• Isabelle Morley, PsyD

When Money Complicates Marriages

Negotiating roles and appreciating each person's contributions can be challenging, here are a few situations where money can negatively impact marriages.



The more money the better, right? As nice as it sounds, having more money is not always the cure-all that we hope it would be. Many partners find that money complicates their relationship and, on top of that, money is a difficult topic for most people. In fact, arguments about money is a major reason that couples fight and marriages end.


Below are some situations where money gets in the way of a happy, healthy relationship, and also what to do about it.


When One Person Makes All the Money

It's not uncommon for partners to have disparate incomes, but if there is an extreme difference, it can be challenging. The person who makes less money can feel obligated to do more around the house or with the kids in order to "make up" for earning less. Sometimes the higher earning partner even expects or demands this, which can make the lower earner feel unappreciated or somehow in debt.


If only one partner is the bread winner, this imbalance can be even more pronounced. The person who is not working might feel like they "owe" their partner, and may hesitate to bring up problems or voice unhappiness as a result. In my work, I have found that these partners feel pressure to "just be happy" with their situation, and lower any other expectations of the high earner (such as quality time or affection from them).



When One Person Controls All the Money

Having resources is great, but not having access to them is anxiety-provoking. If you're in a relationship where your partner controls all the money, this can lead to nervousness, dependence, and resentment. I typically see this in relationships where only one partner is working, and the other person takes care of the home and/or children. The non-working spouse is in the dark about finances, which can lead to insecurity, anxiety, and anger. the person earning the income feels entitled to manage the money, and can become defensive or angry when their partner asks to be part of financial decision.


If you're married, your assets are shared. Both partners should have some decision making power when it comes how you spend or save your money.



When There Isn't Transparency About Money

Even if both partners are earning a living and sharing resources, there can still be a lack of transparency about the other's income. Some partners keep their finances completely separate, and this can work as long as there is transparency. There needs to be openness about what each person is spending, saving, putting towards retirement, and so forth. Committing to someone is not just for romance, it's also a joining of your financial lives, and not knowing your other half's spending/saving habits is problematic.



The Solution: Talk About Money

As uncomfortable as it might be, it's important to talk about money, especially if you're married. If you're anxious about how each of you is managing your money, talk about it. If you dislike the power imbalance that money is creating in your relationship, talk about it. And if you're too nervous to bring it up, try working with a financial consultant or couples therapist. They can help you navigate this sensitive subject by pointing out the problems, showing you how to change, and supporting you and your partner as you discuss money in your marriage.