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This week, in our monthly emotional health coverage, we're taking a look at the

impact of financial issues on relationships. For some, one of the marital vows m
ight more accurately be, "For richer or poorer 'til the conflicts over money lea
d to the death of the marriage."
Experts estimate that money problems contribute to over half of all divorces, th
ough they also acknowledge that conflicts over financial matters can be a metaph
or for the battle for power and control in the relationship. While the amount of
income a couple earns does not appear to be a factor in the amount of conflict
they encounter, the fact that more women today contribute significantly more to
the household income than they used to may be part of the reason for the rise in
the amount of conflict in this area. As women contribute more financially, they
want more say-so in where the financial resources go.
In addition, how men and women view money, how they spend, what it means to them
emotionally tends to be significantly different.
The most common conflict is some variation of the Saver vs. Spender. Sometimes,
he views the new motorcycle as an absolute necessity, while she wants to put the
discretionary money towards the kids' college fund; or, she needs the Gucci sho
es to go with her new purse, and he wants to replace the roof and add to the val
ue of their home.
So, what can you do if you find yourselves fighting over money matters? It shoul
d come as no surprise that communicating openly and without blaming or being jud
gmental is the most basic rule. Suze Orman, popular commentator and author of Th
e 9 Steps to Financial Freedom, suggests some interesting exercises that can hel
p couples take a look at their own attitudes. One of these exercises is to look
back to your first memories about money--whether pleasant or painful--and compar
e those early experiences with how you view money now. Sharing these stories wit
h each other can get the non-blaming discussions started, and help the individua
ls realize there is no one right way to approach money matters, and that our att
itudes reflect values often adopted before we were able to think rationally abou
t whether to be spenders or savers.
Agree to make financial decisions together, while still allowing some freedom fo
r personal or minor expenses; try to make discussions about money interesting, a
n opportunity to know your partner more intimately as you listen to their opinio
ns about this often off-limits topic; blend your incomes except for agreed upon
"allowances;" and draw-up financial plans for the future together, listing your
priorities, and figuring out some compromise that will enable the two of you to
work toward attaining your financial goals.
If discussions do not enable you to arrive at mutual solutions, consulting a neu
tral financial planner may be helpful. If the area of conflict is more emotional
than financial, a marital therapist can help clarify the underlying issues and
get you moving toward better problem solving. Using "consultants" is far less co
stly, both financially and emotionally, than the financial and emotional expense
of a divorce.
For additional discussion and advice, be sure and join us each weekday for Live
Online, our expert Q&A program here on the Web site. On Wednesday and Friday, ou
r psychologists Drs. Callahan and Bevis, are ready and willing to respond to you
r queries about this or any other emotional health matter.