This week, USA Today ran a short piece (one of its “Snapshots”) on the top causes of money-related causes of divorce. I have replicated the results for you in the pie graph below. The article indicates that these results were obtained by surveying 1000 adults.
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#1 Money-Related Cause of Divorce
Taking the top spot by a mile is spending. By that, I presume that they mean that one spouse spends more than the other, or that they do not agree on spending for one reason or another.
While this makes me sad to hear, I can understand how it happens.
After all, I am not going to lie and pretend that I’ve never bought something that I didn’t particularly want my husband to find out about. I’m a female, and I’ve certainly had my days when a new pair of shoes or article of clothing is tops on my mind, and I somehow find myself in a store full of stuff I like.
I think a lot of us have had those kind of days, although maybe for you it’s not clothing. Maybe it’s electronics, video games, cars, tools, or makeup. Whatever it is, most of us who are alive and breathing have some sort of consumer item that we could really spend a lot on if we let go and did it.
So how to manage these consumer desires, especially if you are married?
#2 Money-Related Cause of Divorce
Obviously talking about money (and particularly spending!) with your partner is a big key here. Especially since, as you can see on the graph, the #2 biggest financial-related cause of divorce is never discussing money!
When Mr. CMF and I got married, we were fortunate to have a friend who was a former pastor who agreed to marry us. She did a GREAT job with the ceremony, but probably even more importantly, she counseled us before we got married.
The best advice that she gave us? She instructed us to sit down together and have a talk about several important topics: money, sex, children, and religion. She wanted us to be on the same page about those things before we got married, since she had seen enough divorce to know some of the common problems that arise in marriages.
Truth be told, today neither Mr. CMF nor I remember exactly what we talked about when we sat down to discuss those things. I hope that’s because we were already more or less on the same page about many of those things. However, it’s interesting how things have evolved over the nearly ten years of our marriage now. For example, I know that our views on money have evolved over time. What’s interesting in our case though is that our views have really evolved together and more or less gone in the same direction. I think that is probably because we have made an effort to read a lot of the same financial books, such as The Millionaire Next Door, Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover, and The Automatic Millionaire, to name a few.
#3 Money-Related Cause of Divorce
The #3 biggest financial cause of divorce is exclusion from decision-making. By this, I assume the survey means that one spouse excludes the other from the decision-making process about some expenditure. Oh by the way honey, I bought a Harley Davidson, figured you wouldn’t mind! I’m assuming that for the most part we are talking about fairly big-ticket items here, but either way it all goes back to communication.
I have a friend who was at one time married to a certain guy. They seemed perfect for one another. But I couldn’t help but notice that every time I’d call her, I was hearing about some new toy that either she or her husband had bought. They truly did have a garage full of expensive toys: motor bikes, snowmobiles, ATVs, etc. Their kids even each had their own motor bike. I sometimes had to wonder if my friend and her hubby weren’t deliberately trying to out-spend each other. I heard a lot of things like “well he bought x, so that means I can get y.”
You can probably guess what happened, right? They ended up getting divorced. I honestly have no idea how much of a role money played in the demise of their marriage. But I would be willing to wager that their extravagant spending habits- and the fact that they seemed to frequently make big-ticket purchases without consulting one another very much- was probably a contributing factor.
My takeaway from this survey comes down to one word: communication. After all, none of us are perfect. And most of us are not mind readers! So that means that the best way for our spouse to have a clue what’s going on with us is if we tell him/her. This is true for all areas of relationships, but I think that it’s especially true with money!
Have you ever had relationship problems because of money? What’s been the best way that you’ve found to communicate with your partner about money?
Suggested reading: If you are interested in reading more about financial communication for couples, one of my fav books on the topic is The Heart of Money, by Deborah Price. I think this book does a nice job of digging through to the core of money issues in couples- and offers solid advice as well.
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