Money, Marriage, and Conflict

Married couple working on money and finances together

Recent studies have shown that arguments about money are by far the top predictor of divorce, even more than sex, children, housework, or other issues. Since we have to deal with money almost every day, the possibility for conflict is always with us. Negativity and conflict in a relationship tends to crowd out the positive and loving feelings that we want to give and receive from our partner.


Issues around money can be an indication of general communication problems in your marriage. Establishing and sticking to a budget, responsibility for monthly expenses, and decisions around larger purchases like cars, houses, and vacations all require good communication skills. Balancing the differing wants, needs, and values of two people requires negotiation, patience, and a desire to listen and understand your partner.

Most couples have difficulty talking constructively about money and financial issues. Some favor their own needs and give their partner’s wishes less weight. Others tend to give in and then develop covert resentment as a result. For some couples any discussion of financial issues turns into a big argument that can last for days.

Couples need to talk openly and calmly about money and finances. The goal is for both partners to value their own needs and the needs of their partner equally and to cooperatively make financial decisions that are in everyone’s best interest. But this can be challenging when fears get stirred, feelings get hurt, and tempers flare.

The Value of Money

Beliefs and values around money usually have their beginnings in our lives growing up. Parents tend to transmit their values around money unconsciously, usually through actions such as making purchases or use of credit cards versus cash rather than explicitly talking about the underlying meaning of money. This leads to most of us having a set of beliefs and values around money that we accept without question with their origins below our level of awareness.

Many of us grow up in families where money was used as a way to show love, respect or caring. Some of us grew up in families where saving was considered a virtue so we turned into savers. Or maybe we rebelled against saving and put more value on living for today rather than saving for tomorrow. This can cause problems when people get married since both members of the couple came from different families with different values which often leads to conflict around money and finances.

Financial Infidelity

Money can be a focal point for trust issues in the relationship. One partner may keep financial secrets from the other partner which can eventually come to light, leading to feelings of betrayal that may undermine the stability of your marriage. And once trust has been broken, it’s very difficult to heal the painful wounds of financial betrayal. But it is possible to come out of it stronger than before by working through the issues and gaining a deeper understanding of each other.

Marriage Counseling

Most couples have some amount of disagreement around financial issues. But when there is a lack of trust, significant conflict, and communication breakdown, you may want to consider Marriage Counseling. I address money with most couples I work with and for many this is the focal point of the counseling process. We will work on your financial issues and we start by understanding your current problems, what got you to this point, and what both of you want for the relationship going forward.

You can learn to have more satisfying conversations around money and finances that take into account your thoughts, feelings, and hopes as well as those of your partner. I would like to help you work through the conflict in your marriage so you can have a satisfying and happy relationship. Call me to find out more or to set up an initial consultation.