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Relationships are like icebergs. The 90-10 Rule explains that what you see on the surface is only 10% of the problem. This is important in understanding what happens when a relationship has financial stress. You need to look below the surface to understand what’s going on. The financial stress is real – especially during times like these, with inflation, a high cost of living, and supply shortages. But the financial struggles and conflict in a relationship go much deeper. The 10% gets all or most of the attention:

  • Complaining about bills and spending too much.
  • Blaming each other for mismanaging finances.
  • Angry comments about the family budget.
  • Pressure, demands, and attempts to control financial issues.
  • Defensiveness during conversations about money.
  • Denial and avoidance of talking about these concerns.

Financial concerns can raise a lot of anxiety – even fear. Unmanageable credit card debt and problems keeping up with regular payments and bills can be overwhelming and exhausting. When couples struggle against each other with blaming, complaining, and defensiveness, it eats away at the loving partnership and foundation of the relationship.

The key to understanding the relational part of this problem – the 90% – is a lack of a safe, secure emotional connection between partners. There is an emotional and relational deficit (not just a financial deficit) in friendship, trust, commitment, emotional attunement, and support.

Creative solutions can be discovered when couples in financial distress are in it together – as caring partners. Distressed relationships can be repaired with a level of understanding, empathy, and compassion. A strong relationship can weather almost any financial storm.