Money May Not be the Root of All Evil, But It is the Root of Many Divorces

By Rob Stewart PhD (co-founder of familygoodthings.com)

This post is part 1 of the four-part series:  Finances and Marriage.

Time for another series!  Yay!  This is an important one and one that affects all of us:  finances.  It has been shown that arguing about money is the top predictor of divorce.  THE top predictor.  Yikes. 


If you find yourself frequently squabbling over money with your spouse, take heart.  This week we are going to learn about how to make financial decisions together with our spouses, how to make and keep a budget we are both happy with and how to strengthen our marriages without spending money.

I’m excited.  Are you excited?  Let’s do this thing.

Kicking off our series, we have Rob Stewart, who is a co-founder of the blog Family, Good Things To Come.  Have I sufficiently talked up this blog yet?  Become a follower, you won’t regret it.  Rob is a professor of Marriage, Family and Child Development and wrote his dissertation on marriage and finances!!  An expert!  He had me nodding my head in agreement with all his points in this post and re-committing to working together with Rich on our financial decisions.     – Celeste


You’ve heard that money can’t buy happiness – and that is largely true. However, when it comes to marriage, the misuse of our money can lead to unhappiness and divorce.

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Your Love Story

Whether you married your sweetheart five days ago, five years ago, or five decades ago, your love story probably began something like this:

When you were dating, you loved spending time with this amazing person. You would discuss hopes and dreams for the future. And, at some point, your fondest desire was to share your life with this wonderful individual – in fact, you couldn’t imagine spending your life with anyone else. Then, once engaged, the two of you jointly agreed that nothing would tear apart your union and your love.

Does this sound familiar? I hope so! Falling in love can be fun and exciting. And continuing in love can be even more rewarding!

But, we know that not all couples remain in love.  Dr. Paul Amato1, renowned marriage researcher, noted that divorce rates have increased from about 5% in the mid-19th century to about 50% today.  And, of course, some couples who remain married, are not happy in that marriage.

That is a lot of unhappiness – especially when marriage has the potential to be so amazing (as I shared in this previous article).

The saddest reason for divorce?

There are many reasons why couples may choose to divorce. Yet, to me, one of the saddest reasons for divorce is financial problems. Why? Because so much of the heartache caused by financial problems is preventable.

Countless marriages have been unnecessarily harmed because of the mismanagement of their household finances. These same couples that had once intended to stay together for richer or poorer, have allowed financial stress (often avoidable financial stress) to destroy their once happy union.

While each marriage can take fairly simple precautions to help safeguard the relationship against financial storms, unfortunately, many don’t – and that is why these avoidable divorces are so sad to me.

The good news!?! This doesn’t have to happen to you or your marriage!

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This isn’t a new problem…but it is a problem

Forty years ago the American Bar Association warned that “89 percent of all divorces could be traced to quarrels and accusations over money.”

Thirty years ago, Gordon B. Hinckley shared similar sentiments: “I am satisfied that money is the root of more trouble in marriage than all other causes combined.”

Twenty years ago, L. Tom Perry gave this caution: “Necessary debt should be incurred only after careful, thoughtful prayer and after obtaining the best possible advice. We need the discipline to stay well within our ability to pay. Wisely we have been counseled to avoid debt as we would avoid the plague.”

10 years ago, CNN reported that average household savings was a negative number for the first time in recorded history. In other words, for the first time ever, the average household savings was actually household debt.

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3 steps that can help protect your marriage

Hopefully your marriage is still going strong. Let’s keep that way! If you aren’t doing these three things, please commit to begin immediately.

Super Smart Tip #1 – Budget

For some people the word budget is a six letter swear word. They don’t like the notion of being restricted to a budget. For others, this just seems too complicated. Both excuses are flimsy and dangerous to your marriage!

Having a budget can more easily allow a couple to anticipate expenses, plan for emergencies, and live within their means (and, thus, avoid debt). Thus, regardless if you like the idea of budgeting or not, for the sake of your marriage, please budget!

Super Smart Tip #2 – Delay gratification

It is so easy to spend money – probably easier than at any other time in the history of the world. For instance, once you are done reading this blog post, you could quickly and easily head to Amazon.com, click on a “recommended for you” product, and place an order (with all of your information already saved) – all within about 1-2 minutes.

The point is, it is quite easy to spend money we don’t have! In order to safeguard our marriages, we need to learn how to consistently say “no” to enticing purchases. Robert D. Hales suggested the following: “the three most loving words are ‘I love you’, and the four most caring words for those we love are ‘we can’t afford it’.”

Super Smart Tip #3 – Plan for a “rainy day”

I grew up in Seattle Washington. We expected rain (and we were often right). In fact, we would often have a back-up plan in plan in place for outdoor activities. When it comes to our finances, we ought to follow that same logic. For instance, we should plan on some unexpected car expenses, some unanticipated house expenses, and some unwelcome health expenses. These stresses and expenses will come to all couples.  Wise couples have a financial game plan that allows them to more easily face such trials.

As I have studied, observed, and taught others about marriage over the last 15 years (as well as spending almost 17 years married to my sweetheart), I have become more convinced that marriage offers an incredible opportunity for happiness. However, for couples that don’t nourish and safeguard that relationship, it can lead to so much unnecessary heartache. One key way to safeguard our marriages and prevent such heartache is to strive to be wise with our financial game plan!

1 Amato, P. R. (2000). The consequences of divorce for adults and children. Journal of marriage and family62(4), 1269-1287.

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