When Is His Business Your Business?
Fairlady|September/October 2021
Well over 50% of couples report that money causes tension in their relationship – and it is a far stronger predictor of divorce than any other issue within a marriage.
Sylvia Walker

Love may conquer all, but bills still need to be paid and disagreements over money can become a brutal battleground. The financial impact of Covid-19 just adds to the strain in many households. Unresolved issues can lead to anger, stress, blame and even intimacy problems in a relationship.

Prevention is better than cure, they say. How can we reduce or eliminate the fall-out over finances? Home life is tough enough, what with having to deal with careers, kids and extended family responsibilities – so tackle money issues before they get out of hand.

WHO WEARS THE PANTS?

In an ideal world, both partners are equal. In reality, however, money can strongly influence the power balance, and shift it over time from one partner to the other as circumstances change. One partner may earn more than the other, or one may be retrenched, or one may inherit… There are many unexpected events that can affect this balance.

‘In predominantly capitalist societies, money is often viewed as a measure of success,’ says clinical psychologist Sandy Hoffman. ‘The more money you have, the more successful you are deemed to be, and this value system trickles down and becomes part of family system functioning.’ This can lead to the higher earner feeling a greater sense of entitlement, creating insecurities in the relationship and even resentment towards the partner who is earning less.

An important and easily overlooked fact is that money is not the only currency in a relationship. One partner may contribute more financially, and the other more in other aspects, such as providing emotional support, raising children and managing the household. These may not be as easily quantifiable but are just as important to a healthy family dynamic.

Acknowledge power issues in the relationship and discuss them openly before they lead to resentment and more permanent damage. If necessary, seek professional help.

WHAT ABOUT SECRETS?

Are you an open book or do you play your cards close to your chest? How much does your partner share about their finances? In a poll conducted by the University of Southern Mississippi, more than half of the participants admitted to keeping money secrets from their partners, including hiding receipts or lying about what something cost.

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