Money and Marriage

(Using this time between appointments and meetings to pen my thoughts down on the relationship between money and marriage. Specifically how the third-party — in this case, Money — plays a crucial role in the make-or-break of every relationship, but not in the way I expected.)

While income had an impact on one’s well-being, it was the perceived financial security that leaves a significantly larger impact.

I got to know of a lady who was married to a rather eccentric fellow. No matter how much her ex-husband earned, no matter how grand the vacations they took together were, her anxiety was ever-present and strangely exacerbated whenever more money was spent. It took me a while to realize that it was the spending habits and personal beliefs around money that her ex-husband held on to that triggered her anxiety attacks. Long story short, this marriage didn’t last and ended up in an divorce.

A couple’s relationship with money is indeed much more nuanced than one might think. In many cases, more money doesn’t necessarily lead to more marital peace and contentment. The presence of financial security (or the lack there of) perceived by each partner can make-or-break relationships, and unfortunately it seems these problems only surface two to three years into a marriage. In comparison, successful couples have shown that they were capable of keeping the relationship together by addressing the topic about money as they would about each other’s terrible hygiene habits and morning breath — by talking about it openly and honestly. 

When a couple has shared financial beliefs to serve as a neutral ground for them to retreat to and discuss methods to face the financial problems together, it helps them focus on the problem than rip each other apart. (Marital arguments about money escalate pretty quickly!) When this common ground is lacking, either one or both partners can be easily tempted to take reckless measures (further and unnecessary borrowing) and actions (filing for a divorce).

For couples who’re newly weds or recently married, it would be good to allocate some time to discuss each other’s personal beliefs and internalised assumptions or rules about money. These assumptions and personal beliefs are what subconsciously drives our daily actions and decisions that we make with money from what we buy, how we live, how we save, and how we plan for our financial future. These assumptions and personal beliefs are also unfortunately commonly outside our conscious awareness, and takes a teensy bit more effort to become aware of and to be emotionally detached from, in order to prevent them from dominating our minds and taking control of our decision-making process in times of financial peril. Finding a common ground can be difficult, and most of the time, it’s not something that magically resolves overnight. Take time and effort to sort out the intricate relationship between money and your marriage, as this will help you and your spouse with larger life transitions expected in the future — a bundle of joy (or two!), family business succession planning, and retirement planning.