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

by | Marriage | 6 comments

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?

Tweet this:

  • Are credit cards causing problems in your #marriage? @lisajordan offers suggestions to help. http://ow.ly/k2Umj  



Subscribe to Lisa Jordan's Blog
Receive my posts in your inbox:
Books and Such Agency
Learn How to Write a Novel
You may also like
Three Ways to Value Family

Three Ways to Value Family

In September, I started a blog series beginning with living out your values and five ways to value your faith. During...


  1. Roxanne Sherwood Gray

    Credit cards aren’t a problem for us, but we’re at opposite ends with our spending habits. My husband doesn’t personally spend much money but he’s used to lavishly spending on others, including eating out and entertainment. I’m somewhat of a tightwad, so it’s been an adjustment to find the balance that’s right for us. We don’t do envelopes but we pay cash for our discretionary spending. Laying out cold hard cash makes us think twice about our purchases and we’re saving money.

  2. Edie Melson

    Lisa, wow! I’m amazed at how similar we are. I had the exact same issue with credit cards and my husband reacted in the exact same way! It has been so freeing to not be a slave to credit card balances or retail therapy to feel better. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences!

  3. Patricia Bradley

    I think financial matters are the hardest for a couple to discuss. It’s very difficult to ask what and why the other person made a purchase without sounding accusatory. So agree with what you say in this post. My husband and I didn’t have problems with credit cards because we didn’t have one. lol We either paid cash or wrote a check. And it is inconvenient sometimes. That’s why I have one now…and I pay it off every month. Did you know that even that can cause a problem? I applied for the Paypal extended credit and was turned down…because since I always pay mine off, I had no credit history. lol

  4. Beth Vogt

    My husband and I stopped using credit cards years ago–and haven’t regretted it. And we made a rule that we don’t talk finances after nine o’clock at night. We’re too tired and it’s just not a good idea.

  5. momstheword

    Wow, I just lost my whole comment because I forgot to complete the captcha. My bad!

    My hubby and I don’t have any credit card debt anymore but we used to. By the time the kids along we had credit card debt and we had to pay it off and since then have worked hard to stay out of debt.

    We also have, hopefully, passed this lesson along to our children. Our oldest is getting married in the fall, and he is working hard to pay off his college debts before then (his fiance too).

    Since they both had scholarships and worked their way through college they don’t have a lot of debt, and they both have jobs so hopefully they’ll be out of debt soon.

    We use our credit cards whenever we can but we pay them off every month, so there’s no debt. On our last vacation we had over $500 in rewards from our credit card use!

    But we can do that because it’s not a temptation to us.

    I would love to have you link this up to my “Making Your Home Sing Monday” linky party today or next Monday if you’d care to join us! 😉

  6. Fawn Weaver

    One of the best things we’ve done for our marriage was Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. It revolutionized our thought regarding debt and lit a fire in us to get rid of all debt. Now, we tell all our loved ones about it (and have been doing that for many years now).