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For Richer or Poorer: Building Financial Wellness in a Marriage

Divorce is one of the most stressful things a person can experience. While there are many different reasons a married couple might decide to call it quits, financial issues are one of the most common, and arguably one of the most serious. Let’s discuss why money can cause marriages to fail, as well as some steps you can take to ensure the financial well-being of your partnership.

There are many financial issues that can arise throughout a marriage, and some of them begin even before you ever say “I do.” Here are the main conflicts surrounding money that have been known to increase the likelihood of divorce.

Most Marriages are in Debt

Nearly ⅔ marriages begin in the red. A lot can contribute to this. Maybe one partner has student loans or credit card debt that walks down the aisle with them, or perhaps it’s the steep financial costs that come with weddings and buying a first house. Whatever the reason may be, debt is weighing down most American marriages.

The Fight Over Finances

Nearly half of couples who have a debt of $50,000 or more cite money as their main reason for arguing. While $50,000 of debt might seem like a lot to some, it’s actually quite common. The current average debt of individual Missourians across age ranges is over $35,000. With both partners carrying debt into the marriage,

This leaves many couples at high risk for arguments about finances to arise.

Too Much Money

While debt or financial struggles can certainly take a toll on a marriage, they are not the only ways that finances can mess with matrimony. Sometimes, having enough or abundant money can also lead to issues. This can be due to higher expenses that come with a higher monthly income, however, it can also come from one partner earning significantly more than the other, leading to possible resentment or manipulation and loss of autonomy.

Financial Infidelity

It can be hard to talk about money, even when it’s with the person you are sharing your life with. The majority of people who are in a significant amount of debt feel anxious about talking about their finances. This can sometimes cause people to hide their financial situation from their spouse, which is known as financial infidelity. Financial infidelity can manifest as a wide array of things including hiding existing debts, opening secret accounts, making large purchases without the other partner’s knowledge, and lying about the use of shared funds. Not only does financial infidelity break down trust, but it can place a marriage into a whirlwind of financial issues, and will almost certainly be used as leverage in any divorce proceeding.

Now that we’ve discussed how harmful mismanaging money can be to marriage, let’s go over some tips to build financial wellness in your partnership.

Have the tough conversations

Open communication is one of the foundations for a strong and long-lasting relationship. While it may be difficult to discuss your debt or financial shortcomings with your future or current spouse, hiding it will only lead to more trouble later on down the road. If you have debt or are struggling with money, tell your partner! Once it’s out in the open, you can begin to figure out how you’ll tackle it together.

Figure out what works best for you

Some married couples decide that they would rather keep their finances separate. This can certainly be useful and works for many couples. However, while combining your finances might seem stressful at first, it can build trust as well as increase financial communication and accountability. Ultimately though, it is up to you and your partner to decide. Have a conversation with them and decide on what will work best for you both.

Set financial goals together

Another big starter of money-based arguments is a mismatch in financial priorities. Maybe you want to save to buy a house while your partner would rather focus on putting money towards a new car. Whatever the situation may be, it is important to be on the same page as your spouse when it comes time to decide where your money should go. This might be a tough conversation at first, but compromise is key! Create short-term and long-term financial goals with your significant other to map out where you are and where you need to be to make sure that both of your needs are met.

Expect the unexpected

Lastly, know that sometimes even the best-laid plans fall through. Life is full of the unexpected and that often includes sudden and unplanned costs. Speak with your spouse about setting up an emergency fund if you do not have one already. In the case that things really go wrong, continue communicating with your partner to ensure you are both on the same page about how to handle the crisis together.


There is a Swedish proverb that says “Shared joy is double joy, shared sorrow is half a sorrow.” This can be true of a loving partnership in general, but it can mean even more when it comes to financial struggle. Dealing with the financial and emotional weight of money issues can be stressful, and even marriage-ruining in some cases. However, if you take the time to make sure you and your partner are committed to building financial wellness together, those burdens will be halved and you can focus more on those doubled joys that come with sharing your life with the one you love.

For more help on how to build financial wellness in your partnership, take a look at these tips or book a financial coaching for couples session with us!

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