A couple's communication pattern can often determine the success of a relationship. Good communication enhances your relationship in various ways:
● Couples can discuss and resolve their concerns more positively and effectively instead of stewing over negative feelings.
● It helps with intimacy by using mutual give-and-take when sharing things about yourself and listening to the other person, fostering connection and allowing it to grow and deepen.
● It resolves and reduces conflict by discussing your problems openly and honestly; it helps you to resolve arguments and disagreements more readily rather than getting caught up in misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and emotional strife.
Other factors, including how much you interact as a couple, the personality characteristics of each partner, and stressors, all play a part in determining how satisfied people feel in their relationship. Research suggests that communicating well isn't a guarantee for a happy relationship. Research indicates that good communication skills enhance relationships and well-being in many ways. Effective communication is a way to foster a supportive marriage. By actively listening and responding to your partner (and vice versa), you are more likely to feel valued and cared for.
Recognize the Impact of Poor Communication
If you and your partner struggle with communication, consider talking to a professional for advice and tips on coping. Poor communication leads to money problems because it is hard to plan a budget together without discussing it. When there is no communication, there is no way to compromise. If you have barriers to your communication that you as a couple are unable to overcome, it may result in making wrong assumptions, and you become emotionally distant, and your sex life will suffer. You and your partner may seek others to fill the void. A marriage with little communication shows neglect and can become stagnant.
Causes of Communication Breakdown
Couples often have difficulty communicating about subjects that may cause arguments, like; finances, household chores, trust, jealousy, parenting styles, intimacy, spending time together, and tidiness. If the argument still needs to be resolved and drags on for weeks or months, the communication rut often leads to a breakdown. Criticism, contempt, stonewalling, or defensiveness become frequent if communication breaks down, and an unwillingness to find a path forward may occur.
Signs of Communication Problems
● Avoid assumptions about your partner's thoughts or feelings and minimize or avoid criticizing one another. Engaging in passive-aggressive behaviors or behaviors that seems harmless but indirectly displays unconscious aggressive motives is toxic.
● A neutral approach, with neither offense or defense, will help to hear and evaluate your partner's point of view and try to reach a compromise to avoid having the same arguments repeatedly.
● Stonewalling or intentionally shutting down during an argument to avoid problems, also known as silent treatment, can be hurtful, frustrating, and harmful to the relationship. Difficulty talking to your partner is a sign of communication problems, and you may need more help from a therapist for tips and advice on coping.
Strategies for Enhancing Communication
The key to effective communication in a marriage is listening.
Factors involved in active listening can include:
● tone of voice
● one way to avoid misinterpretations of tone is with written communication (through text, for instance)
● body language
● using gentle touch
● silence to reflect or listen.
Couples need to learn how to do reflective listening, which involves actively listening to what a person says and reflecting and repeating their statements to them. This type of listening helps your partner feel heard and understood, building their self-esteem, and fostering positive social and emotional feelings between you. It helps to clarify your partner's feelings, needs, and expectations so they feel understood, heard, and valued.
You can foster competent marital communication with effort. If you approach conversations by avoiding thinking you are right about something and being clear and direct, it will help keep the peace in your relationship. You have a right to your thoughts and feelings but remember that a conversation should not be a battleground where you must prove yourself right. Talk about your thoughts, feelings, and ideas, and listen to your partner's thoughts, feelings, and ideas with interest. Be cautious about misinterpreting relationship messages, so it pays to clarify the content of your messages to have clear communications.
Avoiding communication or silence is a type of communication that can send a negative, hurtful message. We can learn new behaviors if we are willing to put in time and effort. If we lower our ego and pride and realize it takes time to make changes, we can improve communication with our partners.
If you and your partner struggle to communicate, Marriage In a Box may be an option for learning new communication and listening skills, suggestions on avoiding pitfalls, and available coaching. Consider using Marriage In a Box for help in your new journey to help heal your relationship.
Marriage In a Box is an excellent resource that provides access to the simple tools and techniques professionals use for relationship issues. You can set goals, earn rewards, and find marriage coaching on the site. Check out the available kit and sources of information online.
There are healthy communication habits that build up a relationship and those that are unhealthy and can tear down a relationship. Research has shown that when couples utilize criticism, defensiveness, dishonesty, stonewalling, and contempt during difficult moments, they will turn toward each other less and grow distant, and the likelihood of divorce increases. Constant put-downs are a form of emotional abuse and can cause self-esteem problems with those on the receiving end and destroy relationships. This article will discuss these five toxic behaviors and their antidotes.
Negative criticism is very toxic to relationships and can feel like an attack. It has the effect of tearing down rather than building up, affecting self-esteem, and causing stress, anger, and resentment. When someone experiences an attack, the hurt causes an escalation of negative feelings and behaviors and may compel retaliation. A complaint focuses on the problem, while a criticism focuses on character trait flaws. Criticism uses the words "always" or "never" to describe something your partner does or doesn't do. Criticism is different from a complaint. Complaints are a normal and healthy aspect of a relationship and are a way to bring problems to light. A complaint focuses on the issue, and criticism sees the partner's character, personality, or looks at the problem.
Antidote: Bring up the same topic gently, which is a better way to resolve it.
A gentle startup sounds like this:
- Expressing what you noticed.
- Sharing your feelings.
- Stating your need.
"When I come home from work and see dirty dishes piled in the sink (what you noticed), I feel tired and frustrated (sharing your feelings). I need to walk into a peaceful environment.”
Contempt is the most dangerous of all behaviors because it undermines all reconciling efforts. At a minimum, it is very mean and becomes emotional abuse. It is a significant indicator of divorce. Contempt is supercharged criticism because it takes on a position of superiority, and the interaction becomes uncaring, demeaning, and affectionless. When people have contempt, they can be cynical and express their discontent using shame and mean-spirited sarcasm to put someone down. Some examples of complaint vs. criticism vs. contempt are:
- Complaint: It is frustrating to walk into a sink full of dishes when I'm tired after working all day."
- Criticism: You always leave the dishes in the sink because you don't care.
- Contempt: I don't know why I would expect you to clean up the dishes; you're lazy, just like your family.
Antidote: Regularly express appreciation, gratitude, affection, and respect in your relationship.
Defensiveness occurs when someone regularly receives criticism and contempt to try and protect themselves. A defensive person is uncomfortable admitting mistakes and shortcomings and may become rigid about their stand. They may turn around to become critical and contemptuous of their partner (give back as they get), or they may try to make excuses for their mistakes to downplay them. The argument is then deflected by changing the topic to the partner's shortcomings and becomes a cycle of never addressed accusations.
Antidote: Take responsibility, even if only for part of the conflict, and try to reach a solution.
Being lied to repeatedly is a red flag that can make it difficult to trust and build a solid foundation in a relationship. Honesty regarding spending, internet or other relationships, and substance use can create cracks in a marriage. Fostering secrecy regarding these issues can create secret lives that keep our partners out.
Lack of emotional honesty involves withholding, denying, or lying about how we feel about our partner, marriage, or ourselves. It is best to be upfront and honest with our partners rather than cover up how we feel.
Antidote: The antidote is to be honest with ourselves and others.
Withdrawal or Stonewalling
Stonewalling is when someone in the conversation shuts down, goes silent, blocks, and refuses to acknowledge the other person. With stonewalling, it seems like their partner doesn't care about them. The person who uses stonewalling is likely in a state of fight or flight. Stress hormones are then released when the body detects a threat. In conflict, sometimes our bodies will see it as any other threat and release stress hormones, and we will experience a racing heart. The parts of our brain responsible for relational behaviors like problem-solving, humor, and affection shut down.
Antidote: It is impossible to have a productive conversation when someone is in a stress response, so both people in the exchange need to agree to take a break and self-soothe.
- Use deep breathing.
- Take a walk or exercise.
- Relaxing activities, such as reading, painting, etc.
Stress hormones will take about twenty minutes to clear out of the bloodstream, and after taking a break, return to the conversation when calm. This return builds trust within the relationship.
Most people will use these negative behaviors at times in relationships. It is crucial to recognize their use and make repairs quickly to work toward utilizing them less and less. If these behaviors become chronic, they can break down a marriage. If you need helpful advice and solutions on how to deal with them, consider Marriage in a Box.
Marriage In a Box is a great resource that gives you access to the simple tools, techniques, and solutions that professional marriage counselors use for typical relationship issues. Marriage coaching is also available on the site. You can set goals and earn rewards. Feel free to check out the available kit and sources of information.
It is not unusual for a partner to lash out by criticizing their spouse sometimes after a tough day. It is healthy to realize that something hurtful was said and apologize quickly. You may feel stung as a partner on the receiving end of the critical words, but hopefully, you can empathize with a hard day and accept a heartfelt apology. If criticism shows up occasionally like this in a relationship, it is not a cause for concern unless criticism escalates to becoming a habit where consequences can be devastating.
To compliment is an expression of esteem, respect, affection, or admiration.
To criticize is to find fault with or point out one's flaws.
The Difference between criticism and constructive feedback
For a relationship to function well, feedback must be given and accepted. There is a line between constructive feedback and criticism. Healthy feedback is about behavior and not a person. We can let our partner know what we think or feel without criticizing them individually. An example would be, "I'm worried about eating too much fat in our diet. Can we talk about how we might eat healthier?
On the other hand, criticism lends itself to commenting on a partner's character or personality and is often extreme and non-specific. For example, "You're lazy and always cook with a lot of fat, like fried food and food drenched with butter, and never cook healthily. You don't even care if it kills us!". Criticism usually contains words like always and never as part of the accusation.
This type of delivery kills our message's value and makes the feedback pointless.
The Effects of Criticism on your Marriage
Our critical side can raise its ugly head during stress or frustration, making it a difficult habit to break. Understanding the effect criticism has on your partner and the shared bond may encourage you to reexamine your ways.
It breaks down your partner's self-esteem.
As anyone who receives criticism knows, these statements cut deeply. Repeated criticism can shake one's confidence and cause doubt about the ability to perform. If criticism comes from someone who is supposed to love us, we begin to believe that what they say must be valid. It raises questions about our value and worth.
It erodes trust.
Frequent criticism feels like betrayal and violates the implied promise of protection from hurt made in the formation of the relationship.
How to break the cycle of constant criticism
- Stop trying to change your spouse.
Trying to force your spouse to change can cause more harm than good. Couples changing and growing should happen naturally, not something you should push. Encouraging self-improvement is an admirable quality of a supportive partner.
- Treat your partner with Respect.
Respect indicates that your feelings, happiness, and welfare are essential to your partner and promote trust, appreciation, empathy, and safety. A mission to change your spouse is disrespectful to them and your relationship. It can break down their self-esteem, hurt their feelings, and demean their sense of self.
- Stop pushing your partner away.
Personal growth is fantastic. Everyone has things on which they could work. Changing behaviors and responses for your partner is sometimes a good thing. But if you constantly try to change your partner, you disrespect them and send a message that what they offer you isn't good enough, and distance is created.
- Put yourself in your partner’s shoes
Realize that you wouldn't accept someone criticizing you. Think about how it would feel if your partner constantly told you that you need to change. Nobody likes to be picked apart and told what to do all the time. Demanding change from your spouse can leave them feeling unworthy and leave you emotionally exhausted and unsatisfied.
Tips to stop criticism.
The antidote to criticism is to use a soft, gentle manner to complain without blame.
Decide the kind of person and spouse you want to be and how you want that reflected in your marriage. If you are serious about removing criticism from your marriage, decide and commit to working on your part.
- Discuss your feelings using "I" statements and expressing a positive need. Avoid using "you" statements and expressing negative judgment, which will make your partner feel attacked.
- Focus on the positive aspects of your partner instead of the negative.
- Do what it takes to stop finding fault, belittling, nit-picking, cutting down, or chastising your partner. It takes work to accept your partner, even their annoying traits, bad habits that aren't harmful, quirks, and idiosyncrasies.
- Think about why you married your spouse and praise their good qualities.
Resign yourself to the fact that you will not change your partner. Observe any behavior changes in your partner. Without criticism in your marriage relationship, see if your partner is more interactive, lively, open, or spontaneous and seems more relaxed.
There are resources available from the Marriage in a Box website in the form of a toolbox, The Marriage in a Box toolbox and coaching can both help you and your partner change how you relate to each other. Marriage in a box tools and resources can provide tips to communicate effectively. Feel free to check out the available kit, resources, and counselors online at ttps://www.marriageinabox.com.
Research shows that you will be on the road to change if you apply new behaviors for thirty consecutive days. Everyone deserves to live in a criticism-free environment.
The birth of a baby is a joyous occasion in the majority of couple’s lives. However, most couples are unprepared for the demands of parenting. Every waking hour is spent feeding, changing, and tending to the needs of the baby. Parenting is challenging on your body and mind because you don’t have time to get proper sleep, eat healthy meals, exercise, socialize, or focus on keeping the home fires burning. Approximately two-thirds of couples see the quality of their relationship decline within three years of the birth of a child.
As children get older, the demands change to overseeing homework, and taking children to and from sports, ballet, music lessons, school functions, etc. You spend so much time taking care of their needs that it is easy to neglect your own. Yours and your partner’s needs take a backseat to the children. Don’t let the stress of parenthood destroy your marriage!
Get the proper amount of sleep.
Experts say that your body needs 7 to 8 hours of sleep every day to function at its best. When you don’t get enough sleep, you are sluggish, irritable, and less effective. It will take you twice as long to do things, you are likely to make more mistakes, and you’re prone to getting into arguments without proper rest. Set a bedtime and stick to it. Since it can take a while for your mind to calm down enough to sleep, start setting the stage for bedtime by turning off the technology at least an hour before bedtime.
Share the workload.
Parenting and taking care of the household is tough to do alone. In today’s world, both parents may work outside the home or in a home office, or one may work while the other takes care of the household. Either way, both partners need to share the responsibility for the children and the household. AS an example, one partner may decide to take care of the cooking, laundry, and daytime childcare. The other partner may agree to take care of the outdoor maintenance, garbage, and nighttime childcare. Both of you may decide to share the household cleaning once per week. Carve out some time to sit and talk and come up with an equitable division that plays to your strengths.
Plan your calendar wisely.
There are so many competing demands for your time, that you need to become very protective of your time as a family and as partners. Don’t pack your calendar so tightly with activities and events that you neglect to leave time for yourself, your family time, and your marriage. Learn to say no to invitations for friends and relatives that take up too much time. If your kid’s activities are packing the daily schedule to tightly, learn to limit the activities. Schedule a block of time for yourself every day to exercise and just unwind. Your partner should do the same. Planning helps control the chaos and reduce the stress.
Prioritize your time with your spouse.
You need to make time to enjoy being with your spouse. This is the glue that holds your marriage together. Set aside time each day to sit alone together and talk about you and your marriage. This is not time to discuss your obligations, vent or spend time on your cellphones. This is time to enjoy getting to know each other better by communicating. Every marriage needs time for intimacy and romance. Schedule a date night once a week and treat that time as sacred. Get a babysitter and go out or put the kids to bed and have a quiet evening in.
Removing the stress from a marriage with children takes both of you planning and working together. The rewards, however, are worth the effort. Your kids will have parents that are fully there, you and your spouse will enjoy your family and your relationship, and you each can breathe a sigh of relief.
Despite the constant talk about work-life balance today, it remains elusive for too many families." The economy, the uncertainty of careers, make leaving work at the office is more difficult than it seems. Technology allows us to work virtually anywhere, and anyone can reach us at any time. Working at home is not a luxury, it has become a necessity for many. Working too much can have a negative impact on your marriage.
Every company and spouse value a hard worker. However, there is a difference between being a hard worker and being a workaholic. A workaholic is someone who works compulsively at the cost of sleep, health, and spending time with loved ones. They don’t just work hard; work consumes their life.
- They miss out on life events for work.
- They try to find ways to make more time for work.
- Hobbies and leisure are sacrificed due to work.
- The amount they work has negatively impacted their health.
- They find a way to work even if sick or injured.
- They rarely take vacations, and if they do, they still work while out of the office.
- They always bring work home with them.
- They find it hard to be "in the moment" because they are thinking about work.
In a workaholic marriage, everyone suffers. The workaholic experiences tendencies to entitlement, irritability, frequent physical ailments, angry outbursts, and constant guilt over their work habits. The workaholic’s spouse feels disconnected, abandoned, or estranged from their partner. The marriage lacks physical and emotional intimacy, communication, and togetherness. Sooner or later, something will snap and both partners will have to confront the issue.
If you or your spouse recognize signs of being overcommitted to work, you are putting your marriage in danger. Here is how to make a lifestyle change and turn things around before it's too late.
Communicate your feelings to your spouse. As your spouse is engrossed in their work, you are silently raging with resentment at always putting your needs on the back burner for the sake of his or her career. Sacrificing in silence will not change the situation. You need to have an honest conversation with your spouse. They may not be aware of how much they have neglected you and the family. Gently let them know how much you love them and need them to be present in your life instead of always at work.
Once you open the door to the issue, it allows you both to discuss how to solve the problem. Start with one or two small steps that could begin to make a difference and go from there.
Create a boundary between work and home life
Your work life can bring many benefits such as a sense of accomplishment, success, money, and recognition. However, no matter how good you are at your job, it will not bring you lasting peace, happiness, love, or comfort. People were created to need other people. When you develop a relationship with someone, you open yourself to them. You get to know them, and they get to know you. As time goes on and you become more involved with each other, love blossoms, intimacy occurs, and two become one. That sharing, communication, and building a life together is what gives life meaning.
Work is what makes your life outside of work possible. A healthy marriage and family life is possible because of the boundaries you set. Set a specific time that you will arrive at work and that you will leave work every day and stick to it. Learn to protect your family time. If your boss asks you to stay late, let him or her know that you have already made a prior commitment that you cannot break. Offer to come in early the next morning to attend to the project.
Establish Technology Free Zones.
The master bedroom should be set up to use for relaxing, cuddling, and sleeping. It should be a couple’s sanctuary. If you have an office set up in the bedroom, relocate it to a different part of the house. If you are a laptop or tablet fanatic, have a specific place that you use it and stick to that space. Don’t take your office with you everywhere you go, every minute of the day. You need to unplug to get rest, decompress, and focus on your family relationships.
Make your Spouse a Priority
Your career, your work, or your schedule should not be at the expense of your marriage. To have a great marriage, requires devotion of time, energy, communication, and intimacy. If you are consumed with work or your schedule, what is left for your spouse? If this sounds like you, you need to get back to investing some time in your marriage.
When you leave the office (whether is a home office or an out of the home office), put work out of your mind. Establish a weekly date night for “just the two of you.”
Set Aside Family Time
Gather as a family for meals and make it a rule that cell phones are turned off during your time together. To create and maintain a close bond, you need to spend time being completely present, talking with and enjoying your time with your family. If it’s been a while, start off by making an effort to connect. Ask about how their day went and share something about your day. Mealtime is an essential time to decompress from work and get back into family life.
Every couple struggles with finding the right balance between family life, couple’s time, work, and scheduled events. Talking about and sharing your struggles with your spouse brings you closer together and motivates you both to work at improving your life and marriage.
Talking about money does not come easily or naturally to most people. It is one of those “taboo” subjects that you don’t discuss in public. However, you don’t want to wait to talk to your spouse about money when the bills are piling up, and the checking account is empty. If you’re going to establish a strong foundation for your future together, you need to have the “money talk.”
Start small and casual.
Most people wait until a financial crisis to talk to their spouse about their finances. By then, stress and anger have built up, and you can resort to blaming or shaming your partner. It hurst your marriage when you personally attack your partner. Their defense mechanisms kick in. Instead of being able to talk about your finances, you are screaming and fighting.
Start talking about money when there is no crisis Think of it as planning for your financial future together.
- If we want your spouse to share with you freely, you must give them your undivided attention.
- Don’t lecture, discuss. Instead of talking at your partner, talk with your partner.
- Try to understand each other’s points of view. Ask questions and wait patiently for an answer.
- Pick the right time and place. Choose a time when you are less likely to be stressed out, exhausted, or engrossed in something else.
- Ease into the conversation slowly. Try one of these introductions.
- Bring up a money goal you are working on saving for, like a vacation. Ask your spouse what money goals they have.
- Find an article about couples and finances and share it with your spouse. Bring it up later and discuss what each of you thought of it.
- Look into Personal Finance classes at a community college and suggest that you and your spouse attend together.
Don’t keep secrets
Honesty is essential in any relationship. Make sure you and your partner share your credit history, debt liabilities, and other obligations. Don’t hide your purchases from your spouse. Don’t keep hidden bank accounts. If you don’t discuss such things, you can never truly develop a strong foundation from which to build on. Tell the truth and be open when it comes to money.
If you both are open about your financial struggles, you can put your heads together to find a strategy to address them. Struggles could include:
Since both people have disclosed personal money-related information, it can make each of you feel less vulnerable and create a more level playing field when you put it all out there. Both people may feel an emotional connection by opening up with personal and private information.
Create a financial plan
Both partners should look at the joint financial picture in black and white. How much Money do you have coming in each month? What debts do You have? What are your major expenses? Have you started saving?
Who currently manages the budget, pays the bills, or organizes the finances in your household? Many individuals wrongfully assume the other party in the relationship is willing or able to handle all these responsibilities. It doesn’t matter who manages these tasks or how you divide the duties. What matters is that do it.
Once you have created a Financial Budget and a way to pay off debts, set dates to track how you are doing.
Establish Goals Together
What goals do you have for your future? Perhaps you’d like to travel, change careers, start a business, own a new home, continue your education, or start a family. Whatever your dreams are, be sure to establish a financial plan for them with your partner. Use one of your money dates to jot down some goals and ensure they are S.M.A.R.T. (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound). Money goals could include saving for:
- A home
- Home renovations
- A new car
- A cruise
Whatever your goals are, they start with an open conversation and a solid plan.
Set Regular Money dates
Schedule a “money date” once or twice a month to discuss your financial situation, review your budget, and discuss upcoming priorities. You should pleasantly surprised at your progress toward realizing your goals. By taking an hour here and there to check your progress and proactively address potential issues, you are building a solid marital bond to last a lifetime.
Having children is one of the biggest joys in a couple’s life. Long before that bundle of joy comes into the world…the spending begins. Nursery decorating can be such a bonding experience for a young couple as they pick out paint colors, furniture, blankets, sheets, mobiles, baby monitors, clothing, car seats, bath accessories, etc. While children bring many happy moments of love, they also require a long-list of child-related expenses. Out of control child-related spending can unravel even the best of marriages.
According to a U.S. News & World Report, the cost of raising a child to the age of 18 in the U.S. in 2021 was $267,000, or more than $14,800 per year. Every parent wants their child to have the best of everything. However, some can go completely over the top in buying their child the newest and latest toys and clothes, hosting the best celebrations, and insisting on the top of the line everything for their child. Before you know it, you are overextended and stressed out over how to pay the stack of credit card bills. The average American family had $6,270 in credit card debt in 2021.
Credit cards, loans, buy now and pay later deals are NOT free money! Eventually, those cards, loans, and deals will come due, and you will need to come up with the money to pay them off. A recent survey of Certified Divorce Financial Analysts revealed that 22% of marriages end in divorce because of money issues. The good news is that there are steps you can take now to get out from under that debt and get your family spending under control.
Before any financial plan can be made to get out of debt, you will both need to be willing to do some work to understand where you want to be, where you are, and how you got there.
- Make a Financial Date.
Make a date with your spouse to discuss the family finances and financial goals. Approach the matter in a positive light.
“Honey, I feel like we have not really determined our long-term goals for ourselves and our family. I would like to set aside some time to talk about our future. What is a good day, time for us to do that?”
Notice that there is no anger in this statement. There is no blame. There is no pushiness or nagging. You married you spouse because you love them and want to spend the rest of your life with them. Now that you are married and have children, you simply want to discuss your future together. To do that, you need to start the discussion with “where do you want to go?”
- Remember and Share Your Dreams.
Remember when you were dating? I will bet that you spend hours talking about what you each wanted to do with your lives. Did you want to get an advanced degree? Did you want a house in the country or the city? Did you imagine beautiful family vacations in the mountains, or at the beach? What do you think your retirement will look like?
Spend some time talking about the things you really want out of your lives and write them down. By sharing goals, you are identifying the things that you feel are worth working and saving toward. Agree to have another financial date to talk about how you feel about money and set that date.
- Identify Your Financial Personality
In your next financial date, each of you should try to identify how you feel about money. Many marital fights about money occur because both spouses have completely opposite views about money. One spouse may spend for quality items without giving much thought to the budget or future goals. The other spouse may rein in their wants, try to control the budget, and focus on saving money for the future.
The saver might feel resentment over the effects of the uncontrolled spending of the spending spouse. The spender might be exasperated with the saving spouse’s constant nagging and lack of appreciation for the finer things of life for their children. Which one are you? Discuss how you feel with your spouse calmly and without anger. Agree to have another financial date to determine the state of your own finances.
- Find out what your financial status is.
You will each need to prepare ahead for this next financial date. Each spouse needs to make a list of their sources of income such as paychecks, alimony checks, investment dividends, or other. One spouse needs to gather the last 6 months of bank statements and the check register or online banking transaction register. The other spouse should gather the last 6 months of investment or savings account statements. Print off this simple budgeting sheet or copy it onto a piece of paper.
When you sit down for your next financial date, together you will fill out the budgeting worksheet by listing all your income and expenses and subtracting the total expenses from your total income. You now both now exactly where you stand financially and can discuss your feelings about it. Please do not “blame” or react in anger because they will only drive a wedge between you and your spouse. Instead focus on whether you suspected the results of the budgeting exercise or were surprised by it. How do the results affect your long-term goals? Agree to have another financial date to talk about how you can change those results by reducing expenses.
Every married couple must learn to work together continuously to solve their problems. Money problems are some of the biggest problems you will face. The key is to learn to face your problems together as a team and learn to communicate with each other about the “hard stuff.” While you want to solve the issue, you also want to preserve the bond of love and happiness in your marriage. Get started on the road to a stronger relationship with a free trial to some of the best exercises and tools used by professional marriage counselors.
Money problems in marriage arise from imbalances in power, decision-making, and transparency. They often happen when spouses have a large inequity in their earning power. The spouse with the most income or wealth often expects to dictate the family’s spending priorities.
Power plays can occur in one of these instances:
- One partner has a paid job, and the other doesn't.
- Both partners would like to be working, but one is unemployed.
- One spouse earns considerably more than the other.
- One partner comes from a family that has money and the other doesn't.
When one or more of these situations is present, the spouse who makes or has the most money often wants to dictate and control the couple's spending. The power control can manifest itself in numerous ways that are destructive to the relationship.
- One Spouse controls all the finances, doling out money to the other spouse only after being convinced that it’s use is sensible. In marriage, one spouse dominating another does not usually lead to a loving and intimate relationship.
- One Spouse makes all the financial decisions without consulting the other spouse. Marriage is supposed to be a partnership. If one spouse controls the decision making, the other spouse has no voice in the marriage.
- One Spouse balances the checkbook, invests the family’s money, and controls the checkbook and safety deposit box. One spouse could conceivably make bad investments, overextend the family in debt, or make large withdrawals for purchases the other spouse would not approve of.
Few things build resentment more quickly than feeling marginalized, powerless, and kept in the dark by your spouse. Power play issues can get ugly fast and are a predictor of divorce. Some studies also indicate that infidelity is correlated with disparity in earning power.
Income and resource disparities are de-stabilizing for couples. Resentment and fights about money seep into every aspect of your married life. It divides you, breaks down the trust in your relationship, prevents intimacy, and can negatively affect your health.
How to End the Money Power Play
- Have an open and frank discussion about your feelings about how the family finances are managed.
No problem can be resolved if you both do not communicate and address the problem. Each of you has a perspective on your finances and you need to get that out in the open. Approach the discussion with an “I” statement rather than a “You” statement.
“I feel that I do not have much input into….”
“You never discuss financial things with me…”
The “I feel...” statement is non-threatening, whereas the “You never discuss…” statement immediately puts your spouse on the defensive.
Have empathy for your spouse.
If you are the larger income earner or the wealthier of spouses, you need to be sensitive about how you throw your weight around. Try to reverse roles and imagine how you would feel in your spouse’s shoes.
Share a joint bank account that each has access to.
Relieve financial stress and resentment in your marriage by being open about your spending and the amounts in your financial accounts. You are building your finances to prepare for a happy lifetime together, so both should be part of that building.
Make important spending decisions together.
Many spouses set a spending threshold, say $200.00, that require both to talk about before spending that amount or above. It is a way of keeping your finances on track and trusting your partner.
Sometimes the higher-earning spouse will delegate all the routine spending decisions to their lower-earning, or non-earning partners. This is a way of showing respect for your spouse and assuring them a role in decision making.
Build a Future Vision for Your Finances Together
Talking about your dreams for the future can help take the animosity out of dealing with your money. It also gives you a reason to do budget checkups regularly so you can each see your progress toward your goals.
“Honey, remember we are saving up for a house, so is this really a good time for that purchase?”
“Oh, sweetie, we almost have enough for a down payment!”
Working through your financial issues in a healthy way preserves the love in your relationship. It takes a lot of security and maturity to give up power, but if have an abundance of trust in your partner, it can work for you. Sharing power fosters a sense of togetherness and increases the intimacy bond in your marriage.
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