Sliding v Deciding: The PREPARE/ENRICH relationship inventory and Cohabitation and couple Finances

A major finding of recent research into the effects of cohabitation on subsequent marital outcomes is the potential detrimental consequences of ‘sliding’ in relationships rather than ‘deciding’ – that is letting transition events ‘just happen’ rather than making a considered, unambiguous decision.

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A discussion for cohabiting couples and for facilitators working with couples is about what the couple agree a healthy marriage relationship should be. A discussion about prioritising the relationship, the meaning of dedication to your partner and the importance of taking other options off the table, can be valuable.

Discussing Financial matters

More often than not, one or both partners are reticent about sharing their financial resources. This can provide a catalyst for discussing the meaning of the ‘giving’ of one to the other (as usually expressed in the marriage vows) and a ‘shared married life’. Couples may find it difficult to reconcile independence, (frequently expressed as a control of money) with the mutuality and compromise that are characteristic of marital harmony.

It is important to deal directly and constructively with the issues that may put them at risk, and financial pressures are commonly quoted as reasons for martial conflict and breakdown. Working with engaged couples who are living together, using the PREPARE/ENRICH inventory, provides a unique opportunity to explore finances, their underlying values in relation to money, to encourage the couple to reaffirm their decision to marry and to further their understanding of the nature and importance of commitment.

An Australian study has shown that there is a strong link between experience of financial hardship and personal psychological distress (Creed, P.A., & Miller, J. Psychological distress in the labour market: Shame or deprivation? Australian Journal of Psychology, 2006, 58, 31-39). One point made by the authors is that financial distress reduces a person’s capacity to plan and interferes with planning for a meaningful future. It is this that primarily reduces psychological wellbeing.

A question that emerges from a finding like this is to what extent are financially troubled premarital couples affected by their financial distress? Is it possible that their relationship satisfaction is reduced by financial stress?

An analysis of a sample of 520 PREPARE couples reveals that individual income is positively and significantly correlated with couple positive couple agreement scores in a number of key categories. The greater the income the higher the couple satisfaction. For both males and females, the categories that reveal this trend are Financial Management, Leisure Activities, and Family & Friends.

This seems to indicate that financial hardship (associated with lower levels of income) interferes with and inhibits planning and implementation of activities and goals that are finance-related or costly. For lower income couples, setting up and managing budgets becomes difficult and couple conflict becomes more likely. Also, engaging in costly leisure activities and spending time with friends and family in such activities becomes more difficult for financially troubled couples.

#PREPARE/ENRICH is a customised online assessment tool that identifies each couples unique strength and growth areas. Based on their assessment results, a facilitator provides feedback sessions, helping couples to discuss and understand their results while teaching them proven relationship skills.

For more information on PREPARE/ENRICH or to simply set up a couple on the tool, please contact: or call today (02) 9520 4049 #prepareenrich

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