What To Do When Fighting About Money Is Tearing Your Marriage Apart

You used to get along, be happy and have fun. Now, you can’t stop fighting about money, the kids, chores or your in-laws. Couples begin their relationship in the honeymoon phase where everything feels perfect. After a while issues tend to arise. Why? Why do couples argue about money so often? 

If you and your partner fight about money, you are not alone. 48% of couples fight about money

You may be tired of fighting about money and afraid of it tearing your marriage apart, but you may not know how to resolve the issue either.

Why Couples Fight Over Money

You may not realize that the fights which are supposedly over money are actually about who has the power and influence in your marriage. Money often becomes the symbol of power in a relationship because it is so practical, quantifiable and frequently used.

It doesn’t take a therapist to spot this power struggle, either; you can easily observe this in your own relationship. For example, when you are having a disagreement about money, notice if you start mentally or even verbally labeling your partner as stingy, the worrier, thrifty, a penny-pincher or a micromanager. You can also tell a lot from how your partner reacts to your input – the other partner starts thinking you are the big spender, extravagant, spendthrift or the waster. In addition, you might hear ideas such as “I’m working and making the money” (implying I can save or spend it the way I want), being tossed around.

Is Fighting About Money Normal?

Yes, it’s normal for couples to fight about money. In an ideal world, you would discuss your thoughts and feelings about money, but money is frequently a charged topic that triggers strong feelings in everyone – families, individuals, and companies – not just couples. 

One reason money is such a hot button in many relationships is because people grow up with different perspectives on it; it’s almost certain that you and your partner were raised in families that had different values, beliefs, views and thoughts about saving, investing, debt, loans and spending habits.

Even if you were raised in families with similar ideas about money, you still may have challenges navigating this issue. 

The #1 Reason Why Couples Fight

According to ”Making Marriage Last” published by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, problems relating to financial matters are a major reason why marriages break down.

Research found that 36% divorced people felt that money was a major contributing factor to the divorce. Other participants felt that financial issues increased the stress in the marriage, which led to divorce.

One of the most important ideas  couples need to understand about money is from Dr. Gottman’s Love Lab, where researchers focus on the reasons for successful and unsuccessful relationships. Ken Benson, a researcher in the Gottman’s Love Lab, stated: “Arguments about money are not about money…money represents security, freedom, and the opportunity to achieve our dreams”. 

Can Money Ruin A Relationship?

The simple answer is Yes, If you can’t work as a team and discuss a system to address spending, savings, bills, and other money issues, then your money issues will destroy your marriage. 

On the other hand, if you understand why you are fighting over money and what money represents to you and your partner, and you learn how you can use a team approach and see money like any other issue that you need to address, then you will be able to work through your money challenges.

Financial Freedom In Marriage

5 Categories That Provide Financial Freedom:

  1. Respect And Appreciate – This topic has triggered many fights so you will need to work on being respectful and appreciative of how you want this conversation to be successful. This initial discussion is to make small agreements to honor each other’s dreams, values and beliefs about money.
  2. Negotiate – It will be easier to understand each other’s positions if you discuss what is negotiable/flexible (try to make this section as large as possible) and non-negotiable (try to make this section as small as possible) about money.  After discussing your perspectives, views and dreams about money, you should make agreements about how you want to automate and simplify your issues around money. Instead of visiting this topic every six months or at tax time, where you might make unpleasant discoveries that could precipitate blow up about your differences, you plan to create a marital plan for financial freedom.
  3. Spending – Start by creating a spreadsheet (you can use Google Sheets or other software to simplify this process. You should both know where the money is going.
  4. Saving-At the end of the money, discuss how much money you have (if any) to save. Some couples decide how much money will go into investments, savings, vacations, and guilt-free spending. 
  5. Unexpected – Discuss how much money you want to put into an unexpected and unplanned need (such as a roof leaking or a broken refrigerator).

If you find that you cannot discuss this issue without fighting, then you may consider speaking with a financial mediator or a couples therapist that is familiar with this topic. 

Money and marriage can combine to create many fights and disagreements and tear couples apart. Use the five suggestions listed above to bring you together and create a marital financial plan.

Additional reading to support your relationship as you explore options for couples therapy and healing:

How To Discuss Relationship Problems Without Fighting

Why Do We Keep Having The Same Arguments?

How Often Do Couples Fight And Should You Be Concerned?

What Causes Resentment In A Marriage (Plus How You Can Heal Resentment In Yours)

Stuck In A One-Sided Relationship? Here’s How To Talk About It So Resentment Doesn’t Take Over


Lisa Rabinowitz

Lisa Rabinowitz, LCPC is a certified Gottman therapist working with couples in the US and internationally. Lisa has worked for many years with couples who have both diagnosed and undiagnosed ADHD. Her certifications and experience uniquely qualify her to support couples with relationship challenges that often feel insurmountable. Please reach out for a free 20-minute consultation with Lisa today.

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