John Gottman is the predominant guru on the subject of why marriages survive or fail (see, e.g., The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work).

He defines the primary causes of discord between couples as:

  1. Bad start
  2. Criticism
  3. Contempt
  4. Defensiveness
  5. Stonewalling
  6. Flooded (feeling overwhelmed with your spouse’s negativity)
  7. Body Language
  8. Failed Repair Attempts
  9. Bad Memories

In less theoretical times, we defined the three primary battlefields of marriage as: (1) sex, (2) children, and (3) money.

I believe that hypermodern times add (4) time, and (5) abuse of power needs to be in there somewhere.

We, progeny of Einstein, fight about time.

Oh, come on!

More to the point, so many of us fight about money.

I have seen hundreds of couples divorce over financial issues.

I usually think, “That was so preventable.”

Sometimes financial discord can lead to other marital discord: husband is mad about his wife’s uncontrollable over-spending, won’t confront her, so he cheats or drinks.

Each couple has a “financial system”.

Systems tend to be: (a) purely top-down; (b) semi-democratic (e.g. there is a joint account, but each spouse also has a separate account); (c) purely democratic; or (d) some variation of chaos.

Each system is problematic.

Disputes between couples over money can be pure power struggles, exercises in passive-aggressive behavior, or legitimate differences in values (e.g. I want to save and you want to donate more to charity).

Why not apply mediation services, early in the marriage, before the die is cast?

Many mediators have financial backgrounds.

If I can get a couple on track financially, I can immunize them against a primary cause of divorce.

This idea could save a lot of people a lot of money!

How’s your deal?