We’ve all heard the statistic that says the primary cause of divorce is financial. It takes more than love to keep a marriage intact, and unfortunately, many people don’t realize that until it’s too late. Marriage requires communication and honesty, as well as the knowledge that your life is no longer solely about yourself. Thus, any financial pitfalls made by your spouse will likely blow back on you. If you find yourself in a position in which your spouse is not upholding their end of the financial bargain, there are some steps you can take to deal with it. Here are five things to consider:
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Get to Know Their Finances Before You Marry
For many people who are married, hindsight is 20/20, and plenty wish they had done some research prior to tying the knot. While some believe a prenuptial agreement is the antithesis of romance, it can allow both parties to air their financial history openly.
Even if you choose not to get a prenup, though, talking with one another, pulling each other’s credit history or seeking financial counseling before getting married will help you get to know any skeletons your future spouse has when it comes to money.
During these discussions, you can also talk about how money will be divided in the household, who is responsible for what bills, how savings will be handled and any other financial goals you may have.
Have a Heart to Heart with Your Financially Irresponsible Spouse
Once you’re married and you see your spouse is financially irresponsible, it’s important to nip it in the bud as soon as possible. This means you’ll need to sit your spouse down and be as open and honest as possible. Let it be known that lying about finances and money will not be tolerated in your marriage.
If a previous credit check had not been done before, now is the time to check each other’s histories and evaluate where you both stand. Also, it’s a good idea to try to get at the heart of why your partner is behaving so irresponsibly with money. Were they never taught how to properly handle finances, or are their spending habits compensating for something else?
Many of us overspend to deal with deeper issues. Try not to scold your partner, but instead understand where they’re coming from. You may find that seeking therapy for underlying issues would benefit your partner and your marriage. If they need a line of credit, a secured credit card is a good option that will help them build credit without worrying about getting into too much debt.
Take Over Paying the Bills
One of the best ways to ensure the bills are being paid on time is to allow the more financially responsible partner to take over paying them. Even with this approach, you will still want to include your spouse in what bills are being paid and when, as well as their amount.
Remember, you two are still a team, and as such, you need to work together to ensure the financial health of your household. However, if your partner is not upholding their end, having the more responsible of you two maintain the finances until the other can get it together will help to keep your household afloat.
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Seek Financial Help
Seeking the help of a financial advisor who understands your goals and your financial situation is a great way for you and your partner to confront the issues plaguing your marriage. An advisor can help you develop a budget and a plan to pay down any debts that need attention.
Furthermore, a financial advisor can serve as a mediator between you and your spouse, so you do not always have to be the nagging husband or wife telling your spouse what to do, as this can build resentment in any marriage. An advisor can become another person on your team to help you and your spouse rebuild a solid financial foundation for your marriage.
If you’ve done all these steps and your spouse is still behaving irresponsibly, it’s important to protect yourself. You can begin by removing your spouse’s name from the household bills, so that only you have access to them and ensure payment is received.
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Furthermore, setting up your own bank accounts for savings and paying household necessities is another way to ensure your spouse does not have access to your funds. This may seem harsh, but if your spouse continues to put your family in jeopardy by behaving irresponsibly with money, you will have to take measures into your own hands to ensure your own financial stability.
Bottom Line: Dealing with a Financially Irresponsible Spouse
While falling in love and deciding to spend the rest of your life with someone is undoubtedly wonderful, it’s important to remember that marriage is based on more than love. Each partner has an obligation to their spouse and their family to be open, honest and responsible when it comes to finances. If one partner isn’t being transparent, there are measures that can minimize or solve the problem. However, these steps demand a commitment from both parties.
It might be helpful to involve a neutral third party, such as a financial advisor, to serve as a mediator while you discuss your financial goals and priorities. A matching tool like SmartAsset’s can help you find a person to work with to meet your needs. First you’ll answer a series of questions about your situation and your goals. Then the program will narrow down your options to three fiduciaries who suit your needs. You can then read their profiles to learn more about them, interview them on the phone or in person and choose who to work with in the future. This allows you to find a good fit while the program does much of the hard work for you.
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