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Financial Infidelity

February 20, 2009

On a recent NPR, “Voices in the Family” appearance, I was asked about whether I was worried about how the economy was affecting couples. I replied, “I’ve been worried for a long time.” But it’s not just the scary Dow, or S & P 500, it’s how couples handle their monies, how they respond to the questions of “Who makes it? Who spends it? and Who decides?” Most of all I see couples poison their relationship with financial infidelities. The spouse who buys a car and informs the other by pulling into the driveway with the new car. Or the partner who hides clothing purchases. Or the spouse who only talks about money troubles on a “need to know” basis, which is often after they’re in big trouble. Money problems are often cited as one of the primary causes leading to divorce. But it’s not money, or even the lack of it that’s at the root of the problem. It’s how couples deal with it.
Did you know that unless you’ve gotten to a level of super-wealth, your happiness rating isn’t any higher than those folks who are at a much lower income bracket? Because it’s not money that makes us happy. It’s loving relationships. And to be loving over time, you have to fairly solve your differences.

So for post-Valentine’s Day, have a money day.
1) Talk about the stresses you’re under.
2) Have a two-person rule that you won’t make one-sided financial decisions unless you and your spouse reach a consensus.
3) If you can’t reach consensus…get help. 4) Disclose spending you’re hiding–because secrets make you and your relationship sick.
5) Remember that it’s truly the small things in day to day life that make our quality of life better. And it’s also one large thing: being related in a healthy, fair and loving way.

Dr. B. Hibbs, Author of Try to See It My Way: Being Fair in Love and Marriage, Penguin, 2009.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Diane permalink
    February 21, 2009 11:40 pm

    B. you are so wise – it truly is having a discussion so that both sides can understand each other. I have found in my own relationship, we really need to make time for the money conversation – it is not something that either of us do voluntarily. It is important for us to not have our conversation about money while one person is in the shower, or cooking dinner – we need to sit face to face, at home (so I can raise my voice and then calm down), at a quiet time with no kids around. Very difficult to schedule but when we do accomplish this we are now at the point of really helping each other. Finally – I liked your suggestions above and those little things make all the difference for me.

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