Money can easily become an issue in a marriage when one spouse spends more than the couple earns.
Whether the spending habit was there before the union or it occurs as the marriage progresses it must be addressed before it spirals out of control.
As I was walking to my car the other day leaving a grocery store my eye caught a woman walking back towards her car.
Her husband was waiting at the car as she was throwing her hands up in the air obviously annoyed, as she approached their vehicle.
I heard her say ‘I thought we had money on that card’.
I am assuming she was unsuccessful paying for their grocery bill which brought up a lot of issues with her spouse.
Her husband with an irritated look on his face got out of the car and proceeded to head back into the store with her.
Not knowing their story and why the expected funds were not available I can only assume that there was a lack of communication or an oversight with their finances.
I don’t know how this story ended as I minded my own business and continued to get into my car but it reminded me of my past marriage where money was a very stressful part of our relationship.
Unfortunately this is also the case for many other couples whether it’s a marriage or a common law relationship.
Money fights and problems over finances are all too common in relationships and sadly are one of the top reasons many marriages end up in a divorce.
While I can say that fixing the money problems would not have saved my marriage looking back I think about how I could have dealt with our money problems more effectively.
We commonly hear the phrase ‘my wife spends too much money’ though in many situations the husband is guilty of this too.
Secret shopping in a relationship happens all the time and if you aren’t on the same page with your spouse financially this could easily cause a rift in the marriage if your spending gets out of control.
Trust is after all the basis of any relationship and when you break that money trust expect some major problems along the way.
Spouse spending habits
It is often advised to have the money talk with your partner before you get married so that you know what you are getting yourself into.
The last thing you want is to get married and learn after the fact that your new spouse is swimming in debt that they decided not to openly share before saying your vows.
Oddly enough many people are ashamed of their debt and they say nothing but this is the worst thing you can do and not a great start to a relationship.
While this is a great conversation before walking down the aisle spending habits often change and for various reasons, you may eventually find yourself with a spouse who just spends too much money. Nothing in life is guaranteed after all.
Excessive shopping can be a ‘drug’ for some people used as a form of therapy to combat stressful situations in their lives or as a result of other underlying issues.
It’s pretty hard in this day and age to survive without money so when a couple starts to run into money problems it can be too easy for your frustrations to take over your rational thinking and then the blame-games begin.
While you may know that your spouse’s outrageous spending habits are destroying your finances how you choose to approach the situation may also affect the outcome.
Nobody likes to feel attacked whether they are the cause of a problem or not. Being aware of your tone of voice and your approach to the conversation will start you off on a better foot then blaming your spouse for causing the money problems.
Instead of saying ‘You are spending too much money and it’s making us broke’ consider saying ‘I have noticed we are struggling to pay our bills lately, what can we do together to improve this?’
Avoid ‘you’ statements and you may find you get a less defensive response and more of an open mind to fixing the problem, rather than putting up their guard because you attacked them.
If budgeting is something that you already do you may consider a different approach to it.
While a budget is a very effective tool for managing money in a relationship both sides have to be on board for it to work. Set your goals together, decide as a couple where you both want to be financially in 5 or 10 years and make a plan.
Review your budget together often, and discuss where you may need to make improvements. Help each other to stay on track by taking a look at how you are doing with sticking to your budget.
If you are not meeting your goals as a result of overspending then this is a good time to address how this overspending is affecting your budget and your long-term goals.
Access to Money
If your spouse is willing to work towards a solution then you have to decide what steps you are going to take.
If you are the reserved spender in the relationship consider coming up with a weekly dollar amount as a cash allowance that includes all money that is required for necessary expenses.
Leave a little room for miscellaneous spending and explain that once that money is gone there will be no more as there is no room for it in the budget.
Take full control of your money. I have a friend who often complains about their financial situation but when any advice is offered, being a stay-at home mom her response is always, “well it’s his money he can do whatever he wants with it“.
When you get married, buy a house together and start a family I strongly believe that ‘my money is your money and your money is my money’.
If your spouse’s overspending is affecting the quality of life for your family then consider taking away all debit and credit cards and be the one in charge of distributing your money between everyday living expenses, bills and their cash allowance.
While you want to avoid making them feel like a kid, that may in fact be what you feel like you are doing, but so be it.
If your spouse cares for the well-being of your relationship and/or family they should be willing to take responsibility and be accountable for their actions.
Until they are able to understand where the problems are and how it is affecting your lives it will be hard to convince them that they need to change.
Again consider your tone and choice of words when having these discussions.
Is it worth staying in the relationship?
You need to decide where to draw the line in the relationship. While everyone makes mistakes and sometimes they need to be taken as a learning experience, how many chances should one get when a problem has been identified and they refuse to be part of the solution?
At what point do you call it quits?
- Is it a healthy relationship
- Is it worth destroying your credit/future
- Are you jeopardizing your happiness?
Be happy! You deserve it, money shouldn’t have to be a problem in a relationship, though it can be all too often. While no one really likes to talk about money the more often you communicate about it and share the financial responsibilities the better off you will be.
Unfortunately for some couples in this situation divorce may be the only answer if you decided to try to fix the problem and between the two of you are unable to find a solution.
If your spouse is unable to acknowledge the impact that their careless spending is having on your life together than it may be in your best interest to go your separate ways.
Discussion: What advice can you offer to someone who has a spouse that spends too much money?
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