Marriage Advice

Fighting about Bills – Financial Stress that Money Causes

In every survey across the nation, one of the top five arguments of all time is financially motivated. Fighting about the bills is one of the most common practices between committed couples. It is also one of the most unpleasant arguments out there, because somewhere along the line it implies that someone isn’t doing enough, isn’t earning enough, or isn’t able to strike and hold a budget enough. Almost every couple resorts to this argument at least once every three years if not a great deal more. Couples who are financially stressed often have this argument regularly, sometimes as often as three or four times a week.

While money is vital necessity, the stress it imposes on a relationship should not hamper the overall quality of the relationship. Without money, things are naturally going to be more intense. How the two of you choose to deal with the additional stress will either help the situation improve or help the situation deteriorate. Arguing once or twice can help a couple resolve some issues. Arguing repeatedly and reaching the same, or no conclusion, is only adding stress to an already tense situation.

Money almost inevitably leads to emotional responses. A study once showed that people have one of three emotions when they are faced with financial transactions. This can be illustrated and addressed simply by watching them spend a small amount of cash at the store. If I walk up to the counter and am making my purchase, the method I use to hand over the money will tell me how I really feel about money. If I toss the money on the counter before the sale is even rung up, I am stating, ‘take it. Just take my money because I don’t want it.’” If I wait until the very last possible second’—after I have been told the total and the clerk is holding out their hand waiting for my payment’—then I am stating, ‘It’s my money and I don’t want to part with it even when I need to.’” Of course, the in between stage, where I gently and confidently hand over the money directly into the clerk’s hand after the sale has rung up but before the hand is considering reaching out and snatching the bill from my grasp then I am stating, ‘I am comfortable enough with money to know that it’s okay to part with it because I will see more.’”

Understanding your emotions as well as your partner’s emotions regarding money and the bills is likely to make it easier to come to a reasonable conclusion when the inevitable fighting about the bills rears its ugly head. Because money is an emotional topic, emotions are likely to interfere with some of the more logical aspects of bill paying. People who grew up desperately poor may want to hoard money like a starving artist or the may want to spend every penny they have. People who grew up with more than the average standard may want to maintain the standard they grew up with or may have realized that all that money didn’t solve their family’s problems and money may not seem like an important venue for them. Your emotions and your partner’s emotions may clash heavily when it comes to financially managing your bills.

Typically, once you both have a fairly clear understanding of why you react the way that you do toward money, problems with the bills become easier to work through logically, and most couples can find reasonable solutions to bill related problems.

If you both work, there isn’t the likelihood that one partner can suddenly bring in an additional cash flow without taking on a second job. If you both work, you both should have a say regarding how the money is spent. Assuming that no one in the household is harboring a habit that is draining the bank account, then both people involved are equally responsible while equally accountable. Not everyone agrees with this statement, but comparing who makes more and allowing decision making power to shift because of this factor will generally only lead to trouble.

If Johnny makes $15,000 more annually than Linda, Johnny may feel a sense of entitlement to determine how and when and why the majority of the money is spent. Not only does this generally lead to feelings of resentment because truthfully it is a belittling attitude, but it may very well be the obstacle that is preventing you from reaching a more comfortable place in the land of bill paying. Maybe Linda has a better sense of budgeting or more self control when it comes to impulse buying. Maybe Linda was taught how to keep and maintain a budget while Johnny was always taught that you spend some, save some, and invest some and it will all work out in the end.

There are always places to cut the bills down. It can be a frustrating experience to feel as though one or both of you has to deny yourselves something in order to get the bills down to a more manageable figure, but often compromise is the key factor in shrinking bills without having to deny yourselves everything. Hobbies often run up bills that maybe are seen by one or both of you as unnecessary. If at all possible, agree to cut down on hobby expense before disengaging altogether. It is completely unfair and a good resentment builder if one partner has to give up a hobby altogether while the other is permitted to keep theirs.

When you and your better half find yourselves fighting about the bills, try to keep the focus of the argument within the realm of the problem, whether it is overspending or not remembering to keep the heat turned down enough, rather than make it a personal attack about how they ‘always’” do this or that or how you ‘never’” can be reasonable about things. Money is a topic that can bring forth a lot of resentment and discomfort. Each partner is permitted the feelings they have when it comes to bill paying and money. Neither partner should be attacking the feelings. Reasonable solutions are possible, and when the argument flares up, both of you need to remember that money, bills, and a second job pale in comparison to an honest love to a committed partner.

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