Is One of The Primary Causes of Divorce Money?

By Amy Sara Cores, Contributor Fea Money financial literacy School

Money is often cited as one of the main causes of divorce. Is that really true?

Yes, it’s really true, according to a study by Dr. Sonya Britt-Lutter. Britt studied more than 4,500 couples and published the study, Examining the Relationship Between Financial Issues and Divorce, in a journal of family studies.

The Root of the Problem

Why is money such a contentious issue for so many couples? The reasons are myriad, but they really relate to two people with different viewpoints and sometimes different habits.

These are common examples:

  • Money style: Are you a spender or a saver? If you’re in a relationship with a person whose money style is your opposite, you’ll both be frustrated at times.
  • Communication: Do you and your partner find it difficult to communicate about tough or awkward subjects? Can you avoid turning a discussion into a fight?
  • Power struggle: Who wants to control the money? Both of you? Neither? And does one partner make more money? Substantially more? Oftentimes, when one partner earns substantially more money, that partner feels entitled to control the money. Then, the other partner may often feel undeserving of control or less worthy due to lower income.
  • Security: Does one partner view a cash stash as mandatory, and the other sees a credit card as the emergency fund?
  • Goals: Do you have a plan for your money, or are you on autopilot? Are you a planner with a non-planner partner?

What’s the Solution?

This can be a problem that isn’t likely to improve without your effort. Britt’s study indicates that couples who have financial arguments early in their relationship will probably “have poor relationship satisfaction.” Thus, they’re less happy than they could be, and divorce is possible.

So what should you do about it? Like so much of life, the solution is simple but not easy. Start with these tips:

  • Establish communication: First, it’s important you both agree to talk over all the money issues in a cool, respectful, and positive way. There’s no place for judgment, name-calling, and anger. At times, our emotions about other issues manifest around money. Be alert, and stay cool and focused on your money discussion.
  • Plan: How are you going to manage your finances and your relationship going forward? Create a plan so that you can both agree on how often you’ll tackle money tasks, who will do each task, and so on. When will you talk and review? Make a plan and then follow through.
  • Goals: Where are you going? What do you both want to accomplish? If you set some goals, even just the basics, you can encourage some positive behavior and have a yardstick to measure your progress. Setting short-term (30-90 days), medium-term (90 days to one year), and long-term (one-year and longer) goals can be life-changing as you see your progress over time. It helps you see, also, that you can accomplish anything over time.
  • Get help: If you are still struggling, consider getting some help. Ideally, you’ll both consult with a financial planner or other counselor, but if your partner won’t join you, you can still go alone. Action can help to alleviate your stress and anger.
  • Action: If necessary, set up separate bank accounts so that you each can handle money your own way. Many couples set up a joint account to which each contributes, along with accounts that each person funds and controls separately. Some couples dispense with the joint account and make arrangements to split expenses. Do whatever works for you.

A Common But Solvable Problem

For many people, money can be a tough issue—but it doesn’t have to be. You can decide to defuse the drama and make money, just another thing you share with your partner.

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