At a Glance
Sometimes love is just not enough to sustain a relationship, especially when you bring money into the mix. “Finances are by far the most common reason couples part. I’ve seen it year after year in my practice,” says Dori Shwirtz an attorney and divorce and marital mediator at Divorce Harmony.
Even if you and your partner are generally on the same wavelength about your finances, it’s important to be aware of common marriage money pitfalls so you can avoid them. Because nobody just walks into a divorce lawyer’s office out of nowhere. Those problems creep up over time.
From a lack of transparency to overwhelming debt, here are the top marriage money problems that lead couples to divorce.
You don’t talk about your finances
“Communication is key in any relationship, but it becomes even more important when discussing personal finances. If you and your spouse aren’t sharing your budget and checking in with each other about purchases, you could be headed for disaster,” says Brian Meiggs, founder of personal finance website Smarts.
Meiggs recommends taking turns paying bills or setting up a joint account so you can track expenses together. “It helps prevent one partner from relying on the other. If there’s no communication about money, it could indicate that your spouse isn’t being completely open about their spending.”
You don’t know how your spouse spends money
On that note, if you find yourself wondering how your partner is spending all their income and the math doesn’t add up, it might be time to have a difficult yet necessary conversation. This is a common money issue that ruins marriages. “If you signed up for a joint account but never seem to have any money left by the end of the month, it’s time to ask some tough questions,” says Meiggs. Shwirtz agrees: “If the couple hides money or major financial decisions from their partner, it can lead to distrust and feelings of betrayal.”
Be transparent and keep each other accountable by monitoring spending and using a budget-tracking app such as Mint and getting into the habit of keeping receipts. If you find out that one partner is eating out multiple times a week or buying new clothes all the time, it might be time to re-evaluate your budget, says Meiggs.
You and your partner have opposite views on money
Tracking your expenses won’t save you from the resentment that builds when you and your partner have completely different values and views on money. “The number one money issue is that couples have different philosophies when it comes to finances. Meaning one is a saver/planner and the other is a spender or risk-taker. It doesn’t matter how much is in their accounts, different values like this make for a disaster,” according to Shwirtz.
“While most couples fight about who spends too much, you could also be fighting about who doesn’t spend enough. This can lead to resentment and constant bickering,” adds Meiggs.
“If you’re the saver in the relationship, but your partner only pays for things with cash, it’s not going to work long term. Some couples don’t see eye-to-eye on spending money on stuff that’s not necessities. It’s usually just one person that wants to go out more and is willing to spend money on it. The other person feels the need to compensate.”
If you’re in this situation, Meiggs says you shouldn’t feel pressure to follow your partner’s lead in all areas of spending. Try talking things out and compromising to meet both partners’ needs: “Just because your spouse isn’t willing to spend money on a new TV doesn’t mean you can’t go out for dinner twice a week.”
You’re drowning in debt
Drowning in debt and not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel is another common money problem that leads to divorce, according to Shwirtz. “If a couple is burdened by debt, they may not have the energy or headspace to think about much else, which can ultimately affect their partnership in a negative way,” she says.
How to prevent divorcing because of money issues
To help prevent any of the issues that Shwirtz sees in her line of work, she suggests having a money talk before getting married or living together. “See if you are on the same wavelength as your partner. Also, talk about your life plan. Where do you see yourself in a few years and how do you plan on getting there?”
Finally, she adds that the best way to protect yourself in the event of a divorce is to be financially literate. “Educate yourself on what your assets and debts are as well as budget and responsibilities. Don’t set yourself up to be surprised down the road.”