We often hear about how money issues in a marriage can be a major catalyst for divorce. Whether it’s differences in spending habits, debt loads or credit scores, diverging beliefs and habits can be a huge red flag in a relationship.
A 2009 study by Jeffrey Dew, faculty fellow at the National Marriage Project and an assistant professor of Family, Consumer, and Human Development at Utah State University, found that couples who argue about money once a week were 30 percent more likely to divorce over time than couples who reported disagreeing about finances just a few times per month.
“The best time [to talk about money] is when you’re getting along, when you’re in the romantic stage, ” says relationship expert Andrea Syrtash “[That’s] the very time when you should broach it because you’ll probably be more open to listening to each other.”
Skirting the issues is a big no-no according to Syrtash.
“Put everything on the table because so much of effective relationships is about managing expectations. You need to go in with your eyes wide open,” she says. She says, adding that addressing financial differences also means not skimping on the details. “That doesn’t just mean learning about your partner’s history and partner’s finances. It’s about exposing your own vulnerabilities around this.”
Once you have gone through the exercise of coming clean, you may find that you and your partner think differently about money. But, she says that compromise is key.
“That’s what partnership is about. You come in with different perspectives and you find common ground,” she says. “And where you don’t find common ground, the hope is that you’ll have ultimately the same core values.”
As far as protecting oneself from financial ruin caused be a future spouse, there’s always a prenuptial agreement. Syrtash says that while they’re not for everyone, prenups are not reserved for the rich and famous.
“For many people, if you earn wildly different salaries [or] if you come from a broken home and marriage feels a little bit overwhelming, they feel more secure having this practical approach should, god forbid, things not work out,” she says.
In the end, as with most things concerning love and money, it all comes down to communication and cooperation.
If you’re a member of your local public radio station, we thank you — because your support helps those stations keep programs like Marketplace on the air. But for Marketplace to continue to grow, we need additional investment from those who care most about what we do: superfans like you.
Your donation — as little as $5 — helps us create more content that matters to you and your community, and to reach more people where they are – whether that’s radio, podcasts or online.
When you contribute directly to Marketplace, you become a partner in that mission: someone who understands that when we all get smarter, everybody wins.