Sex and money consistently rank among the top two reasons why couples fight. In both cases, one member of the group just can't seem to get enough of what he or she views as a scarce commodity. However, arguments about money, according to nearly every survey on the topic, generally win out as the top issue. In fact, according to a booklet entitled "Making Marriage Last", which is published by the AmericanAcademy of Matrimonial Lawyers, problems relating to financial matters are a major reason why marriages break down.

The Facts
Managing your finances is a chore. Like all the chores that couples need to complete (everything from cutting the grass and taking out the trash to washing the dishes and cleaning the bathroom), the division of labor is rarely 50/50. When it comes to money, one spouse may be more interested in managing it while the other is interested in spending. Sometimes, one spouse won't even talk or think about the topic.

The less interested spouse often views money as a means of control and may believe that the person holding the purse strings gets to make the decisions. While the essence of that view point is accurate, the person managing money often views saving instead of spending as merely the proper way of staying out of debt and never thinks about it terms of control. Because it is possible for people to have such very different views about money, sometimes its best to seek common ground before discussing exactly how this week's paycheck will be spent. (To learn how to set up a budget, check out our Budgeting 101 feature.)

The Rules
To keep money from becoming an obstacle in your relationship, you need set the ground rules for how your household will handle the topic. Put these rules in place before you enter into a spending-related dispute. The middle of an argument is not a great place to try and come to a consensus.

Some good basic rules for how you and your spouse will interact when it comes to making decisions about how your money will be spent include:

  1. Don't hide it.
  2. Don't lie about it.

While your spouse won't be too happy about you spending $300 on a new putter or high-end purse, you shouldn't attempt to cover up or lie about your new expenditure. Relationships based on truth are far stronger than those based on deceit.

Once you've both agreed to be honest, you need a way to break stalemates when it comes time to make decisions. The best choice here is that consensus rules. Of course, if you can't find common ground on a particular decision, you should agree in advance that prudence takes precedence. With prudence as your guideline, you will be more likely to make the choice to save instead of spend when you can't agree that spending is a good idea. Setting up a budget can be a great way to develop a mutually agreed upon vision of your spending and saving habits. (To learn more about creating budgets, see Get Your Budget In Fighting Shape and The Beauty Of Budgeting.)

If you set the rules but still can't come to an agreement, consider counseling. Arguing can often be unproductive, and throwing up your hands and walking away accomplishes nothing. Sometimes an impartial moderator can help frustrated couples see eye to eye. The key is to stay engaged in the process as you develop spending habits that you are happy with as a couple and as an individual. (For more insight into how getting hitched can affect your bottom line, check out Marriage, Divorce And The Dotted Line, You Can't Live On Love and Relationship Money Matters.)

However, if you dislike dealing with money so much that you willingly delegate all responsibility for spending-related decisions, be willing to live with the consequences of your decision. It's not fair to your partner if you don't help and won't stay engaged, but still complain.

Team Work
Making decisions about money is part of building a life together. Building should be a constructive process, so you need to work together, not in opposition. Set goals together and spend your money in ways that will bring you closer to achieving those goals. If a particular expenditure doesn't lead you toward your goals, avoid the expenditure. Don't let conspicuous consumption lead you astray. If you're working together as team instead of fighting about money, you just might have enough time and energy left over to put some effort into getting that other scarce resource that you've been seeking.

Related Articles
  1. Budgeting

    6 Cost-Effective Tips for Raising Your First Child

    The excitement of welcoming your first child to your family shouldn't prevent you from making good cost-effective decisions.
  2. Budgeting

    5 Ways to Date on a Budget

    Dating on a budget doesn't have to be boring. Try these 5 tips to find the best dates on a budget.
  3. Budgeting

    7 Kids Items You Should Never Buy Used

    Buying secondhand items is a great way to save money, but these seven kids items should not be bought used.
  4. Investing

    10 New Apps That Help Budget For Expensive Cities

    From platforms for saving money to those that account for side jobs, mobile apps are changing spending habits and income generation in urban areas.
  5. Budgeting

    How Cooking At Home Can Save You Real Dough

    Cooking at home saves time and money but most importantly, it could even help lower future health costs.
  6. Personal Finance

    Money Matters on Campus: Attitudes & Aptitudes

    Financial trends among college students are a cause for concern, prompting a renewed emphasis on financial instruction.
  7. Home & Auto

    Why Housing Costs Shouldn't Exceed 30% of Your Budget

    Financial experts will argue that there’s no problem with allocating 50% of your net income to housing, but that barely leaves enough money for living comfortably. Reducing housing expenses to ...
  8. Investing Basics

    Tiny House Movement: Making Market Opportunities

    The tiny house movement throws all assumptions about household budgeting and mortgage management out the window, and creates new market segments too.
  9. Investing

    Why to Buy Term Life Insurance with a Conversion Option

    Why you should always purchase a term life insurance policy that allows for an unrestricted conversion option.
  10. Budgeting

    Top 7 Money Saving Tips for Eating Out

    Discover seven money-saving options available to consumers who are looking to partake in the luxury of dining out while cutting down on cost.
  1. What are Social Security spousal benefits?

    Social Security spousal benefits are partial retirement or disability benefits granted to the spouses of qualifying taxpayers.  Qualifying ... Read Full Answer >>
  2. Are Social Security benefits affected by marriage?

    The amount of Social Security benefit you are eligible to collect upon retirement is not affected by marriage. Your benefit ... Read Full Answer >>
  3. How does a bank determine what my discretionary income is when making a loan decision?

    Discretionary income is the money left over from your gross income each month after taking out taxes and paying for necessities. ... Read Full Answer >>
  4. What is the range of deductibles offered with various health insurance plans?

    A wide range of possible deductibles are available with health insurance plans, starting as low as a few hundred dollars ... Read Full Answer >>
  5. How do I know how much of my income should be discretionary?

    While there is no hard rule for how much of a person's income should be discretionary, Inc. magazine points out that it would ... Read Full Answer >>
  6. What proportion of my income should I put into my demand deposit account?

    Generally speaking, aim to keep between two months and six months worth of your fixed expenses in your demand deposit accounts. ... Read Full Answer >>

You May Also Like

Trading Center
You are using adblocking software

Want access to all of Investopedia? Add us to your “whitelist”
so you'll never miss a feature!