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What You Bring to the MarriageRecently, NerdWallet took aim at the issue of how couples talk about money, citing three questions “that can save your relationship.” While each point is well-taken and definitely worth a read — especially considering that money issues are some of the biggest reasons people file for divorce — we wanted to focus today on one in particular:

What Will Be Yours, Mine, And Ours? 

According to Justin Lavner, a clinical psychologist at UCLA, money can be about power in a relationship. “Does making more money mean that you have a greater say in how to spend it? How can we be equal if you make all the decisions about money? But similarly, one could counter, how can we make joint decisions about money if you’re not contributing as much to the joint account?” Lavner said, adding that a spouse may not be contributing income, but being a primary caregiver affects the family’s bottom line.

“The wife taking care of the kids may mean that the husband is able to take a kind of job he wouldn’t be able to without her doing full-time child care … (but) he feels like he has to bear the burden of sole support, which results in him spending even less time at home, which stresses the wife and their relationship further.”

NerdWallet encourages couples to determine how they wish to divvy up the finances — “what’s yours, mine, and ours” — before it leads to divorce papers.

Transparency is key, the website notes, “and a referee can help.”

Therapist Ulash Dunlap agrees, stating, “Open communication is very important, because your values don’t change. Being able to talk about what’s important to you, and using a therapist as a neutral third party to mediate, can be very effective in getting simmering issues on the table.”

Empathy: The One Thing Both Spouses Must Have

It can be difficult when dealing with issues of your own to lose sight of what the other party is going through. However, a successful marriage pretty much requires it because, try as you might, you’re both going to end up fulfilling different roles in the relationship.

Yes, marriage is a partnership, but it’s virtually impossible to split that partnership evenly, 50/50. For starters, you’ll go crazy trying to find the midpoint. Are secure finances more important than quality child care — who’s to say?

To keep the divorce forms at bay, you should engage in some mental role-play. Try to imagine yourself in the other spouse’s shoes handling all their responsibilities and ask yourself if that’s what you really want. You may even try switching places for a day or a week. What you shouldn’t do is criticize without actually knowing what you’re talking about. By building empathy, you can know the true value of what you and your spouse are bringing to the relationship.

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