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Love and Money: 3 Secrets to a Great Marriage



Q: What’s the secret to a great marriage? A: Your Maytag washer.

So maybe yours is a Whirlpool. Does that mean you are and your partner are headed off to the spin cycle? It depends. The success of a marriage is brand agnostic and definitely not contingent on the make and model of your washer. However, what is important is the main detergent you use — communication in liquid or powder form is strongly advised. 

This wasn’t reported in Consumer Reports but rather in the Journal of Family and Economic Issues entitled “Financial Management Practices of Couples with Great Marriages” by Linda Skogrand, Alena C. Johnson, Amanda M. Horrocks, and John DeFrain. Their research focused on 64 couples in the U.S., all who believe they have great marriages and effectively managed finances. The study was conducted from a family strengths perspective, a theory in social science that focuses on what is working well vs a deficit perspective approach that accentuates problems.

How do couples with great marriages manage money? Three important themes emerged from husbands and wives included within the research: 

  1. One of the partners handled the day-to-day finances that required trust and communication,
  2. These couples had little or no debt to begin with or had a goal of paying off debt, and
  3. Happy couples are frugal and live within their means.

Secret #1 – Communicating the Checkbook

Happily married couples report that one spouse assumes the responsibility of Chief Checkbook Officer (a term I made up and not included in the study obviously). This was not a gender decision but based on the expertise, time, and desire of the other partner. Wives and husbands who took the role earned mutual trust and communicated the checkbook, planning for retirement, and investment decisions. Spouses were equally aware about the finances and household budget even though one assumed the lead role. Furthermore, the decision to make a major purchase, yes including the washing machine, was always discussed. Related: Love and Money Part 1 – 3 ways to improve communication

Secret #2 – Embracing a Debt-Free Philosophy

Happily married couples embrace a debt-free philosophy and work toward a common goal. They pay credit cards in full and save for the big purchases until they can afford it. Contrary to what you might think, happy couples encounter the same financial challenges as the rest of the world related to loss of job, a decline in health, school loans, etc. However, the major difference is approaching these challenges was mindset. Each partner embraced a ‘never give up’ and ‘in it together’ attitude towards leading a debt-free or debt-reduction life.   

Secret #3 – Don’t Keep Up With the Kardashians

Happily married couples don’t try to keep up with Kardashians. They live well within their means by buying on sale, comparison and bargain shopping, and finding ways to stretch budget dollars. Being honest about the current reality isn’t always easy, but does allow both partners come to an understanding, at the very least, the opportunity to sit down and talk about it.  Having it all does not make for a happy marriage, just ask Kourtney.  

Who knows…maybe a trip to BestBuy would have helped.  

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