    One of the biggest problems many people have is that they fail to track where their money is going. They’ll blindly grab “inexpensive” fast food, drop a few dollars for a coffee at the coffee shop or into a vending machine not realizing that those small amounts quickly add up. I think every marriage should begin with an agreement to be mindful of all things involving the new family – including finances.

  9. Shauna says

    Money and relationships are hard. We went from being very wealthy to losing it all and it was really rough on us. Thankfully we had open communication through it all and when we landed on our feet we ‘try’ to make better decisions. I think that one thing that works for us is that I we each have our own accounts…Hubby doesn’t see what I spend money on and I don’t look at his…We still have our joint acct that we use for family things, but when it comes to getting my nails done or doing some shopping, I don’t have to ask. it works for us

  10. says

    What a great post. Finance is probably one of the biggest issues between couples. It’s so important to make sure both people in a relationship are on the same page about this. It’s so sad to see a couple divorce over not making enough money, what a sad thing really!

  11. says

    I am blessed my husband trusts me and I do it all and spend what I want. He never ever criticizes me ever. We aren’t well off but we are happy, content and debt free.

  12. says

    I remember when we were in a dire position. We continually had to remind ourselves verbally to each other than we were a team and in it together and what mattered was that we rose above this together, together being the key word. Take lots of communication!

  13. says

    The advice you offer at the end is sound. My husband and I are lucky because although we are complete opposites, we find ways to work around our differences that work for us both (including in the area of finances). It took a long time to get to that point though.

  14. says

    Finances are a huge killer of Marriages, long term or not. My husband and I used to argue over the bills until finally we figured it was easier for me to work out the bills and pay them as his checks came in and made sure we had stuff in the savings, stuff to spend, etc. He lets me know what he needs money for and how much he needs and vice versa. We agree on what to spend and what to buy and that’s the end of it. We have not argued over bills in a very long time because we both agree on what we want. It’s a marriage, you work together. I think a lot of couples have a hard time with that.

  15. says

    In some high profile country I think financial status is really a big deal especially for marriage, but I grew up seeing my mom and dad argue and have issues with money because they are both not professional but until today their marriage is strong and because of the hardship we seen we as their children will make their dream to have a better life for them.

  16. says

    “…without thinking about the major factor in their future, “money.” ”

    I wholeheartedly disagree with this statement, and I would dare to say that going into a marriage with the idea that financial security will bring them happiness and security will meet with disaster – indeed, it’s a self fulfilling prophecy…if we expect a marriage to go well if we have financial security, then when that security goes out the window, so too will the relationship.

    There is a reason why “in richness and in poorness” is (or at least, used to be) in marriage vows. Love *is* more important than cash.

    “The adventures and future you want to have will then be based on whether you can afford to get there.”

    I think they should be based on “who with”. I’d rather spend my life in a grotty caravan with my wife than with my ex-girlfriend in an all expenses paid 5 star hotel.

    The examples of the women moaning about their husbands and their budgets is probably taken out of context – I would suggest that the real problem in their marriages is that their husbands have set a budget, or need to be asked permission (which in my mind is unfair and unequal). It is true that if those ladies had money they could buy nail polish (your example)…but actually having that money is masking the underlying problem in that they have self centered egotistical husbands who don’t include them in decisions.

    Whilst I don’t doubt that financial problems can be a cause of distress in a marriage, I don’t think that it is the only or the most important issue in a marriage. I do think though, that it can certainly cause an existing crack in a relationship to widen.

    • says

      I do see your point regarding the “right person.” Don’t get me wrong. My husband and I are still completely in love with each other and will go to hell and back for one another. We’ve both been in horribly wrong relationships and so know what it’s like, but the truth is that we both know if we had just a little more, our lives would be a lot easier. Sadly, there are couples that get really affected by it and then money issues start involving other issues and so forth.

      Very true: “I do think though, that it can certainly cause an existing crack in a relationship to widen.”

  17. says

    When my husband and I got married 23+ years ago, we agreed never to spend more than $5 without consulting with each other. It kept us from making impulse purchases, spending excessively on lunches (most times, we brown bagged it… still do), etc.

    When our boys were little, he tried upping my spending base since I had kids in tow. But, after so many years of self-discipline and respect for him, I couldn’t do it. I still cleared lunch out with the kids, day trips to the zoo, and even shopping. We agreed in advance on a budget and I stuck to it.

    Today, we still live by the $5 rule. It’s part of us. We are never surprised when the credit card statement comes. I don’t hide impulse purchases in the closet to wear after the return date expires. He still brown bags it every day.

    We enjoy debt-free living, travel, and dinners out as a family because we learned early to respect each other by respecting the budget.

    I guess if we were getting now, we’d probably start with a $20 base, but otherwise, I wouldn’t change a thing! :)

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