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Why Marriage Matters: Do Credit Cards Cause Problems in Your Marriage?

Wedding rings and large bills of moneyAround the country, people will be flocking to the post office today to mail their tax returns. 

Hubby and I are no different. 

One of my weaknesses is staying on top of my record keeping on a monthly basis. Each April I proclaim I’m going to do better, and each year I succeed–marginally.

As we talked about different expenses over the weekend, Hubby and I were able to speak calmly and rationally about changes in our budget. We even teased about a major purchase I want badly. 

That wasn’t always the case in our marriage.

Almost 10 years ago, we started to accumulate a large credit card debt on separate cards, but neither really knew how much debt the other cards held until I wasn’t able to cover my debt from a side business I had.

Even though people joke about it, retail therapy can be as addicting as drugs and alcohol. I became an emotional shopper. Browsing through clearance racks and finding great deals filled me with a retail “high.” I told myself I could quit with one purchase. And I could pass up deals any time I wanted. I justified my purchases by saying I got such a great deal on them. Then I started hiding what I bought. Little by little, the purchases and monthly fees accumulated to where the credit card amounts due were higher than I could afford. 

I felt sick to my stomach when I realized my credit card debt had spiraled out of control. With a pounding heart and shaky legs, I went to Hubby and confessed what I had done. He was quite shocked, but he never freaked out on me. I was so afraid he’d lash out. Or worse–leave me. 

We talked and realized we needed outside help to fix this problem. 

Believe it or not, but that problem brought us closer together. 

We realized it wasn’t my problem or his problem, but OUR problem. I confessed about certain negative feelings and fears I had, but Hubby offered me love and support. I wasn’t the only guilty one either. He had used another card quite a bit too. 

We worked together, took steps to clear this debt and then celebrated when we made the final payment. Talk about a feeling of freedom! 

For the past few years, we’ve lived successfully without credit cards by maintaining a separate savings account. When our hot water heater broke, we were able to pay for a new one in cash. Just the other day, Hubby mentioned how nice it was not to rely on credit to pay for something we needed for the house.

Credit cards offer rewards for college tuition, Disney points, cash back, etc… Those perks are great if you’re maintaing a healthy respect for the card use. The key to using a credit card properly and still reaping the benefit of the rewards is to use them only when you can pay off the amount due each month before the due date. 

My friend uses her credit card for almost everything. When she buys something with her credit card, she deducts the amount from her checking account. That way she has the money to pay the balance due on her card each month without accumulating monthly fees and interest. 

Over the weekend, I handed Hubby a credit card application and said I wanted to apply for it for traveling purposes. We’re finding certain hotels ask for a credit card for incidentals during stays, but when you offer your debit/check card, they freeze your account or freeze a certain amount. Not all hotels do this, but some do. I reassured him the card wouldn’t be used for shopping trips, etc. I wasn’t slipping back into that old habit. If I can’t pay cash for it, then I don’t need it. 

Hubby is the rational one in our marriage. I rule with my heart. He completes me in such a fantastic way. He helps me see the reasoning behind certain financial choices we need to make for our budget. When expensive projects come up, we talk about them. Last summer we needed a new roof and new windows. The cost was high, so we discussed our options and made the right choice for us. 

When I want to go shopping with my friends, Hubby kisses me good-bye and tells me to have a great time. He doesn’t lecture me about responsible spending. He may joke and ask if I need adult supervision, but I assure him I will be fine. 

Each couple is going to have a different financial experience. The key to keep money from causing problems in your marriage is to communicate openly and honestly about your needs and expectations. Keeping secrets from your spouse splinters the trust in your relationship. Irresponsible spending damages relationships quickly, especially when talking about money becomes a shouting match and accusations fly out faster than you can catch them.

When you’re faced with financial challenges, consider these options:

  • Pray and ask for God’s wisdom and discernment for direction.
  • Ask for outside help through credible organizations that can help you restructure your budget to make timely payments to clear up your debt.
  • If credit cards are an issue, cut them up.
  • Learn to live within your financial means without relying on plastic.
  • Celebrate small financial victories with one another.
  • Forgive past mistakes.
  • Make healthy financial choices together to strengthen your relationship for the long-term.

Your Turn: How do you feel talking money with loved ones? What suggestions can you offer others in helping them make wise financial choices?

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  • Are credit cards causing problems in your #marriage? @lisajordan offers suggestions to help.  



Lisa Jordan
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