What do you think is the subject that couples argue about most?
In-laws? Children? Intimacy? Lack of communication?
New research tells us that the number one source of conflict in most marriages is money.
Couples fought so much about money that even after getting divorced, there was anticipation that the next relationship would also be filled with fights about finances. There was arguing about different approaches to spending, using money as a source of control when one person earned more than the other, and the lies that trapped spouses as they told untruths about their spending.
Since 1986, Dr. Terri Orbach, a professor at the University of Maryland, has collected data from 373 couples, beginning with their first year of marriage. 46% of these couples divorced. Those who began new relationships were asked about mistakes made and thoughts of remorse that they had.
There were five basic regrets expressed about behaviors that they felt contributed to the breakup of their marriages. These divorcees took some time to reflect on how their relationships soured. They also contemplated what they could do to make things better the next time around. The result is powerful marital advice from those who realized their errors and do not want to repeat them.
1. NOT EXPRESSING YOUR LOVE ENOUGH
Too many of us assume that our spouse’s know that we love them. We do not take the time to give compliments, show affection, say “I love you”, or make a husband or wife feel appreciated. The divorcees interviewed said that it is important to demonstrate love more often through making a spouse feel good about who they are, the ideas that they have, their style of doing things, and how often the spouse tries to add spice to every-day life.
What can we do to help strengthen our marriages and express our love?
Solidifying our marriages does not take lots of money or long term planning. Little expressions of daily love help cement our relationships and build a feeling of trust and caring. Conclude your phone calls with “I love you,” offer a compliment for patience displayed after a long day of parenting, express appreciation to your spouse for working under pressure. Be sure that a day does not pass without giving a kind word or deed to your partner. Even preparing a hot cup of coffee for your husband or wife shows that you care.
2. HOLDING ON TO THE PAST
We do not realize how emotions from long ago linger in our hearts and mind, weigh us down and do not allow us to move on. We hold on to jealousies of past relationships, bring up old hurts, and even carry childhood slights that impair our ability to bond today.
I have spoken with couples who declare that they cannot possibly stick around because of spats that happened years ago, despite the fact that spouses matured and these issues have not occurred again. Keeping sadness and pain alive restrains us from loving fully today. It is crucial to learn how to let go.
If we want to embrace the present, we begin by getting over the past.
Work on forgiveness. I realize this is easier said than done. But you will feel better about your life and grow wiser and stronger.
When you do have a disagreement, stick with the current. Some people have an incredible knack for remembering conflicts from years ago. They repeat word for word conversations that should have been buried and put to rest. Old wounds are reopened. We become stuck in the quicksand of days gone by.
3. FIGHTING OVER MONEY
Why is money such a great source of conflict to the majority of couples?
Individuals have different views when it comes to spending versus saving that could affect lifestyle. What some view as saving wisely others see as being stingy. One individual wants to travel, buy stylish clothing and eat out in restaurants while another feels this is extravagant and unnecessary.
The result is stress on the relationship that can result in a fracture of the marriage.
It is wise to speak about financial goals, develop a united approach to spending and saving, and come to an agreement on limits and luxuries. Some helpful hints:
If you have the habit of lying about spending or stashing purchases in hidden places, know that there is a problem that needs addressing. Don’t use money as a tool for power and control of a spouse. Iron out your different expectations and spending styles by talking together.
Deal with this before the problem occurs. It is unwise to leave this discussion to the night that the credit card bill arrives in the mail and is opened with dismay. The blowup can be terminal.
4. THE BLAME GAME
Blaming others for problems means that instead of looking for solutions, we look at situations with a critical eye. When there is a problem to deal with, be careful not to put the blame on one person’s shoulders.
“The kids learn this bad behavior from you.”
“You’re always moody.”
Instead, seek resolution that will get you over the hump. Work together as a team and stop criticizing. Use ‘we’ instead of ‘you.’
“What should we do about the kids not listening?”
“How can we find some time for us so that we don’t feel so stressed?”
5. LACK OF GOOD COMMUNICATION
Couples who communicate well create better marriages. We realize too late that our conversations have become maintenance issues dealing with carpools, bills, problems and logistics. The sparkle is gone.
Pay attention to each other’s lives. Laugh. Remember how you used to love to hear about your partner’s thoughts, likes and dreams? Why let time dull our sense of discovery?
Some of us speak caringly to friends and coworkers but cannot find the patience to communicate kindly with our spouse. And even if we are talking calmly we are looking down at our iPhones.
Take the time now to think about lessons learned from those who regret past mistakes. Each day brings us opportunity to grow closer with those we love.