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Marriage Conflict Over Money

How couples handle their finances has a direct impact on their overall happiness. Money is one of the most common arguments that often goes unresolved and leaves deep wounds. Often times, these arguments lead to a total breakdown of communication, which in so many unfortunate cases has led to divorce.

A 2013 study authored by Jeffrey Dew, Sonya Britt, and Sandra Huston found that one of the best indicators of marital discord is what they call "financial disagreements." Couples who fight about finances once a week are 37 percent MORE likely to get divorced than couples who rarely argue about finances. Those who fight daily are 69 percent more likely to get divorced compared to couples who rarely fight about money.

And while couples may talk about whether they’re spiritually aligned, or how many kids they want, or if they want to live in the country or the city, they almost never consider their “financial compatibility.” They don’t discuss whether their views align on dual-income households, taxes, savings or making a down payment on a house. And that’s the problem.

Because couples often lack clarity regarding these issues, they shy away from money talks for fear of initiating an unpleasant conversation. But the truth is, every couple needs to discuss these issues—seriously and honestly. They must regularly address whether they’re saving adequately, investing wisely, spending responsibly. Financial interests can change throughout our lives, so we need to make this conversation an ongoing one. Communication and financial transparency are keys to getting on the right path. With full disclosure and honest communication, you can build a financial game plan for success. Any game plan includes creating a budget.

Ah, the dreaded “B” Word. Budget has a negative association for so many couples, especially those who are spenders. A budget is a living, breathing testament to your spending habits. Most couples don’t do a formal budget, as a matter of fact about 32%1 of Americans use a budget. It’s hard to get ahead without a budget; it provides structure, it establishes direction, it creates accountability. It’s essential to the success of your overall game plan.

Even if numbers terrify you and you’d clean the bathroom than calculate must do it. Think of a budget as a road map. A numerical guide to a financially safe future. The foundation for sound decision-making.

What happens if we already have conflict?

If things have been difficult for a while, the budgeting conversation itself can create challenges. We encourage clients to focus on the positive and look for signs of alignment. Places of similar goals and mutual beneficial strategies can be critical to long-term success. Sometimes simple things like the children’s college or wanting to be out of debt can be a good starting place. You may not be able to agree about why you’re in debt or how to get out of it. But knowing you both want something similar can initiate the conversation.

Trilogy’s Financial Compatibility Quiz can be useful in this situation. While the quiz will certainly point out where the misalignment is, the quiz will also show you where you are on the same page and this can be motivating. Working with a Trilogy advisor to take baby steps toward rebuilding your financial future together can have huge benefits in all areas of your marriage and can help you down the road, wherever your story takes you.

Questions to Consider:
  • Where do you already have signs of financial alignment? How can you capitalize on them?
  • What successes can you celebrate? Where are things going well?
  • Where you have differing goals, how can you allocate “his/her” money to budget for those goals over time?
  • What is one way each of you can be more flexible toward the other person’s priorities?
  • Have you taken the Financial Compatibility Quiz? What did you learn from it?
1. Jacobe, D. (2013, June 3). One in Three Americans Prepare a Detailed Household Budget. Retrieved from

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