When Debt Affects Your Marriage

Statistics show that money is the root cause of many divorces. Once the honeymoon phase is over, the practicalities of everyday life can often be the source of irreparable wear and tear on even the happiest of marriages. Money problems, and the arguments they cause between couples, can ultimately sink the ship once and for all. If you’re drowning in debt, grab a hold of the lifeboat before it gets too late.

In many cases, two individuals bring debt into a marriage. This can have lasting devastating effects. Starting off your life together in the red adds stress to the already difficult transition of two single people into a couple who are building a life together. If at all possible, make sure you’re debt-free before tying the knot. Not only that, make sure the same goes for your future spouse. Meet with an accountant before your wedding day and ask him or her to go over both of your finances and advise you on the proper course of action if necessary.

If you’re already debt-free, make sure you don’t rack up new debt by planning an extravagant wedding. The tradition of the bride’s parents footing the bill for the big event is falling by the wayside. More and more, an engaged couple takes full responsibility for the costs of their wedding. Unless you plan to elope, a wedding will cost at least several thousands, if not tens of thousands of dollars. The excitement of the occasion may tempt you to break out your credit cards and charge various wedding expenses, plunging you deep into debt. Most people who’ve already gone through the process of getting married will tell you that an expensive wedding wasn’t worth it. Be sensible and consider saving that money for a future home, or even your honeymoon rather than a pricey event that only lasts a few hours of your life.

Once the wedding has ended, many married couples feel the need to keep up with the Joneses. They think they automatically deserve the house, the car, and all the possessions that their fellow married friends and family have. Once again, these materialistic items are often charged without a second thought and falling into deep debt ensues. Soon, these couples realize that bankruptcy, or selling their house and other assets, is the only way out of the hole they’ve dug themselves into. This can be a sad state of affairs for a young couple just starting out in life together.

Another huge mistake is not starting a savings account. As they say, “pay yourself first”. This means that as soon as either of your receive your paycheck, you should immediately put some aside into savings. A good rule of thumb is to have six months-worth of expenses in the bank. Even if you do have debt, you should have some money put aside for emergencies, such as job loss, or illness, so you don’t reach for the credit cards to cope. Amassing even greater debt in a period of emergency can compound the effects this tragic time is having on you already. Having a rainy day fund is always wise.

Speaking of preparing for the future, consider whether you want to ultimately procreate. Children are very expensive to raise, from conception until their eighteenth birthday, and often beyond. The joy of bringing a child into the world will be greatly diminished by the burden of debt. Having the stress of too many bills on top of the hardships of parenting can be crushing to many mothers and fathers. Plan ahead if you want to reproduce, by keeping your distance from debt.

Sometimes, one or both spouses suffers from a lack of money management skills. Perhaps his or her parents never bothered to teach them about savings and avoiding credit card use. It can be very difficult if both parts of a couple are bad with money, but it can be even more devastating if only one individual in a marriage is. The responsible party will suffer from resentment towards the irresponsible one and will often attempt to become controlling of that person over time. Nothing tears a marriage apart faster than when husband and wife become more like father and daughter or mother and son. No one wants to be parented by his or her spouse, but many times, the spouse who manages money well will panic and try to keep his wife or her husband in line. Seek counseling if this becomes the case in your marriage.

Another horrible scenario is having to approach your parents to ask them for a loan when things get too tight financially. Petitioning your parents, or worse, your in-laws, for money is humiliating and sad. This act alone can cause a huge amount of tension in a marriage. You’re essentially bringing a third party into the marriage, one who will have you under their thumb and feel entitled to have a say in your future financial transactions. Avoid asking your parents for money at all costs. Keep your financial issues between you and your spouse, and potentially an impartial third party whose only interest is in helping you drop the debt.

And, don’t forget to look towards retirement. It might seem premature to do so if you’re young and newly married, but time flies by and before you know it you’ll have an empty nest and no nest egg. Debt can prevent you from ever accruing such a thing. Retirement should be a time of fun and relaxation, not one of stress and tension, especially over something like money. Get your act together so you can retire comfortably someday.

So, what to do if debt is affecting your marriage? First and foremost, don’t engage your emotions. Use your brain and devise a plan that will allow you to get out of debt. Research the advice of famous money gurus or hire an accountant who can help you regain your financial footing. Seek counseling if money, or the lack thereof, has caused issues in your marriage. Don’t let something like money cost you the love of your life.



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