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Managing Marriage and Money Problems

Experts offer tips for investing in your marriage so you can worry less about your money.
By
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Maureen and Dave Gomes, who have been married for more than six years, have a system for managing their money: one joint bank account that they both contribute to on a monthly basis and draw from for all house expenses, like the mortgage and electric bill; and two separate, personal accounts, which after their monthly contributions leaves them with their own money to spend. Last but not least, they work on their long-term financial goals together and manage big-ticket items, like cars and vacations, as a team.

"We created this system when we moved in together before we got married," says Maureen. "For us, it works. But I do have to say that it would probably fall apart if we didn't communicate well about our spending, act responsibly, and make decisions together."

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Maureen and Dave have figured out how to mix marriage and money in a way that works for them both. Other couples, however, aren't as lucky.

"With the state of the economy, with housing issues, credit problems, more and more couples are facing serious marriage and money problems, even bankruptcy," says William Harley, PhD, author of His Needs, Her Needs: Building an Affair-proof Marriage;

Experts explain to WebMD the common financial scenarios couples often face, and offer practical tips for resolving them.

(Has your relationship been affected by money? How did you cope? Talk with others on our Couples Coping: Support Group message board.)

Scenario 1: Neglect = Marriage and Money Problems

Do you find yourself fighting with your spouse over the money he or she spends? Do you frequently spend money yourself, in excess, to spite your spouse because you're angry? While it may seem like money is a serious bone of contention in your marriage, there could be something more to blame.

"Often, in couples who are arguing about money, it's not money that's the problem," says Harley. "Instead, the money fights are a byproduct of relationship neglect."

In cases like these, money becomes a weapon, explains Harley. One spouse uses the other's spending habits as ammunition, bringing up his or her spending when it will hurt the most. Or a spouse spends to get even, even when he or she knows the spending is in excess of the couple's budget.

"Our relationship dynamics and resentments get played out with money," says Jenn Berman, PhD, a marriage and family therapist. "It's not uncommon to see a person get mad at his or her spouse, and then go out and buy something as revenge."

What's the solution? Find a good marriage counselor, and work through your relationship issues, explains Berman.

"Working through a couple's relationship issues can also help solve their financial problems," Harley tells WebMD. "When you fix the root cause, the subsequent problems like money improve as well."

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