Money woes kill relationships

FINANCIAL DIFFICULTIES: Communicate rather than blame each other.
FINANCIAL DIFFICULTIES: Communicate rather than blame each other.

REDUNDANCY, debt and financial worries can all put strain on a relationship.

Psychologist Asiphe Ndlela says financial problems can have disastrous effects on relationships and are among the main causes of marital disputes.

Ndlela says though finances have always raised tensions for couples, it may be harder than ever now to avoid conflict.

She attributes this to a range of family complications including moms leaving and re-entering the workforce, late marriages that bring debt and adult children.

These demand ever-more financial decisions from already stressed couples.

"Spouses argue over money because of a lack of proper money management. In some instances, there isn't enough money coming in to cover expenses, in which case both spouses working or one spouse getting a temporary second job could help get the finances back on track," she says.

"In other situations, the income may be sufficient to cover normal expenses, but spending is out of control, in which case the problem may be solved by learning to budget," Ndlela says.

She says redundancy and loss of income is the most obvious difficulty, but not having a job also affects self-esteem and self-confidence.

"For some couples, existing problems are made worse because of the additional pressure they're feeling. For others, coping with a new situation can lead to tension. It's during tough times that couples often do the things that tend to undermine their marriage, just when they need each other most," she says.

Ndlela says when couples are under a lot of stress, they tend to only do the necessary things for day-to-day survival and their relationship fades into the background.

"They focus all their time and energy on the crisis and don't have any energy left for their relationship. Eventually, they might get worn down to the point where they feel alienated from one another," Ndlela says.

She says financial difficulties can make people blame each other for their situation.

"For example, a wife might tell her husband he has no right to go out drinking with his mates if it means their child has to go without a new pair of shoes," she says.

For some couples, having less money means that they can no longer deal with problems the way they used to, which also brings stress and tension in a relationship, Ndlela explains.

She says this can also affect a couple's sex life and this is the reason a lot of people avoid intimacy when they feel under pressure.

But relationship expert, Banele Maphondo, says financial worries can in fact make a good relationships become stronger under pressure.

"Most solid relationships strive in difficult times. Couples struggling with debt can realise that they can fight together, look after one another and come out the other side with an even better relationship," Maphondo says.

He says the most important thing is, "honesty is the best policy".

Mandisa Yoko, an independent financial adviser, says one of the biggest financial issues that bring strife is spending too much and saving too little.

She adds that many couples make matters worse by not talking about money before committing to each other.

"South Africa is a nation of spenders, not savers. Most people spend more than they earn. And a large portion of disposable income goes towards paying debt," Yoko says.

She says a person who overspends is no different than an alcoholic or drug addict in a relationship and what one does could have a huge negative effect on a couple's finances.

Yoko says marrying late is also a contributing factor.

"With later marriages, people bring more assets and debt into a relationship and there are two very strong opinions about managing money because each partner has managed his or her own money for years," Yoko says.

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