In Billy Joel’s 1977 song “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant,” Brenda and Eddy get married out of high school. But then “They started to fight/ When the money got tight/ And they just didn’t count on the tears.”
Over four decades later, many parts of the song are no longer relevant -- Young couples no longer buy paintings from Sears (the company went out of business in 2018!), and waterbeds haven’t been in style for a long time. But even so, money problems are still one of the primary factors leading to divorce.
Why do finances continue to cause so much stress to relationships? And what can you do to make it less of a problem?
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash
Finances can represent trust
Each couple approaches finances differently. Some couples approach finances completely independently with separate accounts, while others have all of their money pooled together.
These strategies, and everything in between, have distinct pros and cons, and each can lead to happy marriages.
However, it is possible for partners to perform “financial infidelity.” This could include hidden bank accounts, gambling addictions, hidden purchases, or undisclosed debt.
This has happened in the past. One partner would pass away, and the other would discover that their retirement funds had been frittered away, leaving them without resources in their old age.
Financial infidelity can break the trust in the relationship, and cause feelings of betrayal or fear. And once it’s broken, trust can be difficult or even impossible for couples to repair.
Finances can represent goals
Finances are one of the primary tools a couple can use to reach their goals. But what happens if the couple can’t agree on what those goals are?
At that point, finances become a tug of war, with each person struggling against the other towards separate objectives. The results of a tug of war are never great for a marriage. Either one person loses and ends up feeling badly, or the rope snaps and the marriage comes to a chaotic end.
Couples can prevent this financial strain by identifying goals they can work towards together. Rather than pulling a rope against each other, they can use the rope to pull as a team, and they’ll be able to achieve much more than the two of them separately.
It’s the power of teamwork!
If two draft horses, each able to pull 8,000 lbs ends up working together, they don’t pull 16,000 lbs… they can actually pull 24,000 lbs! By identifying goals and working together, couples can achieve so much more than they thought possible.
To get on the same page, couples can write down their goals and compare them. Find the compromise between these two visions of the future. Is there a way to combine the two goals into one?
Finances can represent independence
While working together, it’s also important to acknowledge each other’s human need for independence. Sometimes, combining bank accounts can cause stress if one person feels like they’re losing control over their lives.
Every relationship is different, there isn’t a single prescription that will fit all couples. Your relationship is also unique in its own unique and wonderful way.
Because of this, it’s important to approach these conversations from a place of openness.
- What can you learn from each other about finances?
- What unique needs does each partner have?
- How can you find a way to reach your goals while also fulfilling each other’s needs?
By looking out for each other, you continue to build trust, even during stressful times that would spell trouble for other couples.
Finances can be tricky
The truth is that finances can be emotionally fraught, and many couples find it difficult to talk about money. In a situation like this, an objective third party like a financial advisor can be of great value by helping everyone feel heard and seen.
Years later, Brenda and Eddy remained friends, and met up at their favorite Italian restaurant. They had moved on and led completely separate lives. Who knows how their lives might have turned out together, if only they had been able to use finances to build trust rather than create friction.
If you’re ready to take away the stress that money causes in your life, click here to register for a free Bronze Account.