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How to Address Money-Related Relationship Problems

Melissa maintains four blogs and enjoys sharing lifestyle tips on how to live healthy and happily.

In this economy, money is a hot topic for everyone. But when times get tough, relationships are tested beyond their limits, and many times this can lead to the end of marriages and the breakup of families. But it doesn’t always have to be this way. In fact, money problems can actually make your marriage or relationship stronger when dealt with appropriately.

It’s no secret that my husband and I have financial difficulties. He was recently injured on the job, and now we have to deal with workman’s comp. But you will never catch us fighting about money, and I’m not bragging.

My first marriage was riddled with arguments over money, so I’ve been there. It’s not easy, and arguing only makes things more stressful than they already are.

I learned quite a bit about relationships and stress with my first marriage. The majority of what I learned was what not to do, but I learned the lessons nonetheless.

In my current marriage, my husband and I have been through dire financial problems more times than I can count, but we have never argued about it.

Instead, we’ve turned it into something that brings us closer together. In fact, it’s happened so often that we just smile and say “PLOT TWIST!!”

Is Money Really the Issue?

Money gets a lot of flak for instigating arguments among couples, but it’s sometimes just a scapegoat. Before trying to fix your money problems, you need to make sure that money is really the issue. I made this mistake in my first marriage. Money was actually the least of our problems; we really just didn’t like each other.

Trying to fix a money problem when that’s really not the main issue in your relationship is like trying to change the light bulb when the fixture is burned out. It’s just not going to work! You may temporarily diffuse the issue, but it’s not a long term solution.

A little soul searching can go a long way. Before you delve into your financial issues, ask yourself these questions (your significant other should do the same):

  • Do I really love my significant other?
  • What do I love about my significant other? (In other words, prove it to yourself.)
  • Is money really the problem, or am I using it to hide the real issue?

Once it’s been established that money really is the problem, it’s time to deal with it.

Admitting There is a Problem in the Relationship

It sounds cliché, but it is actually true. Just because you know there is a problem doesn’t mean your significant other does. You both have to be on the same page. Your significant other may think everything is fine, or they may be waiting for you to bring up the issue because they avoid confrontation like the plague (like I do).

The first step is to have a conversation with your significant other and get things out in the open. This doesn’t have to be one of those touchy-feely emotional conversations (although many times they end up that way). It can simply be a “hey honey, we need to talk about our money situation.” Certain things should be covered in this conversation like:

I wish I had $1000 just lying around!

I wish I had $1000 just lying around!

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  • Why exactly are you concerned? Do you not have enough money coming in, or is it being spent too quickly?
  • Do you have too many bills?
  • Is either one of you buying things without talking to the other first?
  • Does either one of you have a laissez faire (direct translation: let us be) attitude toward money?
  • Is money a status symbol for either of you?
  • Do you both have opinions about money that are on opposite ends of the spectrum? Or are they identical?

Get everything out in the open. Write things down if you have to, just make sure both of you fully understand the other person’s point of view. Misunderstandings happen because we fail to understand that everyone perceives things differently. Semantics plays a valuable role in describing that perception, so choose your words carefully.

Solving the Problems Money Has Caused

Once you’re both on the same page, or at least a similar page, it’s time to figure out what can be done to fix the problem, improve your relationship and ascertain why it affected your relationship in the first place so it doesn’t happen again.

Most couples think they don’t have enough money coming in, but this is usually not the case. The majority of us can live on our current pittance…I mean income… with a bit of finagling. It comes down to finding the things you can live without and eliminating them. Priorities need to be set, but because you’re a couple, you have to do this together. That’s not as easy as it sounds.

This is when the family budget comes in quite handy. I hate budgeting, but it’s a very effective tool when you’re trying to find out where your money is going.

Your budget can be as simple as writing all of your bills and their amounts on a piece of paper, or it can be as elaborate as an excel spreadsheet produced from Quicken. Use whatever method works for you, but do it together. The goal here is for both of you to see how much money is coming in, and how much is going out.

Of course, there are people who really don’t make enough to pay all of their bills. Unfortunately, I fall into this latter category because of recent events. This is probably the hardest situation to deal with because you don’t know where your next meal is coming from, let alone how to keep the lights on, and that makes it much more stressful on both the couple and their relationship.

If this is your situation, I understand how dire things are. There is no end in sight, and it’s easy to get depressed and give up. But I can tell you, a solution will always present itself.

I’ve been through this enough times to know that patience is a virtue. But the worst thing you can do is take it out on your spouse. Unfortunately, we tend to lash out at the people who are closest to us, especially in stressful situations. But those people are also the only ones who will be there when the dust settles.

The most important thing to remember in this type of financial (or any) dilemma, is that you are both in this together. You are not suffering through this alone.

Even if your significant other isn’t showing it, they are just as concerned as you are. We all deal with stress differently, and while many people show visible signs of stress, there are just as many who don’t show any signs at all.

Creating a Financial Plan

Once you both understand where the money is going, you can start to find a solution and create a plan.

A financial plan is a necessity for couples, but it doesn’t have to be elaborate. It can simply be a set of guidelines, something that can help you make a financial decision if your significant other is unavailable. Don’t forget to:

  • Create a savings plan
  • Create an emergency fund
  • Plan for incidentals (those “oops… I need” moments)
  • Create an entertainment fund
  • Create an emergency fund (in case your emergency fund runs out – you can never be too prepared)
  • Set aside some money for investments
  • Create a contingency plan

Once you have a plan in place, stick with it! It’s easy to slip back into old habits.

Be Honest!

Create a Financial Contingency Plan

You’ll notice I added “create a contingency plan.” Most people don’t think of this until it’s too late. Life has a tendency to throw curve balls at us when we least expect it.

Major life events like marriage, kids, divorces, and health problems can crop up at any time and throw a wrench in your current financial plan.

If you just started your financial plan or haven't had time to build up an emergency fund, secondary emergency fund, or a savings account, you’re going to need help should you lose your main source of income suddenly. A “contingency plan” is essentially plan B.

My current situation is a perfect example. We lost our major source of income because my husband was injured on the job. This type of situation puts a tremendous strain on any relationship, but having a backup plan can alleviate some of that strain.

To create a thorough contingency plan, you should:

Plan Ahead

  • Create a list of local resources that can help you get back on your feet such as churches, or other agencies that can offer financial assistance. Many counties have agencies that help out with specific expenses like utility bills and rent.
  • Research how to apply for Medicaid and Food Stamps from your state’s website. Don’t forget to include an address for the office closest to you, as well as its phone number.
  • Make a list of phone numbers and other contact information of family members who may be willing to help. Make sure you talk to these people ahead of time, before something happens.
  • Contact your utility companies and find out if they allow you to make payment arrangements. Make sure you get the details on how their system works. For example, both AT&T and Verizon Wireless will allow you to make a payment arrangement (I make an arrangement every month), but if you miss the payment date, you won’t be able to make another arrangement for 6 months. Many power companies allow you to do this as well.
  • Find out how to get a loan from your bank, and how long it will take. Make sure to ask about emergency situations like job loss. Some banks won’t lend money to anyone who is currently unemployed.
  • Know your FICO score! If you've lost your income, chances are your credit report isn't pretty. Know exactly what is on your credit report from ALL three agencies: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. The most important of these is Equifax. If you decide to buy a home, or are forced to buy the one you are in by your landlord (as has recently happened to us), Equifax is the company all loan agencies turn to for credit reports.
  • Rebuild your credit. Once you know what your credit score looks like, you can attempt to fix it. Pay off what you can or contact the collection agencies and try to make a deal with them, but don't let them take out an automatic payment once a month. This will just get you into more trouble should you lose your income. If you have bad credit because you have a collections account on your report and nothing else (like I do) then you'll need to apply for credit cards. Capital One offers one for those with really low credit scores. You can also try a secured credit card, but be aware that these require a deposit. You'll need to make sure any credit card you apply for reports to all three credit bureaus.

Think Outside the Box

  • Find out your state’s unemployment laws and get information on how to apply for it.
  • Contact your mortgage company (or landlord if you rent) and find out what you need to do if you suddenly lose your income.
  • Inventory all of your belongings and their approximate resale value. That way, if/when the time comes you’ll know what items will bring in the most cash. I know it’s horrible to think about, but selling “stuff” is better than losing your home or going hungry.
  • Find ways to make money working at home and make a list of them. Better yet, find online work-at-home jobs.

Doing all of this now, when you aren’t stressed out and have a steady income, can greatly reduce the amount of stress you’ll go through if it ever happens.

When it comes to finances and your relationship, it’s important to remember that communication is the key. It doesn’t matter how many plans you create; if you can’t talk to your significant other, your relationship will be doomed from the beginning. If you can’t work things out together, seek counseling. There is a solution to every problem. Whether or not you want to find it together is the real question.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on November 11, 2012:

@Ruchira Thank you!! :D

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on November 11, 2012:

@ImKarn23 Thank you!! I'm psyched, and still glowing like 3 days later lol :D

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on November 11, 2012:

@Hezekiah Thank you!! Sticking it out and working together is difficult but so worth it in the end.

Ruchira from United States on November 08, 2012:

Excellent advice, Michaelle.

Congrats on your HOTD :)

Karen Silverman on November 08, 2012:

Congratulations on HOTD, Daughter! Maat must be VERY proud! Lol..

Hezekiah from Japan on November 08, 2012:

Very good and important points here, the main things is to simply stick to them.

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on November 07, 2012:

@vocalcoach You're too kind! Thank you!! :D

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on November 07, 2012:

@davenmidtown Awe, Thank you!! I'm still glowing with happiness over this one! lol I scared the tar out of my hubby when I first saw my hub as HOTD! :D I remember when I first came to HP, and wow, how things have changed! :)

Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on November 07, 2012:

Very helpful information. And a big congratulations on your hub making HOTD!

I can see why this hub was given this award.

Thanks and Up and sharing.

David Stillwell from Sacramento, California on November 07, 2012:

DOM: I am so proud of you!!!! Your first HOTD! I would like to say thank you for writing this hub, and for continuing to perfect your craft. I remember when you first came to hubpages... awesome job and a very well written, informative and reader friendly hub!

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on November 07, 2012:

@Millionaire Tips Thank you!! That quote is actually one of my inspirational quotes on my desk. It really is true, we always find a solution to every problem as long as we work together! It's definitely not easy though! :D

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on November 07, 2012:

@Kwoodhouse89 Thank you, I'm so glad you enjoyed the read. I'm sorry that you have to experience a similar situation to my own, and it does seem like something is always popping up to block you from making any progress. If it's not one thing, it's another. Just today, we finally made some progress in paying bills, and we get a letter denying my hubby's unemployment. Talk about a setback! But fighting over it isn't going to change the facts. Like you said, if we work together, eventually we'll catch a break.

Best of luck to you as well!!

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on November 07, 2012:

@Victoria Lynn, Thank you!! I'm on cloud nine from receiving HOTD! It has definitely renewed my motivation to write!

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on November 07, 2012:

@ComfortB Thank you!! If this hub helps just one couple realize that their money problems are really an underlying relationship issue and they deal with it before it leads to a breakup, then this hub has done its job!! :D

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on November 07, 2012:

@pstraubie Thank you!! It is so true that both parties in a relationship need to be involved in the finances. Otherwise, it just doesn't work. Too much stress is put on one individual if only one party is taking care of the finances and that can lead to resentment and a whole slew of other problems!

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on November 07, 2012:

@starstream Thank you! I agree. Believe me, I learned the hard way lol.

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on November 07, 2012:

@Your Cousins, I feel your pain. Part of the reason I wrote this is to convey tips that I have found would have been useful prior to my current situation. Hindsight is 20/20, and hopefully this hub has helped others to prepare and escape my extremely stressful situation!

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on November 07, 2012:

@phoenix Thank you!! I am, I was so excited to see HOTD, that I screamed and woke up my daughter lol. It totally made my day!!

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on November 07, 2012:

@waleed Thank you, and you are correct. "Money issues" are more of a communication problem, and I hope I pointed that out in this hub. We all need to pay close attention to the words we use. Many people say "oh you're just playing semantics," but semantics is extremely important. Words are the only thing we have to convey complex messages and ideas, and in order to get our exact meaning across to the listener, we must choose our words carefully.

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on November 07, 2012:

@the girls Thank you! Unfortunately, money is one of those three causes. I was hoping to share some ideas that many people may not have thought of, so hopefully some relationships can be saved. It's very sad when a relationship ends over something as inconsequential as money.

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on November 07, 2012:

@Miss Mimi Thank you, and how right you are. I think a lot of the "money problems" are just relationship issues surfacing under the guise of money problems.

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on November 07, 2012:

@girishpuri Thank you!!

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on November 07, 2012:

@Kitty, Thank you!!! You should have heard me squeal when I saw my hub with the HOTD banner! lol

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on November 07, 2012:

@Dallaa Thank you!!

Shasta Matova from USA on November 07, 2012:

Congratulations on your well deserved hub of the day. I love your quote: "There is a solution to every problem." Money problems are stressful, but working together will help you through it. You've outlined great suggestions on how to do that. Voted up.

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on November 07, 2012:

@Junaid Thank you!! You are so right, bitter experiences can enhance one's experience in life. It's all in how we react to and deal with those experiences!

Kwoodhouse89 on November 07, 2012:

This is the first time I've had the pleasure of reading your article and I have to say it was amazing! I am currently in the same boat as you and your husband. I just had a baby and it seems that every time we try to catch up on bills something else happens to deplete our funds :( I have fought with my fiancé before because of this but we both know we're under a lot of stress and have been trying to keep any financial issues out in the open so they're no communication issues. I know we will be together the rest of our lives but financially it just seems so hard all the time. Hopefully if we both keep positive and keep working at it we'll catch a break. I mean what else can you do?

Keep on pushing and good luck!

Victoria Lynn from Arkansas, USA on November 07, 2012:

What a wonderfully put together hub! Great info. Congrats on HOTD! Much deserved!

Comfort Babatola from Bonaire, GA, USA on November 07, 2012:

You've dealt very well with this money/relationship issue. Oftentimes, when couples fight or disagree it's over money, but as you mentioned, there are sometimes some underlining issues that needs to be addressed.

Excellent points mentioned here. Thanks for sharing, and congrats on winning the HOTD award.

Patricia Scott from North Central Florida on November 07, 2012:

Great suggestions for those who must confront this issue. Planning is such a great tool in so many situations and this one is really a great place for it. Sometimes the plans are thrown under the bus by one party and financial issues become worse. that happened to me years ago. It cannot be one person in the relationship who concerns herself or himself with managing finances. It takes both and it takes commitment. Thank you for sharing this and congratulations on hub of the day.

Dreamer at heart from Northern California on November 07, 2012:

Thanks for your contribution to helping people sort out their financial issues. Having a few plans in place can sure be a help in tough economic times. Yes, we all need some fun too. Let's plan a little enjoyment funding too along the way. It makes for a more positive outlook on life. This can be as simple as yogurt ice cream cones while taking a walk through town or a trip to the zoo.

Your Cousins from Atlanta, GA on November 07, 2012:

When the economy soured, so did our family budget. We don't always agree on how to fix things but we try to be civil and cooperate to work it out. Thanks for all your suggestions. Voted Up and Useful, and answered the polls.

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on November 07, 2012:

Hub of the Day. Well done. Seems like only yesterday you joined up and now look how far you've come. You must be so proud.

Waleed from Islamabad, Pakistan on November 07, 2012:

Money is in itself never the problem. And money is in itself never the solution. Decades if not centuries of trying to solve problems by throwing money at them should have taught us this by now. The place to look for the origin of any problem, or its solution, is in another place; a relationship, either a relationship between two or more people, or a relationship a person has to himself, to nature or to something else. It is invariably a relationship that needs to be addressed.

thanks for the useful hub Daughter of Maat and congrats on well-deserved hub of the day.


Theresa Ventu from Los Angeles, California on November 07, 2012:

A life saver money tips! Money related relationship problems is the top three causes of divorce/separation. Thanks for writing this hub :-)

Miss Mimi from On the road again on November 07, 2012:

Nicely written and presented. I especially like that you point out sometimes you have to face the tough questions about whether it's money problems hurting the relationship or just a doomed relationship hiding behind money woes. That is such a difficult and necessary discovery to make. Voted up, congrats on hub of the day!

Girish puri from NCR , INDIA on November 07, 2012:

Very useful hub, you make great points

Kitty Fields from Summerland on November 07, 2012:

Hey, lady! Congrats on getting hub of the day. Awesome hub. Well thought-out and eloquently put on paper (or computer). LOL. Voted up, useful, and awesome.

Dallaa from Morocco on November 07, 2012:

I love this hub,very useful with a lot of important information.

Junaid Ghani Durrani from Karachi, Pakistan on November 07, 2012:

Great Hub! Your experience of life increased the quality of your writing. Bitter experiences are not always bad...!

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on October 24, 2012:

@Phoenix how right you are!

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on October 22, 2012:

I sure you'll be fine. You didn't make it this far in life just to let a little money problem sideline you, did you? No, I didn't think so. :)

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on October 22, 2012:

@phoenix, I've got it all planned out, now if I can just get through this wonderful "completely broke" patch, we'll be all set lol :D

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on October 22, 2012:

Same here. Once you get in the habit though, it does give you more control over your finances and that in turn helps ease the stress.

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on October 22, 2012:

@Dr Pooja, I know what you mean, I've been swamped lately, but it's good to get back to hubbing. Thanks for stopping by! Always good to hear from you!

Dr Pooja on October 22, 2012:

Was missing you on Hubpages and great to read your practical approach to both finances and relationships.Voted up and shared!!!

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on October 21, 2012:

@AlexK2009 I know exactly what you mean! Some people just don't like to do all the planning, and for those people that may work. In my case, I like to have a plan, and yep, I'm a worrier! lol Thanks for your comment, it unfortunately rings all too true!

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on October 21, 2012:

@Effer, my husband and I also have identical concepts when it comes to finances and it truly does make things much simpler. But opposites do attract! lol Thank you for stopping by, I always love hearing from you!

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on October 21, 2012:

@Faith Reaper Very eloquently said! It's unfortunate that our society has become so obsessed with money, but it doesn't have to tear relationships apart. And like you said, you have to keep those lines of communication open! Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on October 21, 2012:

@billybuc Same here, Greg and I don't really care about money (although we do when can't make the bills lol), but when it comes down to it, we'll always have each other. That's more important than money (or anything materialistic) will ever be. Thanks for stopping by and commenting! Always a pleasure to hear from you! :D

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on October 21, 2012:

@Janine, thank you! I was actually a bit hesitant to include my personal experience, but I was afraid it would give the wrong impression, but I'm so glad it didn't turn out that way! :D

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on October 21, 2012:

@phoenix thank you! With everything that was going on recently, it was a fitting topic and I'm currently following my own advice lol. Although, it would be nice not to have to worry about money... :D

AlexK2009 from Edinburgh, Scotland on October 21, 2012:

This is great. But note that some people get a lot of stick for mentioning the need for a contingency plan:

"Oh you are just a worrier, everything will be alright"

Suzie from Carson City on October 21, 2012:

Common sense and a bit of financial wisdom is not only helpful, but necessary!......This is a wonderfully educational hub for those who need to understand. I am happy and relieved to say that "luckily," my husband and I share nearly identical concepts and attitudes in terms of this particular topic. I can add, for all your readers/students......this can be the most ideal and trouble-free situation for any couple.....Peace!

Faith Reaper from southern USA on October 21, 2012:

Excellent hub full of very insightful information. Yes, sadly money "problems" is the number one reason for divorce, when all one has to do is keep that very clear communication going on with your spouse. It is still hard, as you stated, we each look at things from a different perspective as to what necessities we really need in this life. It is always good to sit down at least once a week or two and discuss the financial matters with each other, which helps a great deal to head-off any resentment as to the unknown. Voted Way Up

In His Love, Faith Reaper

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 21, 2012:

Wonderful suggestions my friend! Bev and I have very little money and we are both fine with that, so money is never a source of trouble for us. It comes down to communication and shared feelings. Having the same views on money helps greatly for us. Loved this hub and you are right on!

lovedoctor926 on October 21, 2012:

Your welcome. Useful hub.

Janine Huldie from New York, New York on October 21, 2012:

Melisaa, your article is truly a relatable one in this current economy and I know we have spoken about this before, but loved how you turned this into a hub article. Really great job here, you really detailed this beautifully and sharing your own background story nailed your point further. Have of course voted up, shared and tweeted, too!!

Zulma Burgos-Dudgeon from United Kingdom on October 21, 2012:

You've got such a level head on your shoulders. This is great advice and I utilize a lot of this myself. It really does help. Good job, DOM.

Mel Flagg COA OSC (author) from Rural Central Florida on October 21, 2012:

Thank you lovedoctor926!

lovedoctor926 on October 21, 2012:

Great hub. You make good points.

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