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Money Matters: How Newlyweds Can Avoid Conflicts about Cash

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Couples should learn how to work together and trust each other’s judgment.

Starting a life together is one of the most exciting times in a newlywed couple’s life; yet disagreements over money matters can strain even the strongest of marriages.

Different styles of spending and saving can be a source of great conflict for newlyweds.

It doesn’t matter whether couples are getting married right after college graduation, blending two families together after years of being a single parent or after living alone for most of their adult lives. Regardless of the situation, it is important that newlyweds understand how to trust the process of working with and relying on their spouse’s judgment.

As associate professor in clinical and counseling psychology at Argosy University in Dallas, Dan Clement, Ph.D., believes that newlyweds need to learn how to trust their ability to make difficult financial decisions as a couple.

Some newlyweds may find it hard to make tough financial decisions together as a couple and will consequently try to make all the decisions unilaterally or be complacent and let the other person make the decision. This happens especially if either person senses tension in the discussion.

“As a professional therapist, my biggest challenge in pre-marital counseling is getting couples to see past the illusion that falling in love makes everything else irrelevant or that you will naturally agree on everything just because your partner makes you feel wonderful,” says Clement.

Though the idea of falling in love appeals to almost everyone, except maybe Tina Turner with her “What’s Love Go to Do with It?” mantra, the feeling that love will solve every challenge in marriage is unrealistic.
“A big part of making a good decision about the person you will marry is seeing who you are, who they are and who you are as a couple,” added Clement.

Clement suggests that couples look for a marriage and family therapist who is certified to give assessments designed to help couples get a good start in handling financial conflicts before they get married.

Couples are spending a great deal of money and time planning their dream wedding; however, having a successful marriage probably has more to do with the plan a couple creates to tackle tough financial decisions than it does with making wedding plans.

If you want some practice in building couple teamwork, try taking the following exercise in making financial decisions. This exercise may help you get past the illusion that “love is all we need!”

In each pair choose the one that is the best fit. At times you may not have a strong feeling, but try to choose one that is a little more attractive to you personally.

Also note the times you are reluctant to say what you really feel because this may tell you a lot about how much you trust your ability to become a team. There are no right or wrong answers, though some will probably require a little explanation to your future spouse.

The exercise below is designed to take some of the blinders off in the area of managing money. If you want more help in seeing the challenges you may face realistically, you should contact a minister or counselor in your area who is experienced in pre-marital counseling.

Use this exercise to learn how you approach problem solving and what you value most (and why!). Have fun in exploring what being a couple feels like.

Choose the option which best fits what you would do if:

Your favorite rich uncle (how could your rich uncle not be your favorite!) has surprised you on your wedding day and has given you $5,000 in cash.

Use the money for a down payment on a car, boat or motorcycle or give the money to your parents.

Throw a party for your friends or finance a family reunion weekend.

Invest it in the stock market or spend it on the honeymoon.

Pay off debt or go to Vegas and try to double it.

Use it as savings for a rainy day or buy some really “styling” clothing.

Save for down payment on a house or buy furniture for your apartment.

Let each one get $2,500 to spend or spend it as a couple on one thing.

Purchase a new stereo system or buy some tools to use for your work.

Get a new plasma television or landscaping for your yard.

Get an Xbox with a ton of games or donate the money to charity.

Buy a new bedroom set or check into a nice hotel and play like you’re rich for a weekend.

A fishing trip to Canada with the boys or a trip to New York with the girls.

Put it in a secret account in case this marriage thing doesn’t work out or divide it equally among each of your children for college.

Give it to your spouse to spend on anything they like or spend it all on your kids.

Make a list of all the things you could use it for and decide as a couple or let your spouse decide to avoid any unpleasantness.

Negotiate that you will let them have it all if you can get a new car or I’ll let you have it all if you’ll let me manage the checkbook.

Teamwork and decision-making exercise provided by Dan Clement, Ph.D., associate professor in clinical and counseling psychology at Argosy University/Dallas.

Clement is a licensed psychologist and marriage and family therapist. He holds the approved supervisor designation in the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy.

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