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What to Do When Money Becomes a Rift in Your Relationship

cake-topper wedding couple and a pre-nuptial agreementEven if you feel money isn’t an issue in your relationship, one day it could be. What happens when the breadwinner loses his or her job? What if one person suddenly makes more than the other? From I Suck at Relationships So You Don’t Have To.

Maybe your husband made more, but then your kids got older and you got a great job and now you make more, and he suddenly feels threatened. Maybe your husband made all the money but then made some bad decisions or the economy negatively affected his line of work, but you’re at home with the kids and can’t work and are suddenly in dire financial straits. This can make you resentful and angry at him for failing as a provider when you can’t help out. Maybe you were the breadwinner but then he suddenly got a promotion and now he makes more than you and you’re the one who feels threatened. Or what if you made all the money for many years, but then the tables turn when you lose your job and your partner starts making the big bucks? This is confusing and it makes things like divorces crazy. If a woman is with a man for twenty years supporting him while he earns his professional credentials or works his way up the ladder, does she deserve half of everything when they get divorced? And what if they were only together for a little while? What if the genders are reversed? Is that the same? It’s a sticky gray area for sure, and you should always be ready for it by knowing how you both feel about financial issues and having a plan (and a prenup!).

The most important thing to remember is that the flow of money, like the flow of energy, is always changing, and if you pin all your relationship hopes and dreams on money, you will be disappointed eventually. He who makes the gold makes the rules, but the rules change, and the gold changes, and today’s rich man can easily be tomorrow’s poor man.

A relationship is about you and another person, not about the bank account balance. That connection has to be strong. But never underestimate the power of the bank account balance to erode your connection. It can happen to anyone. You have to ride it out if you want to stay together, and you have to talk about it. Sometimes, a frank discussion without emotion can strip money of its power over you, at least temporarily. Keep talking. What triggers you? What can you deal with? What do you need? What does your partner need? It’s your best weapon and your best defense, because what remains unspoken has the most power of all.

I have been in the position of standing in front of my partner while he held his hand out to me, wanting me to fill it with money. This disgusted me, but I think it may have also disgusted him. I sensed that it made him bitter and angry, and maybe it wouldn’t have been quite the same if the genders had been reversed, but the power dynamic remains. This is what has to come to the surface. “Where are we with money? And how can we handle it so it doesn’t tear us apart?” I don’t have all the answers, but at least now I know that I have to keep asking the questions.


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