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5 money issues that can destroy your marriage

By Ben Luthi

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, April 18 2014 8:50 p.m. MDT

Money issues are the top predictor of divorce, but there are ways to prevent them from damaging your marriage.

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Getting married is one of the happiest experiences in this life. Whether young or old, newlywed couples are excited to start a new life and look forward to the good times they will have together. They expect that there will be times of disagreement. But they rarely expect money, which is one of the biggest factors in divorce, to be the culprit. They are coddled by their naivety and end up being caught unaware when issues — past, present or future — come out of the woodwork.

Arguing about money is the top predictor of divorce, especially when those arguments happen early in marriage. Otherwise happy marriages can disintegrate quickly when couples are unable to reconcile differences on habits and personality traits that were deeply ingrained long before the “I do.” Some of those marriages don’t end in divorce, but constant fighting about money problems and the tension that ensues can kill whatever happiness the couple once hoped for.

1. Debt. Whether it is student loans, credit cards, an auto loan or a gambling habit, most people have some sort of financial baggage that tags along with them to the altar. This can cause problems when discussions about budgeting and paying off debt comes up, especially if one spouse brings in more debt than the other, or even if one came into the marriage debt-free. Debt can act like an anchor that keeps your financial plan from moving forward, sometimes for years.

2. Personality. Your personality is one of the biggest influences on how you manage money. It’s something that has been deeply rooted in you since childhood and is difficult to change. A couple might be completely debt-free, but can still run into trouble if one is a saver and the other a spender. This happens especially when the couple didn’t take the time to truly get to know each other before tying the knot and weren’t able to see anything but their spouse’s “best face.”

3. Income. If only one spouse is working, or one spouse earns more than the other, it can be easy for the spouse with more income to initiate a “power play” and dictate how the money is to be spent. Some have called it financial bullying. This can be multiplied when a spouse is unemployed or underemployed, adding insult to injury. It is easy to rationalize the idea, but it undermines the importance of the couple working as a team toward common goals.

4. Extended Family. His family wants to take a trip to Disneyland, while her brother needs a place to stay for a few months. His sister needs gas money, while her parents keep pressuring her to visit more often since you’ve moved out of state. Before you know it, one spouse is agreeing to things because “family is most important,” while the other spouse is wondering why “our” family and needs aren’t most important. It can also go the other way when one spouse’s parents are able and willing to pay for vacation expenses and extravagant Christmas gifts, while the other’s aren’t. And with that, extended family relations can reach their meddling fingers into your wallet.

5. Yours, Mine and Ours. Sometimes money habits are so divergent that a couple decides to split their expenses and maintain separate bank accounts to avoid future arguments. While this is not always the worst solution to such a problem, and it allows each spouse to spend what they have left as they see fit, it can still build resentment over extraneous purchases either spouse makes. It can also cripple the couple’s saving power, making it difficult to reach future common goals such as retirement, traveling, etc.

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