Financial issues come up as the top reason marriages end in divorce in Malaysia. Let’s explore how to keep money and love aligned towards a happy marriage.
“It’s not always rainbows and butterflies
It’s compromise that moves us along
My heart is full, and my door’s always open
You can come anytime you want” – She will be loved, Maroon 5
A phrase, ‘they lived happily ever after”, an epitome of fairy tale ending, has always been portrayed as, in the end they got married and happy. In fact, getting into a marriage is just a beginning, and the journey is not always a bed of roses. According to Gary Chapman, the author of ‘The 5 Love Languages of Love’, most conflicts between couples that he hears in his counselling office revolve around money.
Expectations toward one another and failure to understand our spouse’s money behavior can lead to frustrations, arguments, and disputes. These, if left to fester and not resolved, can eventually harm a relationship.
As reported by NST in May 2019, Deputy Women, Family, and Community Development Minister Hannah Yeoh mentioned that on a yearly basis, financial issues come up as the top reason marriages end in divorce.
Often, the issues and conflicts are not exactly about money per se. Hence, in order to have effective conversations about money, these are the fundamental steps you may follow.
Step 1. Acknowledge and seek to understand what motivates your money behavior
Can you identify your money behavior? What makes you act a certain way when it comes to handling money? That behavior, if occurs persistently, predictably, and destructively; likely arises as a result of unresolved childhood issues, financial traumas and life (or economical) experiences that imprint on individual perspectives and behaviors toward money. Hence, it is helpful to find out; are there any logical reasons that motivate your behavior?
Some things we don’t talk about
Rather do without
And just hold a smile
Falling in and out of love
Ashamed and proud of
Together all the while
-Never say never, The Fray
The experience that cause certain money habits is not something that couples usually talk about. Even so, talking about it with our better half and discovering the underlying reasons behind the habits are tremendously enlightening. This helps us to understand each other and view the attitudes with empathy, instead of negatively. This kind of conversation is good to set the tone of a discussion and prevent us from getting caught up in a heated discussion.
It is undeniably important to always have your ego in check while discussing financial-related issues with your spouse. This also includes letting your spouse speak his/her mind even though your spouse is not earning as much, or not earning at all. His or her point of view matters.
Step 2. Meet each other halfway
Conflicts and arguments can be resolved by having a conversation on expectations and perceptions toward one another. Financial behaviors, money beliefs and one’s viewpoints on money are all inter-related.
These perceptions, if not relayed clearly to your significant other, may lead to frustrations, quarrels and may put the relationship at stake. Healthy relationship needs hard work from both parties. As the saying goes, it takes two to tango. Hence, do compromise with each other; on some sacrifices to be made and things that can be accepted – purchases, necessities etc. When a couple compromise, negotiate and be on the same page, this strengthens the relationship and build trust between each other; knowing that you both are in this together in ensuring a relationship that can endure trials and disagreements.
Culturally, we are used to the mindset that husbands have to provide and support the family. Nonetheless, it is also perfectly fine for couples to share family expenses, especially when husbands cannot afford to be the sole income earner for the family. Whichever your stance in this matter, do talk about it with your spouse and decide what works best for both of you and your circumstances. If you decide to share expenses, discuss the how; either sharing them equally or sharing them proportional to income. Always have in mind that this kind of conversation is to find mutual understanding and to better improve teamwork between the both of you.
Step 3. Envision your dreams and goals
Talk about your personal life goals and lay them out on a timeline so that you will be clear on when they can be achieved. Then, envision those goals and discuss how you can work together to achieve those goals by considering your family dynamics.
How about family goals? What are the things that are important to both of you? Different family have different priorities; hence it is important to talk about your family priorities. These can include discussions on family planning, kids’ tertiary education, or any goals that you find important to achieve as a family. From here, work on how to fit your individual goals into the family goals and see how you can have better certainty to achieve them.
By painting the big picture of the goals, both of you can be rest assured and be clear about how you can work together to achieve your individual and family goals without jeopardizing the sanctity of your relationship.
Step 4. Engage professionals
Realizing your dreams and goals are not easy tasks. There may be unexpected events, unresolved conflicts (still!) or other challenges along the way. In undue stressful situation, you may find that engaging professionals such as counselor and licensed financial planner comes in handy in your journey to achieve your goals.
In the case of financial infidelity, if the previous steps don’t seem to work, it would be wise to talk to a counselor so that he/she can help facilitate the hard conversations between both of you. They are trained to assist you in finding resolutions to your circumstances.
In terms of financials, licensed financial planners can help you view your current financial standing holistically and guide you in drawing a financial map towards achieving your goals.
These are just two examples of professionals that are there to help you rationalize and offer unbiased advice; especially when you are emotionally challenged. They can also walk you through in improving and changing your habits as well as holding you accountable in your journey towards achieve your goals. Depending on your situation, you may find the need to engage other professionals instead of the two mentioned. On a side note, do choose professionals that will act in your best interest.
These steps have frequently been overlooked and viewed as trivial and petty. Money arguments typically stem from failure to understand the motivation of a behavior and expectations that are not properly conveyed, which then lead to frustrations. This can cause strain on a marriage and on the kids that witnessed the fights; causing financial traumas and causing children to have unhealthy relationship with money due to life experiences that they have gone through. With these four steps, let’s do what we can to keep marriages intact.
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