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Faultlines for Young Couples: Money

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Youth is most likely to be the period of struggle in one’s life. As we attempt to apply our education and skills in a competitive market place, we are often still far away from the prosperity and luxury that we will achieve in later years. Even today, when both husband and wife are working in well-paid jobs, they can still feel a financial restraint in their youth. This is because, as young professionals, they are often trying to establish their own identity as separate from their parents and are aiming for a lifestyle that is still just out of reach.

“By the time Rahul and I get our salaries after the automatic deductions for our respective car loans, and have made our credit card payments and paid phone bills, the amount is just about enough to see us through the month,” says Sonia, who works in a legal firm. “After that we share household expenses, but its an uphill task keeping track of every little thing. We do have our share of arguments over expenses – its inevitable,” she admits.

Money and the lack of it are highly emotive issues. When we argue with our partner over why there is no money for something, we may be touching a raw nerve, triggering off feelings of inadequacy, and bringing up issues of self-esteem and confidence. “Its not that we have too little money,” says Shyam, a graphic artist. “Its just that she presses the panic button at the slightest difficulty. For her, even not having the money to go for a weekend movie can be the source of real anxiety.” While a weekend movie can be easily sacrificed, Shyam’s wife sees it as the symbol of financial fragility. “How come we reach a stage of not having even Rs. 500/- after three years of marriage?” she asks with some heat.

As responsibilities mount, and babies appear, the question of shared expenses acquires even more intensity, leading to frequent discussions over how the money is being spent and who is responsible for ‘wasting’ it. At such times, either partner can get extremely critical of the other’s lifestyle, habits and approach to matters financial. How one approaches the issue of spending is also a psychological minefield. Sometimes young people go overboard in their spending patterns because they have lived a life of relative deprivation in their childhood, with strict parents. In case you are married to such a young person, he or she deserves more of your sympathy, and should be tactfully weaned away from over-spending.

With money being such a potential area of discord between young partners, it is best to adopt some safe practices.

· Budget not only for bare necessities, but also for other lifestyle needs when you draw up your household plan, and try to stay within these parameters.
· Support each other to have good habits that are not a drain on scarce resources.
· Do not assign too much blame, or remember forever, such incidents of extravagance for which a partner has already expressed regret – such as the rarely used treadmill, or the diamond earrings that have to spend most of the time in the locker.
· When you are on the verge of getting into a money related argument, try to think – what could be more precious than your beloved partner? And therefore use a more reasonable and less angry or argumentative approach.

If sufficient care is paid to communication and money is recognized for the powerful resource it is, there is no reason why young couples should succumb to this potential arena of marital discord.

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