Finances and Sex: Two Common Pressures that Couples Face
Whether honeymooning or celebrating a 60th wedding anniversary, all couples face a number of stressors that directly impact their spousal relationship. Family psychologists and researchers often focus on two major areas that contribute to marital stress: finances and sex. This does not mean that serious illness or loss of a loved one cannot have a profound impact on a relationship, and certainly does not lessen the pressures that stem from a geographic move for the family or pressures in the workplace. However, these two overarching stressors transcend major life events and can lead to unnecessary conflict in a marriage.
Whatever arrangement couples have for handling finances, both partners can be affected by the strain of financial distress. If one partner mainly takes care of the finances and begins facing difficult choices like where a limited amount of money should be spent within the family, the other is likely to be influenced by the situation whether directly (e.g., through conversations about finances) or indirectly (e.g., the stress on the partner in charge of finances begins to trickle into other areas of the relationship). Whichever path financial stress takes in a marriage, leaving the pressure to mount can result in a deterioration of essential components to a healthy and happy marriage (e.g., communication, trust, a positive sex life, etc.). Some distress related to finances in a marriage can be alleviated in the same way that a couple works through a major life event: engaging in healthy communication, offering support to your partner particularly in times of hardship, and turning to friends/family when needed.
A positive sexual relationship is an important aspect of marital relationships. Sex, however, can be one of the biggest pressures on couples, which can turn a relationship building practice (and stress reliever) into a source of tension. There is no predetermined formula for a “healthy” sexual relationship, yet couples are often influenced by society’s depiction of sex and sexuality. Major stressors (like finances) are other influences that severely impact a couple’s sex life. Positive sex lives are tested as each partner faces the ebb and flow of desire, time constraints, and tension in the relationship. As couples age, physiological changes impact many aspects of sexuality and can cause even more challenges in the relationship. Whatever the reason, stressors related to a sexual relationship can inhibit the bonding and trust building that sex can bring to a relationship. A positive sexual relationship is something that requires open communication, continuous negotiation, and an awareness of your partner’s feelings regarding sex.
Both financial stress and stress related to sex can be easy to ignore but may have long-term consequences in a marriage. Financial stress may not be avoidable, but a couple may fare better if weathering a financial storm together. Stress related to sex is influenced by a number of external stressors, biological changes, and the health of a relationship itself. Being the first one to broach these subjects can be uncomfortable, and even painful, but our capacity for stress is limited and preventing unnecessary pressures from building up can go a long way in supporting a healthy relationship.
Eugene Hall, MA, LMFT
Eugene welcomes individuals, couples, and families from all backgrounds into a collaborative and inclusive therapeutic environment. He uses narrative therapy when working with individuals, couples, and families. Eugene views the problems that people face as separate from themselves, rather than a central part of their identity. Eugene collects the rich context of people’s life stories to identify the times when problems that show up in people’s lives, as well as the times they were free of them. Eugene see’s clients at the Lorenz Clinic of Family Psychology in Victoria.