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A penny for a squeeze!

When you were newly married, you probably thought that you could survive on love and water alone. Those were the days before a tank of gas was cheaper than a visit to the hairdresser and long before you and hubby’s credit card became best friends.

Shandi, a 38-year-old graphic designer, learnt what she describes as a very ‘expensive lesson’ early on in her life: “Never tell your husband what your Dior mascara costs, or your Chanel handbag – and definitely not the girls-only pamper session at the spa. And when he does ask, halve the amount,” she laughs – with the wisdom of a woman who has been married for almost a decade.

Perhaps you are laughing with the knowledge that you share her sentiments – but experts believe that secrets about finances can do your marriage immeasurable harm, and that lies about costs (yes, even that slip that you ‘lost’) don’t belong in a Christian marriage.

Be frank with yourself – are you always 100% honest with your husband about money matters? Or have you, every now and then, paid a fortune for a jacket and then ‘discovered’ it one day, confessing without blinking, ‘I found this old thing in my cupboard… haven’t worn it in years”. You may have torn the slip up secretly into 600,000 pieces, and burnt the tag. Yes – your money is your money, but there are many women who have discovered that their husbands don’t appreciate this kind of behaviour when the school fees increase, again, and they come home with the fourth pair of new stilettos…

Did you get married for money?
Couples argue more about money than about sex. In a study done by , it was found that 84% of people admitted that money causes tension in their relationship, and 13% confessed they fight numerous times about money each month. The biggest cause of conflict is apparently financial priorities.

But why does money play such an important role? It may not be able to buy taste, but it can ensure comfort and free you from a certain amount of tension. On the other hand, it can also be the cause of tension! It has been found that even in households with two incomes, money and sex (or a lack of these) is the biggest cause of divorce. The 2008 Love and Money research report by Money Management International found that 73% of women consider financial know-how better than good looks when it comes to choosing a life partner! While women do know that money can’t buy happiness – they are very aware that as soon as poverty comes in the front door, love goes out the back door.

So do women get married for money? In the book Sy Behoeftes, Haar Behoeftes, (His needs, Her needs) Willard F. Harley writes that anecdotes about women who marry men for their money are common, but that his experience as a counsellor has taught him not to take these tendencies as a joke. Women do marry men for their money – and at the very least she expects him to have enough money to support her in the style she was accustomed to under her father’s roof. Maybe this statement is a generalisation – but Lika, a 36-year-old beauty therapist, says that money definitely was a consideration when her husband asked her to marry him. She says that it wasn’t important to her to marry an oil tycoon, but she has always said that she wanted a husband to provide for her. She didn’t want to be in a situation one day where she and her kids would be kicked out of the house because of debt – so she chose a man with ambition and drive.

Is retail therapy a myth?
It appears as if women don’t always think with their hearts when they choose a life partner – and that logic also plays a role these days. Money is something that cannot be ignored, but because it is not a nice topic to speak about, communication can be a big problem when it comes to arguments about finances.

Are you a firm believer in retail therapy? Do you believe there is nothing that can beat a shopping spree? Carolyn Swift, a psychologist at Wellesley College, says she sees this kind of passive aggressive behaviour as a general problem-solving measure in women who feel powerless. These are women who say: “Yes my darling, sure,” and then projects their inner turmoil by spending unreasonable amounts on their husband’s credit card! She also shares a story about a man who words it like this: “When we have an argument about money, my wife usually goes on a shopping spree. Then I get over my anger, and try to talk to her rationally. I then receive anything from ‘no make up sex for you’ comments, to the silent treatment.” This couple goes to bed cross with each other, sleeps badly and can’t think clearly enough the next day to sort the problem out. And then the vicious cycle begins all over again.

When two people get married and manage (or mismanage!) their own finances, this can place serious strain on a marriage. Make sure that you approach each other openly about money matters so that potential problems do not snowball.

Money to burn…
If you find that you often fight with your mate about the way in which he/she spends money, or that you overspend to get your mate back when you fight, money may not be the root of your problems. Clearly, money is just the weapon that you are fighting with. Jen Berman, a marriage and family therapist, explains that our relationship dynamics and grudges are often played out using money. It is not unusual for a person to get cross with her mate, and then go and buy something to get back at him. Other couples are so blinded by love that they spend money without taking their budget into consideration. They go away on luxury holidays, buy each other expensive presents or a house they cannot afford. They see these as symbols of their love, but in the meantime they fall into deeper and deeper financial trouble. Eventually, the money runs out and the couple is forced to confront the situation.

The modern tendency for women to work has brought even more problems to the fore. A problem that goes hand in hand with this is the fact that women, who are the breadwinners, are unhappy with the situation. They feel misused, as if the responsibility to provide rests on their shoulders alone. In many such cases, the man stays at home – another situation that women are not necessarily comfortable with because they feel as though they have been cheated as mothers. To be a businesswoman, partner and mother is a heavy load for anyone, and can cause serious marriage and money problems.

Another problem that couples struggle with is a tendency to want to ‘keep up with the Joneses’. People are often judged by their possessions, and couples buckle under the pressure to purchase assets they cannot afford. The stress of debt can sink a marriage. (

End money conflict
According to Mitch Temple, author of the book Cash Clash, What’s below the surface, financial conflict is usually only the tip of the iceberg. Many couples blame their money problems as the reason for their marriage conflict, while the real issue lies below the surface. What should you do when you realise that pennies and pounds are ruining the flame of your passion?

• Put together a long-term and short-term budget that build on your dreams and goals as a couple, explains Dave Ramsey, author of the book Total Money Makeover: a Proven Plan for Financial Fitness. When you budget together, you create opportunity for communication in your marriage, he believes.

• Everyone should have a say. Both marriage partners must deliver adult input and both marriage partners should listen to each other, he advises.

• Work together to get out of debt and to build riches. Two horses that are pulling a wagon can pull a very heavy load if they want to, says Dave. When they pull away from each other, however, the wagon is split into firewood.

• Invest in your marriage. Spend 15 hours per week together to give yourselves specific time to get in touch with one another. Put any issues such as money aside, and keep the romance alive, advises Willard.

• Every action has a reaction. Understand that any action that you take in your marriage, including financial action, will have an impact on your marriage partner, says Willard.


When your tongue twists…
If it is difficult for you to discuss money matters with your mate, consider these useful tips by Gerri Willis, a columnist for CNN:

1. Do not allow secrets between you and your mate. There are many couples that speak about sex, religion and children easily, but for whom it is difficult to discuss the question of money. A study by Smart Money/Redbook on married couples showed that 36% of men and 40% of women have lied to their marriage partners about what they paid for an item. Rather be honest – about your salary, debt, loans, inheritance, savings accounts and credit status. Start small – not when you are on your way to work or come home tired at night. Place the emphasis on the positives – like your dreams to travel or to pay for your kids’ tertiary education. This will help you to save more easily.
2. Place your own well-being aside. Even if you do earn the most in your household, this doesn’t mean that you have the right to control all of the financial decisions. Marriage is a partnership. Perhaps you work long hours, but hubby looks after the kids, cuts the grass and makes dinner so that you can work those hours. Work together and don’t bully each other.
3. For a young couple, a shared account may work well while you are gathering possessions and investments. Jeff Opdyke, author of Love and Money, calls this financial intimacy. A couple who are older when they get married, or are entering a second marriage, may want separate accounts. This is a good option if the one partner has debt that the other one does not want to absorb. A third option is to have a shared account for certain expenses, and separate accounts for individual management.
4. Remember the wind changes. After five or 10 years of marriage, your worries about money may look completely different from when you first started this journey together. This is why you must discuss your money matters at least once a year, make sure your retirement plans are taken care of and that you’re aware of each other’s desires and dreams. Discuss the worst possible scenarios: what if one of you loses your job? Or wants to study again? What if one of you gets a job in another country?

Discuss difficult subjects. Yes, there are certain subjects that no one wants to talk about, but make sure you have a will and life insurance. (

My partner thinks money grows on trees…
These are the occasions when your stomach is in knot… the times when your husband confronts you about the absolutely essential new duvets for the house, or your night cream that costs as much as a new laptop! When one partner is a big spender, it can result in serious conflict between a couple. Sandra Lundberg writes in the article Why Does My Partner Spend So Much that you can overcome this together, provided you keep the following in mind:

• Understand that you’re playing for the same team as far as finances go:
It is not nice to be told how much you can spend and how you must do it because it feels as if your mate does not trust or respect you. Talk about this and about your needs – every person wants a certain degree of security and a certain amount of freedom. Your relationship is more important than your bank balance. A couple can, for instance, decide that a certain amount of money be put aside for ‘ spoiling’, rather than trying to reason it as a ‘need’ to each other.
• Understand the underlying reasons why your mate overspends
There are many underlying reasons for overspending – an unfulfilled childhood, a privileged childhood, depression, anxiety… all of these have one thing in common – a need for security. A person who is spending money thinks ‘if I could just have that, I would be in fashion’, or ‘I would be accepted’ or ‘I will be okay’. But buying something doesn’t guarantee real security. So ask yourself why you are buying the item – and if it is to relieve yourself of tension or pain, you need to resist.
• You need to know what things cost and how often they need to be bought
People often enter a marriage with different ideas about savings and money management. Usually, they have a preconceived idea about what things cost (we all know that men are kings of this!). Many marriage counsellors make couples make up the lists and mark what they believe an item should cost. Thereafter, they compare the couple’s notes.
• You need to live on less than you earn
Living from one salary cheque to the next is not easy for anyone. The uncertainty that goes with this is reinforced by the question: What if I lose my job? Maybe the real problem isn’t your mate’s spending, but your inability to budget.

(Complete Guide to the First Five Years of Marriage by Focus on the Family, Tyndale)

What does the Word say?
Mitch Temple gives the following advice to those who are struggling with money problems:
Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”
Sometimes it is easier to argue about money, than to recognise your feelings have been hurt. Ask yourself if you are harbouring unresolved hurt. If your mate has hurt you, and you let this hurt fester, you will see everything through the filter of this hurt, and will probably overreact when financial issues are raised. Don’t let this ruin your relationship. Gather your courage to face the hurt, and in this way tackle your financial matters in a healthy way.

Ephesians 4: 26 “…do not let the sun go down on your anger…”
If you are scared to talk about money for fear your mate will discover you have made a wrong choice, or have mismanaged your finances, you may be too scared to confront the truth. Dishonesty always has a negative outcome. If you took a very important financial decision without talking to your mate, it will probably not be received gladly. Dishonesty ruins trust, and if that trust has been ruined, your mate will not easily trust you again with future decisions.

Zechariah 8:16 “These are the things you must do: Speak the truth, each of you, to one another…”
Through communicating with each other in a loving and clear way, and putting emotions aside, you and your mate can build a healthy foundation upon which to build a financial future.

So, although we know how much pleasure you derive from swiping that Gold card when hubby refuses to answer your question about the Seychelles, remember that this will not make you happy in the long run – especially when he receives his statement at the end of the month! It is difficult, and we know that sometimes money burns a hole in our pockets – but rather use your discount voucher, and pay that account off! A happy marriage is… priceless!

‘Buy’ your happiness with sex!
Research has proven that money and happiness do not have much to do with each other, and that sex makes people happier than money does! After data about the sexual activity and happiness of 16,000 people was investigated, Dartmouth College economists David Blanchflower and Andrew Oswold of the University of Warwick in England reported that the sex is so strongly present in happy situations that they estimate an increase in sex from once a month, to once a week, is equivalent to the amount of happiness that would be generated from an additional $50,000 a year income for the average American. They came to the conclusion that money does provide a certain degree of happiness – but not as much as economists thought it would. In the report: Money, Sex and Happiness: An Empirical Study, it is said that money does not necessarily guarantee regular sex– and that there is no relation between the presence of sex and a high income. It was also found that sex had a more profound effect on the happiness of more educated people than those with a lower degree of education. The good news, however, is that the happiest people are those that get the most sex – and 30% more fun in bed was reported by married couples than singles! Economists discovered that a long-term marriage relationship is equivalent to the happiness that would be generated from an extra income of $100,000 a year, writes Sid Kirchheimer. And this, while divorce causes a reduction in happiness to the value of $66,000… another reason to value your marriage!

In stark contrast to this is a survey done on 600 individuals which shows that rich women enjoy sex more than their poorer counterparts. Altogether, 84% of women and 63% of men said that money is equivalent to a better sex life. But here’s the catch… more money doesn’t necessarily mean you will have a better sex life with your marriage partner, seeing as three-quarters of the men reported that they enjoy their sex life with a variety of sex partners! For these men, more partners equalled better sex. We all know, however, that sex with partners outside the boundaries of a marriage only brings unhappiness, and that there is sometimes truth in the statement ‘ quality rather than quantity’ when it comes to sex (although quality and quantity is the ideal!) Rich people believe that their riches allow them to have a more exciting, challenging sex life. Altogether, 72% of women said that they had joined the ‘mile high’ club, which means that they had had sex on a plane. In contrast, only 33% of men admitted to being part of this exclusive club! With affordable South African flights, this privilege is no longer reserved only for the rich… although we normal people are not able to upgrade our membership like those who own private jets! Another consolation is that this study was done on 600 individuals, while the previous study was done on 16,000 participants! It is also important to realise that more than half of the people in the second study mentioned that they had been divorced at least once, and that 44% of them are in their second marriage. The words of the song “Can’t Buy Me Love” ring true in this case: ‘money can’t buy me love’!