Divorced Over Money?


Divorced Over MoneyYou’ve probably heard that money problems are one the most significant factors that can lead to divorce. According to a Citibank survey, 57 percent of divorced couples cited money problems as the primary reason for the demise of their marriage. Having counseled couples financially for over 20 years, I have found that money is never the reason for their marital discord but rather just a symptom of their conflicting hearts. Other factors such as incompatibility, lack of emotional support, abuse and sexual problems rank higher than money problems.  Money is a problem in many marriages, but usually the first perceived reason to any problem is just an excuse and not the real issue. You need to peel back the onion and find the real reason for marital conflict. So what are the potential issues that manifest as money problems?

– Communication concerning money

– Power struggle over who controls the money

– Sabotage by spending money outside the budget by the one who feels that he/she has no power

– Lack of self-worth around having a low net worth

– Fear of not having enough


The list can go on and on. As you see, money can bring up a lot of different issues. It is not money itself that is the problem but how we use money or see ourselves in regards to money. Professionals surveyed noted that the most commonly-cited cause of divorce they hear from their clients – “basic incompatibility” – is usually created by deeper issues somewhere in the relationship, usually an emotional, physical or financial breech of trust. So before you blame money as the source of the problems in your marriage, look at the underlying issues causing the money problems. One key may be to have better communication about your feelings. Instead of fighting about money, state how you feel about how your partner handles money.

Also look at how you were both using money. Are either one of you spending money to solve an emotional issue or using money as a way to exert power? If so, then tackle the underlying reason and not blame it all on money. Here are some major areas of money conflict:



An unstable income causes stress in anyone’s life, but when you add that to the stress of a marriage, you might face serious conflict. Making it through both financial ups and downs can be really difficult for some couples. Whether they’re fighting over how to spend extra money they have or over what costs to cut in a tight budget, the problem is they’re fighting. Money problems in a marriage are by no means always because of a lack of money. Knowing you can communicate with your partner through all financial situations is important for a strong marriage.


The financial odd couple: spenders vs. savers

Guess who wins in a marriage between a spender and a saver? No one! While common sense seems to suggest that the saver will provide balance to the spender and vice versa, this is not what occurs in practice. Rather than balance each other out, spenders and savers can come to resent each other’s relationship with money.


Power and control

The power and control financial prosperity represents makes money a common battle ground in marriages. Over and over again we watch marriages combust where the major wage earner in the couple (man or woman) attempts to exert solo control over the family income. The irony here is that once the couple divorces over this issue, the controller ends up writing a check every month to the non-wage earning spouse who then spends that money however he or she chooses.


Goals and values

Different values when it comes to spending money can cause of a lot problem for couples. Many couples have different values where money is concerned. Many differing stances can occur on expenditures of everything from cars to groceries; mom may believe in buying top of the line while dad thinks Target is just fine. Not surprisingly, different values concerning money lead to conflict. Financial conflicts are usually just difficult decision-making processes set against the back-drop of competing goals and values.


Risk and debt

The money issue that no one wants to talk about is family income spent on gambling. This is a far bigger problem than most people think. Many people who are married to a gambler pull the plug on the marriage because they see it as the only way to prevent eventual financial ruin. The way each partner views debt and paying off debt can also result in strain on a marriage. If you believe in pumping every extra penny into debt and your spouse feels differently, there’s yet another source of tension. Further, if you each entered the marriage with different amounts of debt, how much are you responsible for your spouse’s debt and how much is he or she responsible for yours? If you can talk about debt with your spouse, you’re more likely to succeed in a marriage.



Dr. Phil has advice for developing and keeping marital and financial harmony:

-Relationships are mutually defined. Each partner needs to be comfortable with any guidelines you set. Don’t build resentment if you’ve agreed to it.

-Everyone should have some financial freedom. Whether $5 or $500, discretionary income is a must for any partnership. Having your own money helps you feel like you haven’t given yourself up in order to be part of a relationship.

-While financial independence is important, it must be balanced with accountability. Don’t hide your spending habits from your spouse. Live within the boundaries you set. Consult your spouse before purchasing big-ticket items.

-Don’t live a fairytale! Get real about how much money you have. Set a realistic budget and financial goals. Don’t justify purchasing something you can’t afford.

-Emotional problems can’t be solved with money. Take a hard look at what’s really behind your spending habits.

-Negotiate and then renegotiate when necessary. You made these life decisions together, and you can change them together.

-Educate yourself. Marriage is a partnership, and both individuals need to be well-informed. Many problems, especially when it comes to money, stem from lack of knowledge.

-When a financial issue comes up, ask yourself: Is it really a money problem or is it a relationship problem?

-Money should not be used as a weapon against your partner.


Knowing and admitting you have problems and being willing to change and get help are the main components to rescue from marital financial strain. From here a couple can seek out counsel and education.  I find seeing a trained Financial Counselor or Financial Advisor to set up plans and give guidance on your communication and problem resolution is highly fruitful.   You can also take a Financial Class such as what Crown Financial or Dave Ramsey Financial Peace offers.

Money stress can drastically change the dynamics of even the happiest marriage. Though it’s rarely the only reason a couple divorces, stressing over finances often seeps into all other aspects of life. Though it may seem like money is a major cause of failed marriage, if you analyze the financial problems, you might see how the money matters are merely reflecting other failing areas of the marriage. The ability to be open and honest about money opens avenues to being healthy all around. Before getting married it’s advisable to make sure you and your partner understands each other’s financial beliefs. The best way to understand each other is to always communicate.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

Crown Financial and Dave Ramsey Financial Peace are not affiliated with Jeffrey W. Masters & Associates or LPL Financial


Jeffery Masters, President of Jeffery W. Masters & Associates 954-977-5150.

Securities offered through LPL Financial, Member FINRA/SIPC. Investment advice offered through Independent Financial Partners, a registered investment advisor. Independent Financial Partners and Jeffery W. Masters & Associates are separate entities’ from LPL Financial – [email protected]

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