As much as you love your partner, it’s inevitable that you’re going to argue sometimes. Some days you might argue about who’s going to drive the kids to school. Other days you might quarrel about whether to invite your mother-in-law on your next family vacation. And there may even be times when you get into a heated argument about which Netflix show you’re going to binge-watch next.
But if you’re like most couples, there’s something else that’s most likely to trigger an argument between the two of you—money. Here are the 5 biggest money mistakes that can put you on the path to divorce:
1. Maintaining separate bank accounts
At first glance, maintaining separate bank and credit card accounts may seem like a good way to protect your marriage. After all, if your husband doesn’t have access to your money, he can’t use it to buy that big screen TV he’s had his eyes on all year. And if he doesn’t buy it using a pool of cash you’ve contributed to, you won’t resent him for his spending habits, right?
Maintaining separate accounts can lead to problems in a relationship because it encourages you and your partner to see your money as “mine" versus “yours." It also makes it easier to keep marriage-ending secrets about spending habits and debt. This is why financial experts recommend having a joint account at least for shared expenses (for example, utility bills, childcare costs, and family entertainment expenses). When you have a joint account, you can create and manage a single budget for shared expenses, and you won’t have to decide who has to pay shared bills.
2. Not setting financial ground rules
You and your partner may have different spending habits and financial goals. For example, your partner may see it as a priority to update their entire wardrobe every season (which gets pricey quickly). You, on the other hand, may be content to wear the same clothes for a few years. But if you don’t have financial ground rules in place, these differences in spending habits can put a strain on your marriage. Specifically, you might resent your partner for spending money on shoes and accessories instead of on your kids’ extracurricular activities. And your partner? They may think that you’re always cheaping out when it comes to buying gifts for their family.
How do you avoid arguing all the time if you have different financial habits or goals? Set ground rules for how you spend your money. For example, decide how much each of you can spend without consulting the other person, how you’ll pool together money for your kids’ allowances, and what you’ll do if one of you makes more money than expected one year.
3. Avoiding money talks
Because money can be such a contentious topic among couples, you may be tempted to avoid talking about it with your partner altogether. But remember what happened when you didn’t tell your partner about how much you hated the idea of letting your brother-in-law stay with you for 3 weeks in the summer? Avoiding financial discussions can cause the same type of damage.
When you regularly discuss money with your partner, you’re more likely to be on the same page about your joint financial priorities. And you’re less likely to feel angry or resentful because of how you think your partner is spending their money or how you assume they feel about your spending habits.
4. Letting emotions dominate
When you discuss finances with your partner, it’s important to be open and honest. But this doesn’t mean that you should use your money talks to scold your partner for overspending or start a blame game about why last month’s hydro bill was so high. It’s easy to get angry or resentful about money. But if you bring these emotions into money talks, they can quickly turn a cooperative discussion into a heated yelling match (which rarely ends well).
As much as you can, try to stay calm and collected when discussing finances with your partner. Instead of pointing fingers at each other, focus on explaining your needs and negotiating with each other. Think of money talks as an opportunity to plan your future together rather than as a way to hurt one another.
5. Keeping money secrets
Not all secrets in a relationship are bad. For example, if you plan a surprise birthday party for your partner, you’re more likely to score some major points than to end up in the doghouse. But when it comes to your finances, keeping secrets can put your marriage on the rocks.
If you’re keeping financial secrets from your partner, you might be making purchases without disclosing them, hiding money or debt, or even simply giving money to someone without your partner’s knowledge. Whether you mean to harm your partner or not, financial secrets can leave them feeling deceived and betrayed. They can also threaten your family’s financial security.
Avoid financial infidelity (yes, this is a real term) by being honest with your partner during money talks. Even if you’re hiding debt or poor spending decisions out of embarrassment, be truthful with your partner so you can identify the best way forward together.
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