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Reason #1: They engage in small skirmishes over the month


Q: My husband and I have a constant tug-of-war over money. What can I do?

A: Arguing over money is the number one cause of divorce in the United States, so it's important that you talk with your husband about how you are feeling before you drift further apart. Keep your conversations on the positive side; try to focus not on the mistakes of the past but on what you both can learn from this experience.

The two of you should sit down once a month to go over your finances: You can take turns paying bills. You can balance the checkbook and figure out how much money is in your accounts. You should also request copies of your credit reports from one of the three major credit bureaus (contact Equifax, Experian, or Trans Union). If you've had a hard time keeping up with your debt, my guess is that you do not have the best credit. When you and your husband look at your credit history, he'll be able to see your financial picture realistically. Once you've faced your situation, you and your husband will be in a position to end the tug-of-war and begin repairing your finances as a team.

Q: I've managed to keep my husband from destroying my credit, but I'm so tired of all the bill juggling that I'm considering divorce. Any suggestions?

A: Often when life isn't working out the way we dreamed, we blame forces beyond our control. But just as often, the problem is staring at us in the mirror. I can't stress enough that when we learn to take responsibility for what we do and don't have, we put ourselves on the path to happiness.

Your goal is to see if you can avoid that extreme option of divorce. First explore why he behaves this way. I find that when people act out with their money, it's typically because they don't value who they are. Sit down with your husband and talk with him about his attitude toward money, your family's financial situation and his self-image. Spell out what you need to have happen to keep this marriage alive. For one thing, you are not to be the sole bill payer. Make this a joint exercise so that he sees the problem and understands his duty to fix it. Be patient. After a few months, if he doesn't respond, then you'll know you must leave and can do so with a clear conscience.

Extraneous spending needs to stop, and you must start paring down your debt. Pay the minimum due on all accounts, then add an extra payment onto the one with the highest interest rate. It will take time to undo the damage, but as long as you're paying the minimum on every card, you'll keep the credit raters happy and making headway on getting out of debt.

Next: The compromise you shouldn't accept