A recent study by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling showed that more than two-thirds of engaged couples were reluctant to discuss financial matters with their fiance prior to marriage.
The actual question asked was:
If I were getting married, I think that discussing money with my fiance would…
- Be a necessary, but awkward, conversation = 45%
- Likely to lead to a fight, so I would avoid this topic = 7%
- Reveal financial issues I wasn’t aware of = 11%
- Cause us to call off the wedding = 5%
- Be a productive and easy conversation to have = 32%
Studies have shown that the most important areas where engaged couples need to be in agreement are religion, children, in-laws, and you guessed it financial matters.
It probably should not come as a big surprise that one of the leading causes of divorce is fights over money. In fact, Sonya Britt, a researcher at Kansas State University found that the #1 factor in predicting which couples would make it and which wouldn’t was disagreements over money early in marriage. Interestingly, the study was controlled carefully so that the amount of money did not matter. Couples who had little and argued or couples who had much showed equal dissatisfaction and tendency toward divorce.
But we are in love
The old adage says that “Love is blind”. Too often this is true for engaged couples. Love will cover it. It’ll all work out once we are married.
The problem is those little things that are cute idiosyncrasies when you are dating can quickly become the wedges that divide after marriage. The fact he gets paid on Friday and is always broke by Monday morning or that she’s a bit of a tight wad might seem seem like funny quirks before marriage. After marriage those things quickly turn to resentment.
I am not sure whether to be amused or saddened that in the NFCC study 5% of the respondents said they would avoid a conversation about money with their fiance because they feared that it would cause them to call off the wedding. Probably not surprising that our divorce rate is what it is.
Protecting your relationship from money fights
So you think you have met the person you want to spend your life with. How do you make sure that the marriage bliss doesn’t end shortly after the honeymoon?
Discuss money attitudes
First make sure that you go through quality premarital counseling. That counseling should include discussions about money. Putting your head in the sand and hoping that love will make it all work out is a bad plan. If you haven’t received counseling on money related issues, ask for it or check out 10 Financial questions to ask before getting married for a place to start those discussions.
Take a class or read a book
I would highly recommend that any one considering marriage attend Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University with your fiance. (You both need to attend together!) The class provides a great framework for working through many of these discussions.
Another alternative would be to find a good book on marriage and finances and read through it together. One of my personal favorites is Money and Marriage God’s Way by Howard Dayton.
Differences are ok
It is ok if you aren’t in perfect agreement. Some people are natural savers and some natural spenders. Some people love 16 tab budget spreadsheets and some people like to make it up as they go along. Some come from families where money was a constant source of conflict and others come from families where money was never a problem.
Differences in marriage aren’t always bad. That saver will make sure that someday you have a comfortable retirement and the spender can help make sure you stop to enjoy the journey along the way. The key is understanding where your fiance is coming from and talking through those differences. Our differences don’t have to divide. They can complement but only when we are on the same page.
Money and marriage
Don’t be one of those two-thirds of people who avoid discussing money matters before marriage. Marriage is wonderful, but it can be a challenge at times too. Don’t add to those challenges by ignoring the most common reason that marriages fail.