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Don't Let Money Fights Turn Your Honeymoon Into Divorce Court

Divorce fighting
It's June, which means that soon wedding bells will be ringing and cash registers ca-ching-ing -- elaborate celebrations have been planned and extravagant gifts have been purchased. But before you take your walk down the aisle, you should have a serious conversation with your mate about how you'll pay those reception bills.

Money is the No. 1 source of conflict for couples, says clinical psychologist Dr. Les Parrott. Couples fight more about financial issues than about their kids, their jobs, the housework, and their friends.
And those fights can be a sign of worse things to come. Parrott cites a study by the National Survey of Families and Households that found that couples who disagree about money once a week are roughly 30 percent more likely to divorce than couples who report fighting about finances a few times each month.

"It doesn't matter how much money you have, whether it's a little or a lot," says Parrott. "Money represents power in a relationship. It represents our dreams, our future, and our security, so it's no wonder that the fur flies around money."

The good fightParrott and his wife, Dr. Leslie Parrott, best-selling authors and founders of the Center for Relationship Development at Seattle Pacific University, recently published their new book "The Good Fight: How Conflict Can Bring You Closer" to show couples how to minimize conflicts over money.

Why Money Causes Fights

Studies show that couples argue because they have different opinions on needs versus wants. They argue about unexpected expenses, insufficient savings, overspending, and money lies.

But all those topics are simply what's on the surface, Parrott says. Dig deeper and you'll find that there's a complex tangle of emotions fueling money fights.

"When couples fight about money, they're really fighting about a perceived threat, such as feeling manipulated by their spouse," says Parrott. "They'll fight because one person tells the other that they can't buy an expensive brand of coffee, but underneath the argument is really about feeling threatened."

Feeling neglected is another trigger for money fights. For example, if a husband buys expensive golf clubs without consulting his wife, the wife may feel that her partner doesn't care about her feelings.

"If you can identify what you're really experiencing, you can become more articulate and help your partner understand what you're thinking," says Parrott. "The goal isn't to rid yourself of financial fights. Our goal is to teach people how to fight about money."

Dredging Up the Past

Parrott says that the first thing couples should do -- ideally before they get married -- is to discuss how money was handled in their homes when they were growing up.

"If you can see your partner in the context of their past and get a sense of the DNA of their money personality, you'll be able to develop empathy," he says. "One spouse may have grown up in a house where Dad handled all the money and no one talked about it, while the other may have been raised in a house with a stockbroker who talked about investing at every meal."

He recommends setting aside time for a monthly or weekly financial conference, even if it's just a 10-minute conversation about your savings and your goals.

For couples with severe money conflicts, Parrott suggests a role-reversal exercise. For example, if you love to shop and spend and your fiance is a saver, try going to a store and have your fiance decide to buy all three shirts he likes instead of just one, while you try to dissuade him. This can help both of you understand how your spouse-to-be feels about money.

Get to the CORE of Your Fights

The Parrotts have developed the "CORE" strategy that applies to all fights, including those about money. "If you can bring in one of the CORE elements into your fight, the other elements will follow," says Parrott.

C = Cooperation. A good fight is one that has two winners rather than a winner and a loser, says Parrott.
O = Ownership. Take ownership of your own role in the dispute.
R = Respect. The Parrotts say that money brings out our selfish sides. Money matters cause us to play the blame game and become disrespectful. "Once you have disrespect in a conflict, it goes off the rails," says Parrott.
E = Empathy. Empathy is the most important element of a good conflict, because if you have the capacity to understand each other you can keep the conversation focused on what matters most, says Parrott. "We wish we could give empathy to everyone as a wedding present," says Parrott.

Keep Talking

The Parrotts' book comes with a smartphone app called "Money Talks" that helps couples manage conflict when and where they need it. "The app helps you build the world's smallest social network, between the two of you," he says.

For engaged couples, the newly married, or long-term partners, Parrott says a professional consultation with a financial advisor is beneficial. "Depending on where you are financially, an advisor can help you set up your financial home together," he says. "It's important to get everything out on the table so there are no surprises, and a professional can help you with that."

If you can learn to handle your inevitable financial conflicts with empathy and calm, your chance of a lasting partnership can multiply faster than your investments.

Photo Credit: Alamy

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This is such good advice. I don't want this to happen either. I hope that my brother and sister in law stay away from these problems.

Jim |

January 30 2014 at 6:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply


June 21 2013 at 3:19 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Nowadays if you marry someone without sharing each other's credit reports first, you could be in a lot of trouble as a couple also as you start your lives together. One spouse's credit report does effect the other spouse's credit report. Be sure to get the paper work for each other!!!

June 01 2013 at 10:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

People are never honest before the wedding and certainly not honest after the wedding. The financial issue is one sign of more basic problems that were never addressed before the wedding. women have already spent the money and when you go looking for it that is when you find out there is nothing left And everything is now more important than your projects, your desires, wants or anything that might contradict what they want. and they wonder why more heterosexual men are will to stay single in todays world with today's laws.

June 01 2013 at 10:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I dont provide for anyone else in this world except myself, I dont owe anyone anything any women coming to me thinking I owe them a free ride in life will have a big lesson to learn real quick in a relationship

June 01 2013 at 4:44 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Come on now.. Obama has made everyone Rich... LMAO

June 01 2013 at 2:36 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

The photo at the top is funny. Like newlyweds fight over money on their wedding night. It looks more like she was ready to do ummmmmmm.....what young couples do in a hotel room on their wedding night and he drank too much Crown and champagne at the reception.

June 01 2013 at 2:18 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

The things we argued about were money,my parents, how to raise our children, how I cooked and cleaned and sex! Now I wonder why I ever got married but honestly he was completely different before we said I Do! We both worked in the same auto factory and after the wedding he wanted me to deposit my check in the checking account, which he controled and didn't even give me spending money. Actually asked me what I needed a few dollars for? Told me to write a check if I needed something, like I was going to write a check for a magazine or some small item like that. It was just to see what I was spending my money on. He always complained about my parents, when I was pregant with my first child, they wanted to buy the crib for us and he actually said NO and would not take anything like that from them, still do not know why except that his parents never bought the kids anything and mine would. We could never agree on how we were raising the children, he favored my daughter who could do no wrong in his eyes and our son could never do no right. When ever something happened with either child they were "Your child!" He never supported the kids in anything they did, sports at school or anything like that. In all the years we were married, no once did he compliment me on anything I cooked, but always made comments to how great his Mom and sister were at cooking. As for cleaning, he never lifted a finger to help in that area and even though I worked 40 or more hours a week, it was all up to me to do the cleaning and it was never good enough for him. He never picked up after himself, would just leave newspapers, cups, pop bottles things like that laying where he last had them. But even after all of this, I was supposed to hop into bed at the drop of a hat and act like he was the greatest person ever. After awhile I didn't even want him to touch me because I was never good enough. He even compared me to women in his Men's Magazines and would make comments like "why don't you have a body like that?" Meanwhile he was at least 60 pounds overweight. That and he always wanted to watch the porno films and wanted me to act like the dumbo's in the videos. No one could convince him that it was all acting, he actually thought it was all real. On top of being addicted to porn he was also addicted to pain meds and tranqulizers. The money got so bad when I was no longer working that I had to ask him for money to go to church each week, even though he knew that I and the children went every Sunday. He never attended. If the kids needed money for school I had to leave a note in the kitchen for when he came home and explain what it was for. UNTIL I finally got a job making almost as much as he did, then I could thumb my nose at him and boy talk about a pissed off man!

June 01 2013 at 12:55 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to Kay's comment

Holy crap

June 01 2013 at 2:08 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
2 replies to h.hughjardon's comment

Is this the first time you've heard of this very common situation? It's surprising how common it is.

June 01 2013 at 11:11 PM Report abuse rate up rate down

No olaf...more like holy crap! Why on earth does someone feel the need to write about their effed up.marriage on a financial blog.

June 02 2013 at 12:28 AM Report abuse rate up rate down

That is such a common story for women for so many generations. I made sure my son knew how to take care of himself. When he married I was not ashamed because he did not know how to take care of a house, himself, or pretend he did not know how so he would not clean up after himself. I also made sure my daughter was well equiped to earn a living too.

June 01 2013 at 11:06 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Keep seperate accounts, make each spouse turn in an expense report every month if there are problems. Both males and females cause problems both can be spendthrifts. Women hide purchases and men just go out and spend . Money is a tool that is used to maintain the relationship and family. Check on this before you get married

June 01 2013 at 11:39 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to SPQR's comment

when I was in my early 40's I got a job that paid about $2 an hour less than my husband made as a journeyman toolmaker and the first thing I did was to join my company's credit union, open a savings account (which my husband could never manage) and even had my own charge card. He got so angry that I could handle my own money, he didn't think that I could do it by myself. He never figured that I could get a job like that either. During our marriage I wanted to go to our local community college but he always had excuses why we could not afford it so when I got this job in a manufacturing company and had to learn about computers, he was stunned. He always told our children to NOT take computer classes in school because they were just a fad, but I told them that it was their schooling and that they should take what they wanted, and now look at how we use computers. After he passed away the first thing I did was to work hard to pay off our house and also to pay off another house he bought for an investment! One year he made over $100,000 working lots of overtime and I made $60,000 working my regular hours and we still had nothing. In fact when it came time for income tax of course we had to pay in and he threw it at me and said I would have to pay it because it was my fault. The next year, after he passed, I was telling the lady who did our taxes what he had done and she could not believe it. She said it was all because of the overtime he worked. I even had extra taken out of my weekly check, but of course he never did! Better yet, when he died, he had three pay checks in his wallet that he had not cashed yet plus over $1000 cash. We had gone out to eat that day and he made me pay for the meal saying that he didn't have any money and only gave $2 toward the tip, which I paid! At the funeral, just before the service, his mother said to me, "I don't know if you knew it but ----- was giving me money each month but now I don't know what I will do!" I lied and told her that of course I knew, (I always suspected he was but he would just deny it all) and said I didn't know what she was going to do because I wasn't going to give her one dime! That was the last time I talked to the lady, she even had the nerve to ask for all the things back that she had given us through the years! Believe me I gave her everything because I did not want one thing!

June 01 2013 at 1:58 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply