If the latest statistics are anything to go by, divorce and separation numbers in Malta are on the up. Thankfully, our country still has the lowest divorce rate when compared to our European counterparts, but still, every marriage breakdown is always a tragedy especially for those involved.
The decision for two people to finally call it a day, could stem from a lot of issues; adultery, violence, addiction or simply the fact that the couple has grown apart, but there are also seemingly insignificant factors within a marriage which over a long period of time could wreak havoc within a relationship. However trivial it might seem at the beginning of a marriage, financial problems could lead to bigger, more damaging issues… after all, money could very well be the root of all evil…
It is the last final frontier in any relationship; money issues between couples are what sex issues were a few generations ago – the huge elephant in the room. It is perhaps one of the most taboo subjects in a relationship and one which could easily drive a wedge between two people who would otherwise live quite happily ever after. Discussing finances with one’s spouse is difficult to say the least, especially when money represents different things to each partner, each with a different personality and perhaps an opposing view of its importance. With another wedding season just around the corner, the time is ripe to explore the possibility of tackling such a hot issue…
Tackling finances in the early days of relationship might seem as quite a romance dampener for some people, but the reality of day to day living as a couple without some agreed ground rules, will eventually accumulate in a number of problems which can escalate into unnecessary tension. The first major hurdle, if both are earning a salary is establishing what’s ‘yours, mine and ours’.
If one partner is the type who is extra careful with spending, perhaps one who does not feel secure without having a substantial nest egg tucked away for a ‘rainy day’, while the other won’t plan beyond tomorrow, then, seriously establishing how the household income should be managed is the only way forward. Open and honest discussion what money really means to each partner is vital; turning a blind eye to a partner’s spending habits (or lack of) so as not to rock the boat in the early days, is not a viable solution. Money being an everyday, each day commodity is an issue that needs to be tackled sooner rather than later.
A list of priorities, both short and long term, is needed if adverse financial issues are not to rear their ugly head. Compromise is key; each partner must be able to manage his or her expectations, from what they envisage, to what is realistically possible in a familial context. Agree who will take care of the household bills and discuss any future plans that will require larger than usual sums of money; a new car, a deposit on a property, a long holiday and even whether you plan to have children. It’s a given that bringing up a child in today’s world is costly. Plan ahead for any expenses which might come up – living on just one income even if for a temporary period during maternity leave, the assorted paraphernalia that a new baby’s arrival necessitates, future childcare, education, as well as day to day expenses.
The power balance in a relationship can in certain instances, even if unintentionally, be dictated by money. This could indeed prove to be quite a slippery slope. The fact that one partner is a much higher earner than the other or perhaps comes from a much wealthier background or social class, could become an unhealthy source of friction. Broaching the subject of who has what and how much, needn’t culminate in an emotionally charged row every time. Letting resentment build up because one is bringing home more money or is the sole breadwinner will only cloud one’s judgment. Be honest with your other half and never let the fact that you’re bringing home ‘more’ bacon than your partner become a lethal weapon during an argument.
All in all, there is no set rule which dictates how a couple should manage their finances – each couple should tackle money issues in the way they’re both most comfortable with. Whether both are happy to just contribute to the monthly bills and keep their own personal accounts personal, or agree to put their entire income in the household kitty, from which all expenses are paid, as long as they are both in agreement, then it’s entirely up to them. If the couple bears in mind that money, however important and essential to their quality of life, is secondary to their relationship and are willing to be upfront and honest on this highly charged matter, then financial matters shouldn’t pose a threat to a healthy, loving relationship. And let’s face it, with so many threats lurking on every corner jeopardising the wellbeing of marriage today, why should we let the simple, surmountable issue of money be one of them?