Research shows the more couples argue over money, the more likely their relationship is to split over money or cause divorce in a marriage. Why? Because it’s about more than just money…
When you argue about money, you’re arguing about issues going deeper than the actual dollars and cents. And these are powerfully emotional issues that can make or break a relationship.
If you look deeper, when you argue about money, you’re arguing about your beliefs, values, and goals in life. Money also tends to magnify the levels of power and trust in your relationship. Which often cause relationships to split.
Everyone develops a set of money beliefs based on past experiences. Whether you realize it or not, the way you were raised has an impact on how you think about and use money. And if you and your partner have contrasting money beliefs, it can affect your relationship. Sometimes even causing a split over money.
For example, maybe your partner believes money should be used for status, while you think money should be used to create security. Or perhaps you want the kids to have the best of everything, and your partner believes that will spoil them.
The way you spend and save money is a reflection of your values and priorities. Your partner’s spending can make it seem like they don’t have the same priorities as you.
For example, if your partner spends a lot on going out to eat, but you want to use that money to save for the kids’ college expenses, there is a conflict in values expressed by how each of you wants to use the money.
Power differences in relationships are often related to money. And whether these power differences are real or perceived doesn’t matter if they cause problems in the relationship.
Maybe one partner earns more than the other. Or one takes care of all the financial planning and bills. When one partner feels powerless, and out of the loop, resentment and conflict can occur.
Almost ⅓ of spouses admit to lying to their partners about money. They spend secretly, hide cash, or lie about their bills (or debt). When couples are dishonest about money, and hide their money problems, it’s difficult for them to trust each other in all areas of the relationship.
Debt can be overwhelming. Though debt in itself isn’t an emotional issue, it can and does cause high levels of stress. If you aren’t able to deal with the stress and debt as a couple, it’s bound to take a toll on your relationship.
Prevent a Split Over Money in Your Relationship
Start the conversation
If you don’t already, you have to start talking about money. Many people consider money a “taboo” topic, but the healthiest, happiest couples routinely speak about money.
Start the conversation in a neutral place when you have the time and energy to focus on what each of you has to say. It doesn’t have to be all seriousness – make it a date and start with a few fun questions to get the conversation going. The goal is just to start.
Make some rules for your money conversations. No blame or accusations allowed. No interrupting your partner. Respect each others’ thoughts and opinions. Remember, it’s about more than money, and this is the person you love.
Sample questions to get you started:
- What are our goals for the next year? What about 5 and 10 years from now? (Individual and shared goals)
- What did you learn about money growing up?
- Where do we stand right now? (What’s your current financial situation? This might require a little homework)
Understand your past
Your past experiences influence your beliefs about money. Think (and talk) about what impact your past has on your current situation. And try to understand how your partner’s history affects their views.
Accept and work with differences (compromise!)
When it comes to money, you might not agree with your partner 100%. That’s okay. The key is to openly talk about your differences, compromise, and figure out how to make things work for both of you.
There will always be differences in how you use and think about money, but if you’re open about it, it won’t snowball into a mountain of troubles.
Trust and honesty are an integral part of a healthy, happy relationship. Be transparent about everything related to your finances, from your credit score to your debts. If this is new to you, it will be difficult at first. But when you commit to regularly talking about your money, it gets easier. You’ll feel closer to your partner as a result.
Prioritize shared and personal life goals
Ultimately, personal finance is deciding what goals you will prioritize. As a couple, discuss what you aspire to do in life, individually and as a couple. This is where you talk about lining everything up: money, values, and goals – together.
Start with the end in mind. Align your goals and values with your finances. When you make life decisions together, it’s easier to get on the same page, financially and otherwise.
Continue the conversation
Keep the conversation going and don’t hide any money problems. The more you talk about it, the easier it gets. Make a point to have money conversations with your partner each week. Keep reviewing your goals to keep you motivated.
Should you keep your money separate…or not?
That depends. Everyone has a different opinion, and each situation is unique.
Popular advice on the topic is all over the place. For instance, Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman have two very different opinions on the subject.
Here’s what Dave Ramsey has to say about separating finances:
“I think it’s a disaster. A lot of couples have separate checking accounts, and it is the core breakdown in communication and the core breakdown in their communication about money, too. Money flows to what’s important to you—saving, paying bills, investing, buying things, giving gifts. How you handle money reflects your value system…You are lacking in unity. You are lacking in communication. You are lacking in cooperation that is gained when you force yourself to do that because you have to or you’re going to bounce a check.”
And here’s Suze Orman’s take:
“You should have three accounts—your account, your spouse’s account and a joint account. Why? Because you shouldn’t be splitting expenses 50/50 if you don’t have the same salary and financial situation…
Those separate accounts leave both of you with other money that you should be able to do what you want with, without having to ask your spouse each time and create resentment.”
Ultimately, what works for one couple doesn’t necessarily work for another. Separate finances or not, you’re a couple, which means all decisions should be team decisions.
Figure out a system that works for you and your partner to avoid a split over money.
It might work best to have finances separate, combined, or a combination of the two. If you don’t know yet what works best for your relationship, try different methods and see what sticks. If the way you are doing things isn’t working, change it. Keep talking and trying new things until you find something that works.
Lastly, remember this – when working through money issues in your relationship, money itself does not bring happiness. Money is a tool for life, for freedom, and for reaching dreams and goals.
Article written by Amanda