Why money is an issue in relationships

Money is a sensitive topic in many relationships and it is one of the leading causes of divorce. There are a number of reasons why this is the case. In this article I discus some of the common issues around money in relationships and what we can do about them:

  1. Different money personalities. We all have different money personalities. Ken Honda explains these personalities well in his book called Happy Money. Some people are compulsive savers while others are spenders by default. Some people are gamblers while others are worriers. Some people are simply indifferent to money. When these personalities mix in marriage there is bound to be fireworks. For instance if a spender marries a saver there is bound to be conflict. The way to resolve this is to have a sincere open discussion with each other and find a middle ground. You could for example dedicate some money for fun and random things to appease the spender while saving some money on a joint account.
  2. Cultural differences. We all come from different families, tribes and nations. Each culture is unique and has a different approach to money. Some culture are more enterprising than others. In some cultures the man is the bread winner and takes care of everything. In other cultures it is the reverse. In some places women are not allowed to inherit property. In marriage these cultures clash and if not resolved early lead to marital breakdown. It’s important to really understand a potential mate before committing to a lifetime with this person. Premarital counselling can help. You need to understand these differences and come to a common ground in your relationship.
  3. Religious differences. Religion has a big influence on many people around the world. Some religions say money is the root of all evil. Other religions don’t encourage charging interest on loans. In some religions poverty is encouraged. Now when two conflicting religions come together in a relationship there will be tension. Again a negotiated settlement needs to be reached by both parties to agree a reasonable way forward.
  4. Communications issues. We all communicate differently. In his book the five love languages, Gary Chapman, points out the different love languages.  They are Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. We need to spend time and understand each other’s love language to improve communication. For example a husband may be very busy at work and then buy the wife expensive perfumes thinking this will make her happy. On the contrary the wife may prefer spending more quality time with the husband. This will create conflict and tension in the marriage.
  5. Esteem issues. For many people (especially men) their self worth is tied to their bank balance. When the bank balance is low for whatever reason their self image maybe rattled. The culture makes it worse as it expects men to able to provide for their families. The issue is for us to redefine our self worth in terms of other meaningful metrics. For instance we are fathers, brothers, friends, colleagues, etc. We are God’s highest form of creation irrespective of our bank balance. We are capable of becoming more and contributing to society. When we redefine ourselves this way we lift the pressure off ourselves to measure our self worth based on a bank balance. Women need to be especially careful in how they communicate about money with their husbands so as not to deflate their egos. This is a very delicate issue for most men.
  6. Keeping up with the joneses. There is a lot of pressure in society to move up the ladder of success. In family meetings people are eager to show economic progress from new cars, businesses, homes, schools, big weddings, etc. It is very easy to get caught up in this vicious competitive cycle as you seek to please other people. Don’t try to please in-laws when you can’t afford. Better to live comfortably within your means.
  7. Extended families. In Africa we have large extended families. The few people who make it economically are generally expected to support the rest of the clan. This can create a lot of strain on the meager resources of a family. Allocation of this economic care can also cause conflict. For example should a wife send most of her salary to her family instead of helping with the bills at home?
  8. Polygamy. Polygamy and infidelity complicates issues. First it strains the already limited resources among multiple households. It also creates an environment of envy, mistrust and jealousy. It’s hard to thrive as a family when there is a lot of intrigue and infighting. It’s almost impossible to build a successful business with the co-wives as business partners. Indeed on the demise of the man the whole thing usually collapses.
  9. Single breadwinner. There is an increase in households headed by single mothers. For whatever reason some men have abandoned their responsibilities and left the women to fend for themselves. Women need to empower themselves economically to withstand such scenarios. Being a house wife in this economy is a very risky proposition. The man can wake up and abandon you. We also need to empower our daughters not to rely on men to take care of them.
  10. Low incomes. A low income household income generally has a lower quality of life. Such a household should focus on enterprise and vocations with better prospects. The idea is to do whatever it takes to increase household incomes. If a woman grew up in a comfortable lifestyle she will hardly settle for anything less and won’t accept hardship.
  11. Debt problems. Mismanaged debt can cause a lot of stress for a family. It is not uncommon for a wife to find out that the husband mortgaged the family home on a risky business venture. Spouses need to jointly discuss any loans before taking them on.
  12. Too many children. Children are a blessing but in multitudes can quickly become an economic burden. The child care costs are crazy these days. You have to buy diapers, toys, clothing, etc. A decent nursery schools goes for more than one million shillings a term. Prudence suggests that we should only bear children we can afford otherwise we shall keep working into old age just to be able to sustain the family.

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