Love and marriage must include the bottom line

Love and marriage must include the bottom line
10 April 2013

Ever been in a situation where you know something about one half of a couple that won't sit well with the other?

I'm sure you have. It is part of the fabric of life. How you choose to deal with the situation will depend on circumstance, values, your loyalties and so on. Most of us have a general code of conduct that informs what we do next, or what the "social norm" is and where empathies would lie should the information become public.

But what if the issue, or infidelity, was of a financial nature? Let's not talk major infidelity; what if it was as simple as, say, one half of the couple being great at dealing with money, saving regularly and having zero debt, whereas the other did not live within his or her means and perhaps had grandiose ideas of what they are "worth" (their lifestyle being more a reflection of their ego and aspiration rather than reality). The point being that the couple is blind to each other's financial character and value set, but that you are not.

But that's not the only point. This seemingly mundane behaviour will have severe long-term consequences if it continues as a way of life. Especially if said couple were planning their life together. Will there be a happy ever after if they continue to live in the bliss of ignorance?

And what, if anything, would you do with what you know?

Well, I think most people would turn a blind eye to this.

There appears to be a fundamental aversion to talking money, especially between, and with, couples swept up in the romance and promise of a new life together.

It turns out this can be a big mistake.

As Linda Sakr, a psychologist who practices in Dubai, put it: "It seems amazing that financial problems could override love and commitment and lead to a breakdown of a relationship, but it's actually quite common."

In fact, it's so common that 70 per cent of those seeking her out for marriage guidance do so because of financial problems. I know of therapists who have become reluctant financial advisers; going through the earnings and outgoings of their clients in order to create a balance, but more importantly, delving into the parties' emotional relationship with money and looking at how they can change their behaviour to live better within their means, and therefore have a better life together.

The reason these therapists end up doing this is because the issues leading to the problems resulting from financial difficulties are often so very personal, private and emotional that people would rather seek their help.

I believe this issue runs deep and is a ticking time bomb for many; a survey on the website I founded,, of 704 married couples in the UAE, conducted by YouGov Siraj, found that, for 34 per cent of them, money and financial matters caused the most arguments in their relationships - far outweighing other issues such as work, social life and children.

And these problems can and do escalate. A 2009 study by Utah State University in the United States looked at what kinds of arguments can predict divorce - fights about money topped the list. Couples who disagreed about it once a week were a third more likely to end up divorced than those who argued less.

And so, back to our couple swept away by love and the promise of a new life together.

I know of one Muslim cleric and one priest, neither in the UAE, who insist on having a very honest and open chat about money, attitudes, aspirations, managing it and so on, before agreeing to marry couples. And so in the absence of this being mandatory for all couples, how about us having that open, transparent chat with our friends and loved ones?

It's tricky, isn't it? After all, you don't want to be the one to show them the error of their spendthrift ways.

The thing is this: compatibility tends to top the list when it comes to "togetherness" - but let's be realistic, that's only part of a successful relationship - the real secret to a great relationship is how to embrace and manage our differences.

In doing so, we cannot enjoy just the moment, but have a realistic shot at the happy ever after.

Nima Abu-Wardeh is the founder of the personal finance website

This article first appeared in The National

You may also be interested in:

Couples must learn to work as a team on money matters.

Try not to give in to temptation

It's time to chat about money, said a determined Sasha

So what do you think? Do you speak openly about money in your relationship?


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