Marriages are fragile arrangements. It is well known that marriages end in divorce about half the time. There has been a lot of scholarly debate on the exact percentage and whether the number is increasing or decreasing. But after all the debate is over and a given expert has to nail their colors to the mast, they agree that the rate is about 42 – 45 percent for divorce. That does not include legal separations. When those are taken into account, then the percentage is still roughly half. No matter how you count it, that’s not good.
We know that marriages are fragile, but why? The biggest reason is human nature. Look at any top-10 list you can find and you will notice that most of them list infidelity at the top. Financial challenge is always on the list. And it is usually pretty high. Like everything else, you can learn a lot about marriage by following the money. There are good reasons why money problems crash marriages. Here are a few:
In many marriages, women feel left out of financial decisions, and do not have equal access to the funds. These marriages often feature a single bank account and a single person designated as head of the house. That person can spend money as they see fit while the other person has to get permission to spend. This lopsided control of finances often leads to, or stems from, other fault lines in the marriage.
One solution is for both parties to have their own bank accounts. You can easily open a credit union savings account and build up a safety net. When it comes to something as important as marriage, everyone needs to have a say. No one in the marriage should have to beg for money to buy groceries, or clothes, or other needful things. Everyone needs spending money from time to time. There will always be conflict if only one party has the right to unquestioned spending money.
Unilateral financial decisions adversely affect relationships because they feel inherently unfair. If only one person earned the household income, that can exacerbate the problem. The other person may not work outside of the home. But they might well do the bulk of managing the home and parenting the children and providing the other person the support they need to pursue their career. At least when it comes to finances, successful marriages tend to be equal partnerships.
Marrying Too Young
Some believe the divorce rate is decreasing. There are some hopeful signs that this is true. But the jury is still out. If it is, one reason is that people are marrying later in life and deferring children until later in life. When you marry can be an indicator of how durable your marriage will be.
Typically, a couple has less money when they are 18 than they will when they are 28. They will also have more education. A key predictor to the durability of a marriage is one’s level of education. A higher financial IQ can also make a big difference. But when one marries too young, they don’t have time to finish college and get established in a career. They often have children before other life-goals are achieved. That responsibility often holds them back from completing the preparation for a solid financial foundation.
Debt Destroys Dreams
One of the reasons marriage is so exciting is because of the hopes and dreams and endless possibilities. Unfortunately, the possibilities aren’t really endless and the dreams are just fantasies without the money to make them happen. If even just one of the partners enters the marriage with a mountain of debt, those dreams will be put on hold indefinitely.
Home ownership might be the first dream to fall. Debt can keep you from getting a good loan. If someone does lend you the money, it will be at such a high interest rate, your cash flow problems will just end up being compounded. It is very difficult for hope and possibility to flourish when dreams are ruthlessly dashed.
Marriage is challenging, but worth it when successful.Give your marriage every chance for success by being financial partners, by waiting to reach a suitable level of financial security, and by eliminating the debt before it can destroy your dreams.