Quiz: How much will a hundred dollars be worth if I put it in the bank for twenty years and it grows at its current interest rate?
Answer: Enough to keep the Hallmark channel on our TV package for at least a few months.
I'll admit, I’m not great with money. My better half will tell you that it’s not that I spend too much or too little of it. I’m just not a great long-term planner. And truthfully, I’d rather get a root canal than do math for fun.
The good news: I don’t manage any accounts at your local bank.
I've counseled couples through this very issue though, and heard some crazy stories in my day. I'll pass along lessons I've learned to those of you working to keep your marriage together with more than a little duct tape and Gorilla Glue.
Here are five money decisions that ruin marriage:
1. Hiding money.
There’s a friend of mine who can’t keep a dollar in her pocket to save her life. She LOVES her credit card. It’s like this magic, plastic wand that transforms any whim into tangible joy. She enjoys shopping so much that she’s constantly out of money.
She got creative quite a few years ago.
Instead of upsetting her spouse every time she added a small charge to the credit card, she’d make a large overcharge once in a while. As in, she’d buy a bunch of "stuff" she didn’t need. Gifts. School and office supplies. You get the idea. Then she’d return them for cash (those days were a little different than modern store policies).
Voila, paper bills in her pocket!
Until her husband found out. He felt betrayed, and no sane person would blame him for feeling that way. The couple didn’t make it. Though they tried counseling and budgets, she wasn’t willing to keep an honest account of her spending. He never trusted her again.
Hiding money ruins marriage, because a bond built on lies and suspicion isn’t a marriage at all.
Money in coupledom should leave a clear and obvious trail.
2. Spending too much money.
Do you want to take a vacation next year but know that it could never happen on your current spending plan?
Is the money running out long before the last day of the month, every month?
Let’s be real, some of us spend faster than we can earn it. We all have thoughts about wanting nice things. And right now!
It reminds me of Jessica and Rob. They discovered 0% interest credit cards in their early twenties. It was a brilliant, yet temporary solution for their living expenses as students. They didn't realize that the percent would climb after a number of months.
So, they kept spending. Soon, they were buried in debt and most of their fights revolved around money.
We can't overspend AND pay our bills...at least, not forever. It's a trust killer in marriage. We might as well set our paychecks on fire—because that’s exactly how our home lives feel when we’re financially stressed out.
You need a plan and some vision.
If you don’t decide together how you want to spend your money, you’ll lose resources all over the place--just like leaks in a water hose. You’ll spend too much time fighting about how to plug the holes, instead of directing a strong, steady stream of water in the direction you both want to go.
Overspending doesn't have to ruin your marriage.
Spare the house fire and make a budget! Together.
3. Being Stingy with Money.
Some of us are married to that spouse, the saver. Seriously God, thanks for the savers in our lives. But sometimes we need to let go a little! To give and bless. To surprise. To travel or just rest.
There should be an end goal to saving—since saving, just for the sake of saving, misses the point of having money in the first place.
Think of your most generous friend or family member. Maybe it’s your spouse. Everybody loves that guy! Their openness and trust is contagious.
But stinginess—it comes from a place of fear, and a scarcity mindset.
I won’t have enough.
What if (everything) happens…
It’s mine, I earned it…
It’s tough being married to someone who’s always waiting for the "other shoe to drop”—somebody who expects to be let down or taken advantage of. Life draining, even.
If we don’t use our money in ways that strengthen our marriages and bring people together, it’s a missed opportunity.
Stinginess doesn't have to ruin marriage. If you're an "over-saver," ask you spouse to help you come up with some ways to spend your resources joyfully.
4. Borrowing too much Money (especially from family)
Have you heard the one about the “borrower being a slave to the lender?” Now imagine a scenario where your lender is a crazy uncle who wants to give you permission all the time—a reigning power to say “yes or no” to your every financial decision.
Or take for instance, Jenny. She has a grandma who lent her money to buy house furniture and a new roof when she got married. Grandma Ruth hasn't been paid back yet. Every time she comes over for dinner, she scours the house for signs of overspending that might slow down the couples re-payment plan.
It sounds like a nightmare, because it is. Just ask any couple who’s ever borrowed from family.
Financial debt ruins relationships with loved ones…
When couples feel a loss of decision-making power because they're in financial bondage...
When repayment hasn't happened and trust becomes questionable…
When every day feels like pressure and drudgery...
Couples lose their creativity and financial purpose. They sacrifice having fun like they once did at the beginning of their relationship.
If you and your spouse have no plan to repay your way out of obligation, get help now.
Couples who live in financial crisis tend to separate from one another within their first five years of marriage. Borrowing doesn't have to ruin your marriage!
5. Talking about money with people other than your spouse.
You walk into a party and there’s that guy—the one who always wants to tell you about how he’s killing it in the real estate/financial/fitness/whatever market. He’s spotted you and you're like a deer in the crosshairs.
And you know it’s a matter of seconds before he’s bragging about his latest venture. You’re half-interested and honestly, a little tempted to one-up his verbal game—if only because you need him to stop all the machismo.
And so maybe you do share a little...
Then you blink and the next thing you know, you and your husband are fighting.
“I can’t believe you told him that! It’s none of his business and he tells everybody, everything!”
Ever been there? Or maybe it was the other way around—you could have curled up in a corner and died because your spouse shared personal info with somebody you felt uncomfortable with.
Talking about money with somebody who isn’t spouse-approved is a definite, NO. It will ruin your marriage. Keep it between the two of you, unless you’ve OK’d the conversation together.
We hope these $$ tips will help you build a stronger, more honest marriage.
Do you have any advice to add to the list?
Photo Cred: Josh Felise, Anthony Mapp, Freestocks.org
M.S. in Marriage and Family Therapy. Earns Crossfit participation trophies. Disaster cook. Enthusiastic wife. #Boymom. Clutches her faith, not her pearls.