Unfortunately, the December – January holiday period is not a happy time for everyone because it’s a time when many people decide to separate from their partner. With year-end reflection and new-year resolution, it’s often seen as the opportunity for a fresh start.
If you believe the statistics, money is at the root of separation more often than not. Whether or not it is the real underlying cause, arguing over money is still cited as a leading cause of stress in relationships. I guess that’s not surprising as money impacts almost every aspect of our lives.
Lack of money and high debt levels are common during the home-making and child-raising years. Rent or mortgage plus the cost of raising children adds a lot to family expenses while household income can be further stretched by child care costs. However, lack of money is only one of many contributing factors; one which couples working as a team towards shared goals can improve over time.
Some of the other serious relationship stressors are centred on the differences in attitudes and behaviours of each partner where money is concerned. It is a subject that is rarely discussed at the start of a relationship and indeed may not even exist then, yet these differences can manifest as growing feelings of anger and frustration. Over time, it can drive couples apart rather than together.
Five (5) very common examples are:
- one partner is a saver while the other fritters away money
- one partner resents the other’s spending on health and wealth threatening substances like cigarettes, alcohol or recreational drugs
- one partner uses money to control the behaviour of the other
- one partner hides money for a secret purpose or external activities
- one partner secretly diverts money and covers up debt to fuel a gambling addiction
A couple of these behaviours sound extreme but they are much more common than you think, especially gambling addiction. With easy access and endless opportunities, this is fast becoming a scourge on Australia’s personal finances.
Instead of ignoring the signs and chalking it all up to experience, there are some things you can do to address these frustrations. If you do, you’ll have a much higher chance of building a much more solid financial foundation which is a lot harder for money-related stress to erode into irreconcilable differences.
Here are seven (7) simple key relationship-saving money strategies I have distilled from 20 years of talking to people about managing money:
- Be open about money, discuss money attitudes and behaviours
- Be aware of everything impacting on your household finances and share the responsibility
- Make the time to plan whatever a happy future means to you; and set goals accordingly, both shared and individual
- Make a budget; it will show you the financial path to achieving your goals and also help you set required savings and spending patterns
- Have money in your own name in addition to any joint account
- Hold cards in your own name, not as a secondary to your partner
- Embrace your passions and dodge money-draining addictions
The real issue here is pursuing a happy life. When problematic money behaviours present as diversions and roadblocks on the path to happiness, people eventually start looking for alternative ways around the problem. Don’t let this happen in your relationship.
Paying more attention to fundamental money issues can help to remove distractions and roadblocks. It doesn’t guarantee you’ll be happy or that you will stay together forever but it could be one less major cause of stress on your relationship.
Best wishes in money and happiness