Money is one of the biggest sources of marital discord—and it can be one of the toughest to resolve.
That’s because when couples argue about how to spend money, they’re not just debating the issue at hand, such as how much they can put on the credit card each month, or whether they can really afford that big vacation. They’re giving voice to subconscious anxieties that even they may not be aware of—and bumping up against the unarticulated fears of their partners.
Maybe it was a childhood of poverty—or just the constant fear of poverty—that leaves a spouse hating to spend money. Maybe a first spouse’s secret bank account now is causing distrust in a second marriage.
Even benign past experiences can lead to unintended consequences years later. Dave Jetson, founder of Jetson Counseling in Rapid City, S.D., says that his first memory of money is getting a quarter from a cousin at age four or five. His mother immediately took it away for safekeeping, he says. “Her heart and her intention were in the right place, but what that taught me was, the next time I get the money, I’m going to spend it, because I don’t want it taken away.”