When getting married, couples often pledge: “For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part.” When it comes to the financial aspects of marriage vows, some couples aren’t staying true to their promise.
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A survey by Elevate’s Center for the New Middle Class (CNMC) says almost a quarter of married couples exhibit behaviors of an unhealthy financial partnership, such as failing to reach financial compromises and not being comfortable talking about money. Jonathan Walker, Executive Director at Elevate’s CNMC attributes the breakdown in relationships to one thing.
“Financial strain is the spark, but it’s not the gas leak, the lack of trust is,” says Walker.
He shared what couples can do to improve their financial relationships:
Transparency is key
Walker says trust in a relationship is not destroyed by incompetence or mistakes. Trust is destroyed when the other partner feels as if secrets are being kept. The emotional load of keeping an eye on your partner’s actions can also undermine your relationship. He says this is why it’s important for couples to be transparent about spending. A great way to get on the same page as your mate? Elevate’s CNMC says almost half of the couples they surveyed report having regular discussions about household finances.
Define personal and family goals
When you get married, you may find it difficult to align your wants and needs with those of your partner, as well as the entire family. Walker says you should discuss and negotiate what things matter to you, but also focus on what you both want to accomplish as a family. That could include having children or buying a home. He says family goals can help couples think beyond themselves and understand where they are heading. Elevate’s CNMC study indicates that couples with defined goals argue less than those without.
Consider co-mingling finances
Walker says co-mingling accounts can be a disaster if there is no trust. However, he says if you are willing to use trust as a mechanism to strengthen your relationship, co-mingling finances can be an effective way to get on the same page as your husband or wife. There’s also an upside to mixing accounts with your mate. Walker says couples who co-mingled their financial accounts were much more likely to report having shared financial goals. It’s also more likely they will see eye to eye on household finances. However, he stresses that co-mingling is not a fix if there are existing problems.
Try to be empathetic
In relationships, emotional support is important. Walker says you must be willing to listen and understand the other person’s needs. He says couples who emotionally support each other seem to feel less friction over financial decisions.
“Couples who argue about money, argue about other things as well,” says Walker. “What surprised me is that couples that don’t argue about other things, don’t argue about money either. A couple can look at their relationship and how they are dealing with finances as a great measure of their relationship in general.”
Linda Bell joined FOX Business Network (FBN) in September 2014 as an Assignment Editor after more than a decade at Bloomberg News. She is an award-winning journalist/writer of business and financial content. You can follow her on Twitter @lindanbell.