Everyone has different attitudes and outlooks on managing money, which is one thing when you’re single. When you enter into a long-term relationship or a marriage, suddenly, your financial philosophy has a major impact on someone else’s life.
Studies show that money is one of the leading causes of divorce. But why is money such a potential stressor in relationships? And is there anything couples can do to reduce tension over finances and find common ground?
Let’s take a deeper dive into the money/relationship dynamic and explore ways to avoid and overcome conflicts over cash.
Why Money and Relationships Often Equal Stress
Unlike other sources of disagreements between couples, money issues have the potential to cause strain in a relationship that can lead to irreparable damage.
These are a few of the most common financial stressors couples encounter:
You’ve made financial mistakes in the past.
Whether you have thousands of dollars in credit card debt or you defaulted on a loan, your past financial mistakes—and their consequences—follow you into your relationship. These mistakes may prevent you and your partner from buying a home or a car, which can lead to friction between you.
You have poor money management.
Cash shortfalls and high debt are a perfect recipe for tension in a relationship. Not knowing whether you will be able to pay the bills each month and seeing no way out from under a crushing debt load is enough to drive a wedge between even the happiest couples.
You have conflicting attitudes about spending and saving.
If one person in the relationship is a spender and the other is a saver, arguments over money are inevitable. No one likes to feel like their needs aren’t being met, but when you are polar opposites financially, finding middle ground can be challenging.
You have different long-term financial goals.
When couples aren’t on the same page about their long-term financial goals, it adds a layer of underlying stress to the relationship. For example, one partner wants to save for a down payment on a house, and the other wants to put that money toward early retirement. These are major financial decisions that need to be addressed early before they become a source of dissension.
What to Do When Money and Relationships Clash
Being open and honest about finances is essential to maintaining a healthy relationship. But when emotions are running high, it’s difficult to think through a scenario logically and come up with an acceptable resolution.
Instead, work proactively to create an environment that minimizes conflict by encouraging frequent communication about finances before they turn into fights.
Here are some tips to help you get started:
Start the conversation, even if it’s hard.
Ease into the conversation by mentioning some specific topics you want to talk about, then schedule some distraction-free time to sit down together to discuss them. Create some ground rules to stop the conversation from devolving into an argument and make sure each partner has equal time to speak without being interrupted.
Keep the conversation going.
The first financial talk is often the most uncomfortable, so keep the positive momentum going. Schedule monthly money “data nights” to check in with each other. Early in the relationship, you may want to focus on topics such as your financial histories and attitudes about debt. As things progress, it’s time to discuss things such as paying bills, splitting expenses, and making major purchases.
Be honest but kind.
It’s important to remember that although you want to get all the financial cards on the table, you care about the person you are talking to. The goal of these conversations isn’t to pass judgment on past mistakes—it’s to work together to create a financial road map you both can agree to follow.
Be open to compromise.
If you and your partner have opposite attitudes about spending and saving, learning to compromise is essential. You may rarely 100 percent agree on any money matters. So, try to understand where your partner is coming from and work together to manage the household finances in a way that one of you doesn’t always “win” and the other always “loses.”
How to Overcome Conflict over Finances
Every couple will hit bumps in the road, especially when it comes to agreeing on financial matters. However, there are steps you can take to align your financial outlooks and minimize conflict.
Set up a budget and help each other stick to it.
Creating a budget gives you and your partner more control over your money by identifying where you will allocate it. This helps control overspending, and you can put any cash leftover at the end of the month toward paying off debt or saving for a big purchase.
Address power imbalances.
A financial power imbalance occurs when one partner makes significantly more money or has more control over the household finances. Power imbalance is a major source of conflict between couples, so it is essential that you find a way to make your financial relationship equitable.
Seek professional help.
If you and your partner can’t agree on how to manage money or which long- and short-term goals will benefit you the most, an experienced financial advisor can help. A skilled advisor will explain the impact of different financial decisions so you can find a solution that meets your family’s needs.
Managing Money in a Relationship
Arguments are inevitable in every relationship, but don’t let finances become an ongoing point of conflict.
Download The Ultimate Guide to Managing Money in a Relationship to learn how to manage money as a couple by:
- Setting shared financial goals
- Resolving disagreements about money management
- Communicating openly, honestly, and often about your finances