But we were in love and these little details did not seem to matter much…
I met my first husband when I was 23. He was the tall, gorgeous man at the bar, and I was chugging a bottle of Moët in my black graduation robe. He swept me off my feet and we got married 3 months later. At 30, he did not have a steady office job, but he was glamorously occupied as a ski instructor and white water rafting guide. Nonchalantly, he let me know that his painting and decorating business had gone bankrupt a few months ago, but he was going back to university to earn a business degree.
A month into the marriage I found out that the only asset he possessed was his beat up Mazda truck, and even that was mostly owned by the bank. But we were in love and these little details did not seem to matter much. I had a good job and savings and he had been admitted to the business course and given a generous student loan.
To give us a financial clean slate I lent him the money to pay off some of his debt. Things started to sour, when I found out that he had used the cash to get a new wardrobe and a nice watch to match his new look while the debt had remained not only unpaid, but also in arrears. Oh, how much he loved me and at the same time, how incapable was he in managing even the simplest of financial arrangements or resisting anything he wanted to buy.
My man had big plans! He was going to make millions doing this and that and any financial difficulties he had at present were small and insignificant and not to be talked about. He was always busy, scheming some kind of get rich quick scheme or brilliant investment, meanwhile the bills were piling up, unpaid on the kitchen table.
We carried on, but our love didn’t. Our relationship quickly became that of me being a stern and critical finance manager and him a petulant child, always wanting to spend every penny we had in the bank. For me at 23, it was an interesting experience. Even though, by all objective measures, he was still gorgeous, and every girl ogled everywhere we went, I did not see him as good-looking any more. His looks had somehow faded because they reflected his weak personality.
Because I was young and determined to make it work, the marriage lasted 5 years, but it was a marriage only in name. Despite my mum’s best efforts to change my mind, I finally divorced when I realised that I did not want to spend the rest of my life controlling his spending and trying to prevent us from going bankrupt plus, as much as we had remained good friends throughout, our sex life was as dead as a doornail.
My first marriage taught me a lot of life lessons, that’s for sure, but the big one was that financial compatibility is right up there with love and sex when it comes to a successful relationship. According to a CNBC report, 35 percent of respondents said that finances is a major source of conflict in their relationship. In 47% of the cases there was an imbalance in spending habits with one partner being a saver and the other a spender. Another study of 4,500 couples conducted by Kansas State University found that arguments about money was by far the top predictor of divorce with financial incompatibility being one of the three leading causes of divorce.
Given these statistics, it seems quite important that your mate should have a similar approach to money management and budgeting as you. A marriage is like a small business, and like any business, the partners need to agree on how to manage it. They may both want to live high on the hog, borrowing and spending, or they may both enjoy squirrelling for the future. I’ve known happy couples doing either but mix a spender with a saver and it all goes wrong. You don’t need to be financial twins with your partner as long as the way you manage your finances is within range of each other.
If your relationship is getting serious, don’t make money a taboo subject. It is a critical aspect of harmonious and happy long term relationship.