Many people enter marriage blindly, underestimating how minor annoyances they experience while dating can grow exponentially during marriage.
While couples may argue about a variety of issues ranging from in-laws to child rearing to household chores, research shows money fights can be the most toxic to a marriage.
Jeffrey Dew at Utah State University analyzed data collected from 2,800 couples and determined that those who fought about money weekly were “30% more likely to get divorced than couples who reported disagreeing about finances a few times a month.” (The New York Times)
Many of us believe in the romantic ideal that love is enough to grow and sustain a loving marriage, but that is certainly not the case.
While physical attraction is important, what is more important is your spouse’s ideals and convictions, and how closely they are in line with your own. If you are a saver and you willingly enter marriage with a spender, be prepared for routine conflict, and perhaps divorce.
Jan Dahlin Geiger, a financial planner in Atlanta states, “‘Overspending is no different than being an alcoholic or drug addict’ in its effect on a relationship. ‘What one person is doing could have a huge negative impact on the couple’s finances’” (USA Today). Likewise, spenders may hide their purchases from you and incur debt you do not know about.
Of course, overspending is not the only financial problem couples might face.
There is also the prospect of job loss, disability, bankruptcy, and child expenses, just to name a few. These are issues that can rock the strongest marriages; for those with marriages weakened by constant bickering about money, they may be enough to cause the end of the marriage.
What Is The Solution?
One solution is to look at millionaires.
Book after book including The Millionaire Mind and The Frugal Millionaires argue that millionaires choose their spouses carefully, not only based on looks but also on financial compatibility. One millionaire in The Frugal Millionaires offers this advice, “Marry for love first, and then for a similar approach to money. And marry someone who looks at money the same way you do or you won’t have either love or money in the long run.”
Despite nasty public divorces by the likes of Donald Trump and Christie Brinkley, many millionaires do not divorce. They choose their partners wisely and retain their wealth. Thomas J. Stanley, author of The Millionaire Mind says that millionaires choose their partners based on honesty, responsibility, lovingness, capability and supportiveness.
Bill and Melinda Gates have been married for 18 years now, and work together on the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Together, they plan to give away the bulk of their money to charity.
Melinda puts it succinctly when she says of their engagement, “After a number of years of dating, we decided we were good partners, and on a very special trip to California he proposed to me” (komonews.com)
Notice that she uses the words, “good partners” as the main factor in their decision to get married. Perhaps her quote sounds a bit cold and analytical, but that partnership has paved the way to a sound marriage and a foundation that will help many around the world.
One interesting fact in The Millionaire Next Door by Thomas Stanley and William Danko is that affluent couples have a divorce rate of less than half the normal divorce rate.
Clearly the rest of us could learn from their example when it comes to marriage.
Choose Your Spouse with a Business Mind
Yes, asking you to choose your spouse with an analytical, business mind sounds cold and unromantic, but there is nothing romantic about choosing your spouse based only on love and then fighting every day about money.
Of course, you should choose to marry someone you love, but like millionaires, you should look carefully at their personality, habits and views about money. There is no need to rush into a marriage; instead, take the time during dating and your engagement to make sure you are truly compatible.
Repercussions of a Bad Decision
If you marry for love only and end up being financially incompatible, you may suffer for years to come. If you do remain married, your life will likely be filled with stressful days and repeated arguments about money. It may be difficult to keep your finances on track.
Worst case, you and your spouse divorce. While women traditionally fair worse in the first few years after a divorce, ultimately both parties suffer financially. Retirement funds will need to be split, spousal and child support may need to be paid, and there is the price of the lawyers and divorce itself to pay for.
While divorce may not always be avoidable, there are steps you can take at the beginning of your relationship to make sure the person you choose to spend your life with is the best match for you financially. This, in turn, can help you grow your wealth.
While our society is currently angry at the rich for many of society’s ills, certainly we can look to them for their marital longevity and learn.