"To some people money means power; to others, love. For some the topic is boorish and in bad taste. For others, it's more private than sex. Add family dynamics to the mix, and for many you have the subject from hell."
- Karen S. Peterson ( USA Today )
Research has shown that agreeing on how to spend money is the thing that most separates happy couples from unhappy couples with regard to financial management. Overwhelmingly, happy couples reported that they agreed on how to spend money, as compared to unhappy couples. Happy couples also had fewer concerns about major debt, reported that making financial decisions together was not difficult, and were satisfied with their decisions about saving.
However, there are some major stumbling blocks for couples regarding finances. Many couples wish their partner was more careful about spending, have trouble saving money, have major debts, and report one partner tries to control the household money.
Spending and saving problems are common among couples because in their families-of-origin they grew up with different "family rules" about how money was handled (and by whom). Since money often is not discussed during courtship, many partners do not find out until after marriage how different their family financial rules are from one another. On the other hand, finding out where differences lie can open the door to a meaningful exchange of ideas and alternative ways of looking at things.
As you work through the different ideas and exercises in this section, you will acquire skills that will help you and your partner with some common financial stressors. The most important skills in dealing with financial issues are clear communication and non-judgmental listening. There is less argument in marriages where both spouses share in the financial decision making and where they openly communicate about their financial situation. It will take time, practice, and patience to be comfortable with new ways of handling money. You may want to plan a time to meet together each month and decide as a team how you are going to handle your money. Follow the rules for good communication that are presented in the Communication module.