When it comes to divorce, the reasons why a spouse may choose to end the marriage are as diverse as the couple themselves. The number one reason why people get divorced, based on my time working on behalf of Texas families as an attorney, would be in relation to money fights and money problems. This does not mean that folks necessarily would have been fighting because there is not enough money for the family to live on. Quite the opposite in some cases- I have seen many marriages end because of issues related to having too much money.
Whatever position you find yourself in, you need to be aware that money fights and money problems can lead to problems in your marriage as well. It could be that you are already experiencing problems in this area and want to find out how to stop the issues before they turn into something that you cannot correct. Or, you may have found that your marriage is unsalvageable due to money problems. Whatever your situation is, I would like to share with you some information on how money can be the root of your marital problems.
What is it about money that causes issues for so many marriages?
The thing about money fights- where they come from, how they originate, what they have to do with- is that a money fight is very rarely the only type of problem that your marriage is experiencing. Problems within a marriage that relate to money can typically be traced back to other problems that you and your spouse are experiencing. Communication within a marriage is essential when it comes to being a successful team. If you and your spouse are struggling to communicate with one another then it is likely that money problems will be one area of your marriage negatively impacted.
Consider just how you and your spouse communicate with one another. I’m willing to bet that at some stage in your relationship with your spouse that you two dreamed openly about achieving certain goals or establishing a certain kind of life for yourselves. Maybe when you were younger you allowed yourself to be more vulnerable, honest and open with your spouse. As a result, I bet you communicated a lot better with him or her back then than how you communicate with him or her now.
Do not underestimate the degree to which communication problems can negatively impact your marriage and your finances. Being on the same page with one another, sharing the burdens of marriage and ultimately being honest about how you are spending money is critical to achieving the goal of a good marriage. If you can be accountable to your spouse and if he or she can depend that you are doing what is best for your marriage, then the odds of running into a situation where divorce is an option are very low.
The burdens of money can be significant- even for healthy marriages
You and your spouse need to take on the challenges that money presents to marriages. Even if you are not working (such as a stay at home mom or dad) you need to be aware of what the family’s finances are what role you can play in stabilizing the family wealth building. For example, I see many spouses who are represented by the Law Office of Bryan Fagan who do not share joint checking accounts with their spouses. This means both the spouse meeting with us and their spouse at home do not share checking accounts. I cannot imagine how you could even do something as simple as creating a monthly budget if you and your spouse do not share a bank account.
There is no way to hold the other person accountable for their actions in relation to money if you do not know what is happening with your finances. It’s as if you have chosen to start down the path to paying down debt or building wealth then putting your finances together with your spouse is the best method that I can recommend to you. Figuring out what extra money you have at the end of the month in order to invest it or pay down debt with it cannot occur if you and your spouse have separate checking accounts.
Although challenges surrounding money may seem at first glance to be something that does not impact other areas of your marriage, I am willing to bet you that money problems are a symptom rather than the ultimate cause of most divorces. I realize that this may seem to be contradictory to the points I have been making so far in today’s blog post. However, stick with me and I think you will agree with the overall points that I am about to make to you.
How well you and your spouse attack problems together will tell you how strong your marriage is
Overcome problems together is a hallmark of a strong marriage. If you and your spouse are unable to identify the problem areas of your marriage, then you will never have the chance to work on those areas together. It takes communication to come to the understanding that you and your spouse are experiencing money stress. Maybe you have been stressed out about bills over the past couple months but have not told your spouse because you are afraid it would worry or upset her. If you are more concerned with your spouse’s hurt feelings than you are about winning with money then you have communication issues, which have led to money issues.
If you are fortunate enough to be able to mutually agree with your spouse that you have a problem area in your marriage then you have the opportunity to work on that problem together. I don’t care if it relates to money, children, infidelity, etc. If you and your spouse are able to communicate about the problem then you are much more likely to solve that problem.
Many spouses, I have come to find out, treat one another like co-workers, friends, or roommates rather than as a spouse. It’s not that you don’t owe your co-worker any accountability, it’s just that you owe your co-worker so much less than you do your spouse. If you treat your spouse like a co-worker or roommate then you probably will never feel like you and your spouse are truly connected on any meaningful level. Yours is more of a joint venture at that point than a marriage.
The end result is that you will never be compelled to work on your problems together. If you do not feel the need to work on your problems, you will not better yourselves and your marriage. The whole point of marriage is engaging with the other person in an effort to better yourselves. I can’t think of another area where your marriage would stand to improve more than in finances. We could all do a little better at being more responsible, more intentional with our money. If you and your spouse cannot agree on this point, then your marriage is likely to have some serious problems.
The problems associated with debt
Debt is a mounting problems in our culture. Go online and search for news articles regarding student loans or credit card debts being on the rise and you are sure to find many, many news outlets who are prepared to say the same thing to you. Even if you view student loan debt as a necessary evil, it is still a topic that can create difficulties in your marriage. The student loan debt that your spouse or you have taken on can prevent you from getting approved for a mortgage or a business loan. In a big picture sense, constantly having to pay off debts will mean that you can never use your income to do what it should be doing as you get older- growing your family’s wealth.
So, what can you do about your debt situation? One solution would be to make a concerted effort to pay off that debt in tandem with your spouse. Getting on a budget is not only a great way to begin to work on paying off debts but it can also be a helpful tool for strengthening your marriage. Marriage counselors and therapists will tell you that budget building is an effective tool for teaching spouses who have problems communicating with one another.
I have spoken with people whose spouses were absolutely against the idea of getting on a budget. The most common reason that these folks would give me is that they felt like they were being restricted by their being on a budget. In reality, the budget frees you to do certain things with your money. It gives you freedom to spend guilt free because you know that your income is being used for productive things. No longer would you have to guess at whether or not you can afford to make a purchase. With a budget, you could be sure that you have the money in the bank to pay for something you want to buy.
Debt can eat away at the foundation of your family by causing rifts in your relationship. Suppose that you become dead-set on paying off debts and living on a budget. You do all the research you need to learn that borrowing money and living off credit is not a sustainable way to live your life. You have committed to chopping credit cards and doing what it takes to start living below your means. You are excited and for the first time optimistic about the chances at achieving financial success in relation to your marriage.
Now further suppose that your spouse is absolutely resistant to any kind of budgeting and working on your debt problem. He or she believes that there isn’t a problem. He or she may further believe that you are being “bossy” or overly demanding when it comes to paying debts. If you attempt to go it alone and pay debt/budget without the involvement of your spouse, then you are likely to be in for a long list of marital problems stemming from the inability to communicate with one another. You are likely to not only fail at accomplishing your financial goals, but also likely to fail when it comes to building strong communication skills with your spouse.
Closing thoughts on why people file for divorce
A famous radio talk show host is fond of saying that adults devise a plan and stick to it, while children do what feels good. Sometimes it doesn’t feel good to have to come to terms with the fact that you and your spouse are struggling in some area of your marriage. Learning how to communicate those struggles to your spouse is another challenging aspect of this discussion. Perhaps the most challenging aspect of the whole topic is communicating the problem is such a way that your spouse is as motivated as you are to do something to improve that area of your marriage.
Money fights and money problems are a leading cause of divorce for Texas families. However, when you look a little closer at the problem you are likely to see that it is a symptom of a bigger issue: that of the inability or unwillingness to communicate with your spouse. Very few of us are naturally gifted communicators. This is a skill we most develop and improve upon over our lifetimes.
If you have any questions about the material that we discussed in today’s blog post please do not hesitate to contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan. Our licensed family law attorneys offer free of charge consultations six days a week here in our office. These consultations are a great opportunity to learn more about our office and to have your issues addressed directly by one of our attorneys. We take a great deal of pride in serving the families of southeast Texas and would be honored to speak to you about how we can best serve you and your family, as well.