Written by: Cally Worden
Money has always been a key cause of difficulties between couples. And as the credit crunch continues to bite many partnerships are being ground-down by the interminable need to watch the pennies. When money is tight, even the simplest of innocent spending actions can easily spark an argument as individuals struggle to remain in control of their finances.
All About Priorities
Clearly the most important thing each week and month is to make sure the bills are paid and there is food to eat. When these priorities are only just covered, every single penny counts. What happens to any ‘spare’ cash should really be a joint decision when finances are this tight, but in an effort to remain sane it’s tempting to indulge in the odd treat. Something as simple as a comic for the kids or a new book may only cost a fiver, but if your partner sees this as a luxury then you’re in for a tough discussion. Women generally prioritise family and home in their financial pecking order, whereas men are generally more likely to spend money on themselves. This is obviously not true in all cases, but it does clearly demonstrate how differing priorities can be a source of contention in a relationship.
A Change of Situation
Your home lifestyle can change dramatically when one or both halves of you couple loses their job, or is forced to take a role that offers a significantly reduced salary from that which you are used to. The effects of this can be devastating. Your norm may suddenly shift from a life where pleasures like eating out, day trips and holidays were commonplace, to one where you spend each evening in as a family, simply grateful to have a roof over your heads. Life can seem joyless by comparison and it is easy to start taking out your frustrations on your partner by niggling about how they are dealing with the little money you have.
Differing Financial Backgrounds
Our attitudes to money evolve from our earliest experiences. If your parents were profligate then you are more likely to view the odd indulgence as okay, or even necessary to your mental well-being. If your parents watched every penny and regularly justified every expense, then you may view such indulgences as frivolous and even reckless. When your financial histories differ, finding a middle ground can be tricky – there is nothing like a financial crisis to highlight significant differences in attitudes and trying to navigate these when you are both under stress is asking for trouble.
You are Not Alone
It may be small comfort, but if this financial couples minefield sounds all too familiar, then you are by no means alone. The Office for National Statistics has reported a depressing 6% rise in divorce rates since the recession hit, and Relate has recognised a rising demand for marriage counselling services in more that 65% of its bases across the UK.
Futures on Hold
Many couples have been forced to place their future plans on hold because of financial worries, which can be terribly frustrating. A desire to move to a bigger house, start saving, improve your pension prospects, upgrade your old car, or treat the family to a holiday are all actions that have to be reconsidered when money is tight. It can feel like you are working simply to keep your head above water. Where’s the fun in that? It’s no wonder couples start to bicker.
It’s important to try and hold on to the fact that any money arguments are a symptom of circumstance, and not necessarily a sign of underlying problems with your relationship. If you are able to navigate these troubled times together then time will hopefully see your situation improve and you will eventually once again be able to treat yourselves from time to time without feeling guilty.