Kennedy Myers || Contributing Writer
According to the American Psychological Association, 40 to 50 percent of married couples in the United States divorce. In fact, more people have divorced in the past 50 years than ever before, according to the guidebook, “Should I Keep Trying to Work It Out?” by Alan Hawkins, Ph.D., and Tamara Fackrell, J.D. But what are the primary causes of divorce? Are money issues mainly to blame as some research suggests?
Every relationship has its challenges, but arguments about money and financial problems seem to have a far-reaching negative impact.
“In my experience, financial problems uncover feelings of distance as well as other problems. The financial issues uncover other issues that are going on, and that is why they are a big factor for divorce,” said marriage and family therapist Megan Lundgren, director and supervisor of the psychotherapy private practice, Relationships for Better, in Monrovia, Calif.
Arguing about money can often be a bad sign for relationship health. According to a 2011 study by Jeffrey Dew at Utah State University, couples who disagree about finances once a week are over 30 percent more likely to divorce than those who argue about money a few times a month.
Lundgren is not the only therapist who believes money issues create real struggles in a relationship. Marriage and family therapist Ilissa C. Banhazl agreed that financial issues add a great deal of stress to a relationship.
How can couples address these issues?
Firstly, learning to successfully resolve conflict is a key part of preventing divorce, especially if money is the issue.
“Couples need to be strong in their conflict resolution skills to handle these financial problems,” said Lundgren.
In addition, turning to counseling and related resources is a smart relationship move.
“I would strongly recommend marriage therapy. People often wait too long to go to therapy. I have seen people wait eight years too late. It is way harder to fix problems when a long time has gone by,” said Lundgren.
Marriage therapy can help couples work through their underlying issues and stop them before divorce becomes an option.
“I also suggest pre-marital counseling, and then a check-in appointment once a year to make sure everything is going well within the relationship,” Lundgren said. “Schedule check-in appointments every year. It’s like a doctor’s appointment—you go once every year, and if you are healthy, then you don’t need to come back until the following year.”
Another way couples can deal with financial stress is to make sure they have a supportive community.
“Couples are way more resilient to withstand problems if they feel supported,” Lundgren said. “They are less likely to divorce if they do not feel alone in their problems.”
Although money issues are one of the top three reasons why people split up according to the Institute for Divorce Financial Analysts, learning healthy ways to manage conflict and seeking help and support when needed can significantly improve the chances of a lifelong, happy marriage.