Would you trust your spouse with money

Dealing with money - from a psychological point of view

Always anger about the dear money

“When it comes to money, friendship ends,” says the vernacular. Surveys show that questions about money not only break friendships, but all too often love too. After jealousy, money is the most debated issue.

For every third couple, the partners believe that the other is spending the money on the wrong things. In every fourth pair, one thinks the other is a spendthrift, and in every fifth pair it crashes because there isn't enough money.

There are often very different motives behind the noise, which are carried out through money. Money is much more than the bills and coins that change the counter when shopping, the credit card or the amount in the account. Money serves as

  • Guarantee of security,
  • Substitutes or means for love, appreciation and happiness,
  • Measure of success, achievement and social status as well as
  • The epitome of freedom and independence.

Clear agreements

The quality of a partnership can be seen in how both of them handle the money. If you are still at the beginning of a partnership, you create clear relationships from the outset. The love and goodwill at the beginning are a good basis to defuse the explosive that lies in this topic. Many partners feel it and would like to get around it.

At the beginning of a relationship, it is clear what belongs to whom. Keep an inventory of your assets and valuables. If there should be a quarrel or even a breakup later, this will save you a lot of unnecessary friction.

Next, it is important to agree on how you want to deal with the jointly acquired goods. You can contractually agree on a separation of property, i.e. that what you acquire belongs to everyone. Or you can agree on a community of property. In this case, in the event of a later separation, half of what is acquired will be shared between the two partners.

Which variant you prefer depends, among other things, on how much income and assets each brings into the relationship - and how realistically you deal with the question that the good relationship can be damaged by the demands of everyday life. In the phase of being in love everyone likes to push this question aside, also because the other might see it as a lack of trust in their own love and the future together. But this is precisely the point in time when you can best come to an understanding on such tricky questions. Once there is a crisis, questions of money quickly turn into questions of power.

Financial freedom

Whether you are a double-earner or a single-income partner, it is best if you set up three accounts: yours, mine and ours. For one's own dignity and self-worth it is necessary that everyone can dispose of their own money as they see fit. When as a woman you have to beg for every sweater, conflict is inevitable. And even if, in the rarer case, you as a man cannot even invite your partner to dinner without asking for money beforehand, you will not be able to enjoy this gesture. However, you should discuss larger issues such as cars, furniture or computers together.

Fair exchange

If both partners earn the same amount, it is easy to set up three accounts. In this case, you probably already have your own account, and all you need to do is set up a third for joint expenses, on which everyone pays the same amount of money.

It becomes more difficult when the wealth or income situation is very different. As a rule, women, even if they are employed, still earn a third less than men today. Although today women are granted the same training and career opportunities by law, they cannot easily realize these in their job. You are still responsible for the children and the household and have to deal with this double burden. In the inner reality it takes even longer to build up self-confidence and inner strength in order to take today's training and career opportunities for granted. In order to achieve a fair exchange here, you should choose a level for your common standard of living that takes into account the income situation of the woman and is easily affordable by her. The half-half solution as a distribution key for the common account would be out of place here.

Many women give up their job during the first years of their child's life or the entire time of childcare and devote themselves entirely to the family and the household. In these cases it is important to understand the value of this work. In our culture, that which earns income is valued higher than the services that women traditionally provide. In order to level out this inequality, it is best if you agree on a salary for the work of housekeeping and child-rearing, which corresponds to the income of the sole breadwinner and the common standard of living, and the partner transfers this salary to his wife's account on a monthly basis.

Take your time for this discussion. Based on the traditional female role, women are more likely than men to assume that they are not entitled to a lot of money. As a result, they often do not trust themselves to reach clear agreements that honor the value of both sides. Perhaps you know the problem from your own experience. You sense that the exchange is wrong, but you don't bring it up - you are embarrassed and you feel guilty or stupid. In retrospect, you are annoyed or frustrated that you did not look after your interests in this situation.

You may also feel that you do not have a keen sense of what is appropriate in a financial transaction. Not sure what to expect for your performance and put your light under a bushel to avoid confrontation. Or you may make exaggerated demands to compensate for the disadvantage and thereby burden your partner with something that he is not responsible for. If both of you are clear about these traditionally mediated attitudes, you stand a good chance of finding a settlement that adequately recognizes both disposable income, job performance, and your standard of living.

Household budget

How much is left for each person personally depends on what common expenses you agree on. As needs change, you should have a budget discussion once a year and adjust your spending to meet needs.

First, discuss what basic needs each one has. For one, a house or retirement provision may have priority, while the other would prefer to buy high-tech equipment or travel to exotic countries. You can't argue about personal preferences. They are difficult to change. However, you have to determine what the common priorities are based on your income and living situation. Make sure that neither of you feels like you are making great sacrifices on your own.

Start by making a note of all the expenses you have made in the past year. If you haven't kept a record of this, go through your bank statements, bills, and credit card receipts. Determine which costs are covered by the joint account and which are to be paid privately. Make sure that the planned expenses do not exceed the money available.

How much you set aside for future projects depends on disposable income and your long-term priorities. Look where you match. If you want or have children, expenses for them are more compelling than for long trips and belong in the common budget. Even a house requires joint long-term planning, while you may evaluate the security of the retirement pension differently and everyone takes care of it privately.

Since women traditionally leave the investment of money to the man, you are advised to find out if you decide on a separate pension. Please note: women who were not gainfully employed and who are insured through their husbands receive on average less pensions after the death of their husbands than their husbands when their wives die. And even when they were employed, their wages were often below those of their male co-workers. They had more downtime, more part-time jobs or carried out activities without pension insurance, such as cleaning services. All of these factors have an impact on the pension later on.

In contrast, women who invest their money for a longer period are more successful than men, according to recent studies. They hesitate longer, gather more information and then make better decisions.

Spending control

When you have agreed on the basic expenses, the key is to stick to the budget as well. The good old housekeeping book is still recommended, even if it has gone out of fashion these days. If you enjoy working on the computer, you will find suitable software for it too.

Many people associate the exact writing down with restrictions or even the agony of having to turn over every penny. In contrast, the change in your pocket and the EC card in your wallet suggest the feeling of freedom to be able to fulfill your every wish. But don't be fooled. This feeling of freedom is deceptive. If you don't turn your mind on and check that the money is going where you want it to go, you will soon be wondering why you are not able to meet your budget.

If you haven't kept a budget book before, your first challenge is to be disciplined in writing down every expense for at least three months so that you get a cross-section of how much money you are spending on each area and whether you are sticking to your budget. Only then can you make adjustments to your budget or your spending habits. If you have a tendency to go over budget, take a look at the debt trap article.

The power of thought

Conflicts about money usually hide different beliefs, feelings and behaviors. Thoughts have power - more than the money in your wallet or bank account. Whether or not you have enough money has only a limited amount to do with the amount of money you have at your disposal. Rich and poor denote the discrepancy between expectations and material reality. Advertising cultivates the immensity of needs. Therefore there are many dissatisfied people who, measured against these expectations, never have enough - but in comparison to most people on this earth live in abundance.

If you think you never have enough money, you tend to recreate this situation no matter what the amount of money you objectively have. With this kind of attitude, spending increases with income, so the discrepancy persists. If, on the other hand, you are convinced that you always have enough money, you will attract the flow of money - be it to increase your income, limit your expenses, or do both at the same time.

Attitudes toward money are contradictory for many spouses. What you think about money has to do with what you learned about money in your family. And what you've learned about money is probably not what your partner learned about it. Whether you see your partner as thrifty or stingy, generous or wasteful has at least as much to do with your inner map as it does with your partner's behavior.

We all orientate ourselves in life with the help of such internal maps. If you really want to understand your partner, it is of little use to discuss the validity of his map with him. Make an effort to understand what his or her map looks like. If your money guides are very different, it is highly recommended that you create a common new map that relates to your common spending and long-term priorities. Otherwise you run the risk of rubbing yourself against the same points over and over again.

The power of feelings

Attitudes towards money are often shaped by strong feelings, and these feelings cannot be changed through discussion. Such feelings are too deeply anchored for that.

Many people feel threatened by the power of money, to which they attribute demonic qualities. They sense the seductive power inherent in money and fear that they could be led into actions that they would later feel sorry for. Or they fear losing their identity and becoming a slave to money.

Such fears are justified. All you have to do is look in the newspaper to find out how many people succumb to corruption, abuse power, or let their property occupy them. Money is a powerful symbol to which many properties are ascribed that address deep needs in people such as security, recognition, social status, luxury or freedom. This power is collective in nature and is fueled by centuries of greed, personal enrichment and violence. Since we are all part of this collective and thus carry these tendencies within us, it is important to see how strong these motives are in ourselves and how far we can neutralize them through the power of our will and our higher values. Otherwise there is a danger of being overwhelmed by these base motives.

Other fears can relate to falling out of the circle of friends and acquaintances if you suddenly have more money than them. They might envy you as much as you might envy even rich people. Or you feel guilty that you have more than the others, or you are unhappy that you cannot fulfill all of your wishes with your money. Or you fear criticism from those who believe that you have to work hard for money to make it. If you talk badly of people with money, you must also fear that others will do the same if you should get money.

Perhaps you also fear the responsibility that comes with money? Suddenly you are faced with questions or you have to make decisions that you never asked yourself before. How and for what do you want to use your money? Which people and projects do you want to support? How do you deal with supplicants? Where and how do you find experts whom you can entrust your money to?

What do you need money for?

Given this situation, it would be good to reconsider your relationship with money. On the one hand, you cannot exist in this society without money. Without money, people in our culture are not only materially poor. They are also largely excluded from social and cultural life. Without a current account, you cannot rent an apartment or register a telephone in many places.

The lack of and taking away of money is one of the greatest threats. Everyone needs a minimum to feel safe. This minimum is different for everyone, even if the state has set such a lower limit. But what is enough is not just an objective variable, but depends on how far there is a gap between desire and reality.

Have a couple or family evening and ask about what makes your eyes light up. Make a list of all the things that are important to you in life. Take a look around your work place, your living area, your family and your friends. Then tick all the things you need money for on this list.

You may be surprised how many things there are that are fun and inexpensive. We often take what is given for granted and focus our attention on what is missing. We often don't give ourselves the time to appreciate what we've achieved. We immediately rush on to the next goal, the next expectation, the next requirement. In doing so, we deny ourselves recognition for our performance. If we do not value our performance ourselves, there is no external recognition either.

Money gives us the freedom and independence to develop our potential at our own pace and to do what gives our life meaning and abundance. Many people wrongly associate money with the freedom and independence that the media deceive us: the millionaire or superstar, equipped with Rolex and Armani, who nibbles confectionery in attractive company in a luxury ambience or sips his cocktails on the yacht in the Caribbean.

You can only gain freedom through what you have worked for yourself. Freedom is an inner process of detaching yourself from programs that you have acquired through family and cultural conditioning and that govern your life from the unconscious.When you gain the inner freedom to wholeheartedly say YES to your own well-being and prosperity, and cultivate a willingness to address and master these questions together, you will have created the best conditions for a harmonious life that will meet important needs enables. Your children will thank you for it, because what you set an example every day is what your children take away from you as an “inheritance”.

further reading

  • Sebastian, Ulla (2001): Money or the art of drawing on full resources. Walter (only available here)
  • Sebastian, Ulla (2011): Principle of joie de vivre. 4th edition BoD
  • Undaunted, G: linden (2000): love, money and partnership. Conflicts about money and how to solve them. cross
  • Kirchler / Rodler / Hölzl (2000): Love, Money and Everyday Life. Decisions in close relationships. Hogrefe

Further contributions by the author can be found here in our family handbook


Dr. Ulla Sebastian is a psychologist, therapist, trainer and author.
Tel .: 02307/73545



Created on August 23, 2002, last changed on July 2, 2015