Many couples fight over money, and it doesn’t start when they get married. Even dating and engaged couples go round and round about money concerns. I invited Jennifer Dawson on to share some of the things she has observed about money problems in the different phases of a couples’ relationship.
Here’s what she has to say-
The picture of divorce in the US is changing with rates declining in the last 3 years (National Survey of Family Growth), but the source of conflict does not. Financial stress continues to be one of the major reasons why couples seek a divorce. Money affects everything in life whether it is a relationship, family matters, or marriages.
The question is, is it a good idea for you to be financially solvent while dating or should you hold on to your financial independence during the marriage? What even makes a marriage work?
Money Problems While Dating
The start of a relationship begins with couples going on dates trying to woo each other. While going on dates, the question of who pays for meals or recreation activities such as movies or bowling is a thorny issue. The consensus is that whoever invited for the evening should expect to pay for the meal.
There are also those who insist on paying their share because they can afford to do so. Or maybe because it is the right thing to do. Whatever the reason is, money already matters at this stage. For some people, paying for their own way is a sign of independence. It can also be a sign of self-worth. They want others to know they are doing well for themselves.
It is important to discuss finances at the dating stage especially if you plan to take your relationship to the next level. Finding out about each other’s financial situations through credit reports, discuss debts and future savings plan may seem unromantic but can save you a lot of trouble in the future. As you get to know each other better, you will be able to see if you are on the same page or not when it comes to money matters.
Money Problems While Engaged
At this point, it should be clear already what you expect from each other when you are getting engaged. When a couple plans to tie the knot, there will be a lot of expenses; the biggest of which is the wedding. There will likely be a discussion about whether or not parents or other family members want to pitch in on the wedding.
The couple will also need to figure out how they are going to handle paying bills, furnishing their future apartment or home, and everything that goes into living together. If you have to put a downpayment on a house ahead of time or get a lease on an apartment for one person to live in during the engagement, you have to figure out how to split the money. My suggestion is that you both pitch in as much as possible to these types of bills.
Some couples end up having to downsize their wedding plans, honeymoon, or living expenses so that they can make things work. This can cause a lot of stress.
I won’t lie, having a prenuptial drawn up causes a lot of pause within me. I don’t suggest it lightly that a couple consider this, but some might think of drawing up a prenuptial. I’ve known people going into second marriages to do this. Right, wrong, or otherwise, you should at least discuss if it’s something either of you wants to do.
Money Problems When You Are Married
Each couple has to decide how they are going to handle their personal finances. I’ve known some couples that decide to keep their accounts separate. Others choose to join their income and run out of the same checking account.
It’s really important that you both figure out what works best for you. It’s ok to renegotiate how you do the finances as time goes on. The way you enter the marriage won’t be the way you stay forever. Eventually, kids will come along and that is a game changer.
Childcare and housework are unpaid work, which means, if one person stays home to be the primary caregiver, they will give up the income they were making. If you chose to keep your finances separate, that will likely need to be negotiated. Even if you kept it joint, there will be extra financial stress.
To keep the money fights down, open lines of communication is a must. Share your frustrations, but also, be willing to change. You can cut down on the arguments if you put yourself in your spouse’s shoes and learn to value what they consider to be valuable.