Money is one of the main reasons couples argue. If you are experiencing financial stress, it can put a massive strain on your relationship causing arguments, resentment, lack of communication and if left unchecked, a relationship breakdown.
Some tips to keep your relationship on track if you are dealing with debt
If this sounds like something you may be experiencing, here are some tips that may help:
Identify the cause of the debt
Ask yourself- how did we get here? There are many reasons people experience financial stress. Having a baby is a common reason couples feel the pinch when it comes to money. They’re expensive little humans- you need to buy a cot, a pram, a car seat, clothes, bottles, never-ending supply of nappies, formula- the list goes on. Compounding this the stress of caring for a newborn can really cause problems between couples.
Another common reason is living beyond your means. If you found yourself stretched with mortgage repayments, bills and lifestyle expenses before you had a baby, this will only get harder with one income. Not having enough income means you don’t have enough money to budget, leading to living paycheck to paycheck, week to week. If you are a parent and you don’t have any savings for emergencies, the pressure of what would happen if your partner lost his job or got injured weighs heavily.
How this debt affects relationships
Financial stress causes couples to argue, turn on each other, lose trust, love and respect for each other and become increasingly withdrawn from each other, which can be isolating when you become a mother. It can also lead to financial abuse from the earning partner; when one person controls the money, making you seek permission and approval to use it and dictating what can be bought and what cannot. This is not only incredibly destructive to a person’s self-esteem and mental wellbeing but can put both people on a path to self-destructive and other abusive behaviours.
How to get your relationship on track again
To fix your relationship you need to fix the debt.
Taking this first step can be scary and overwhelming but it is necessary if you want to get back on track. A good place to start is by calling the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007, who can advise you of where to go and what your next steps are in seeking professional financial help. This first step is always the hardest, however, keep in mind two-thirds of people who sought debt help say they have taken positive actions to get financially healthy within the first three months.
Communication is key when looking at the damage debt has caused your relationship. Has it caused you to lose love, trust or respect? Do you feel isolated from each other? You’ve probably fallen into a negative communication pattern, that is, arguing about an issue, letting it escalate, getting defensive and then leaving the issue unresolved to rear it’s ugly head again. Some useful communicative tools are:
Cause and Effect when you find yourself arguing with each other, try highlighting the cause and effect- when you do/say that, it makes me feel/think this. By terming your argument in this way, you take ownership of your feelings but it will also make your partner feel less attacked. It also controls the argument by shifting the tone of the disagreement.
Listening during an argument with your partner, do you find yourself just waiting for your turn to talk so you can defend yourself? No one likes to hear something they don’t like but if you want to bridge the distance between you both, listening and using empathy will go a long way.
Reflecting when your partner talks, listen and then reflect back what he is saying to you by paraphrasing his argument. This technique does a few things- firstly it shows your partner you’re listening to him, which will make him more likely to empathise with you. Secondly, it will clear up anything misinterpretations or misunderstandings of what your partner is saying by him clarifying if he needs to. Thirdly, it will make obvious to him what he is actually saying. In the heat of the moment, we say things that we don’t mean or that come out wrong. By reflecting what people say, we hold a mirror up to them, which can facilitate a change of opinion in them.
Getting your relationship back on track after the debt is possible. Communication is a learned skill and needs to be practised by you both. If you find you need help with rebuilding your relationship, Relationships Australia has nationwide counsellors who price sessions based on your income.
Visit Relationships Australia or call 1300 364 277.
National Debt Helpline – 1800 007 007