6 Ways to Keep Money from Wrecking Your Relationship

By on March 14, 2018

By Pamela Yellen—

Disagreements over money are a leading cause of marital and relationship troubles. In one recent survey, 31 percent of respondents said they consider financial infidelity to be worse than cheating romantically — yet an estimated 15 million Americans admit they’ve concealed a bank account or credit card from their partners.

Many couples neglect to take the time to hash out issues involving money and finances that can potentially ruin their relationships. But there are things we can do to increase trust and understanding when it comes to money and finances in our relationships. Try these 6 tips…

1. Recognize that money is an emotional issue

For many men who are wired to be providers, money brings up issues of self-worth, so they take financial conflict to heart. For many women, money represents security, so problems or disputes can bring anxiety and even fear about survival. Tip: Choose a time when you’re both relaxed and not rushed. Begin the conversation with something like, “I know that our finances can have a great impact on the health of our relationship. I’d like to start talking about money so that we understand each other and can get on the same page.”

2. Talk, talk, and talk some more about your finances together

As in most relationship issues, good communication is vital. Unfortunately, in our culture many people consider it downright rude to talk about money, unless you’re in your accountant’s office or facing the IRS firing squad. Tip: Set goals together, and track your progress. (Steps 3-6 detail how to talk about money.)

3. Agree on how to divide your money

If you’ve been together for years and have stumbled along without a clear understanding and agreement about this area, it’s never too late to start. Tip: The time to have this heart-to-heart conversation is now, rather than in a divorce attorney’s office later. Common topics to cover include individual discretionary spending, household expenses, retirement savings, and extended family responsibilities.

4. Avoid taking on too much debt

It will come as no surprise that couples who live within their means tend to be the happiest, and too much debt can ruin a marriage. As one researcher says, “Couples with consumer debt tend to fight more. They are more stressed about their money, and some recent research I have done even shows that consumer debt is associated with divorce.” Tip: Instead of constantly talking about the burden of your debt, talk to each other about your financial goals — where you’d really like to be, and how you’ll get there. Rather than letting debt issues drive you apart, facing your debt as a team can actually strengthen your relationship.

5. No matter how tempting it may be, do not engage in financial infidelity!

Financial cheating can be devastating in a relationship. One study found that one-third of couples with combined finances had not been completely honest about financial issues with their partner. Tip: If you haven’t been fully honest regarding finances, now is the time to clean it up! The health of your relationship depends on it. How to broach this ticklish subject? With compassion and sensitivity. Begin the conversation with something like, “I know that neither of us is perfect when it comes to money. Our relationship is important to me, so I want to make sure we have a foundation of honesty about our finances.” No matter what comes up, stay calm, and avoid judgment. Keep breathing! And focus on positive solutions going forward. 

6. Understand and acknowledge your different spending habits

People tend to look for a spouse who looks, sounds, and acts as they do — except when it comes to money. It turns out that penny-pinchers tend to marry reckless spenders, and as a result – surprise, surprise! – they report unhappier marriages than couples who have similar spending habits. Some of us are natural savers and planners. Others have a “live for today” attitude. Some are comfortable with debt; others pay with cash only. Money means power to some, love to others. 

Tip: Seek to understand rather than correct each other. If something in your partner’s attitude bothers you, tell him how you feel and why. See if you can find compromise, but don’t try to ‘fix’ your partner.

To keep your relationship healthy, it’s critical to discuss these differences and come up with compromises that work for both of you. Want to learn more about how to talk with your partner about money? Take this Love and Money Quiz to get started.

Pamela Yellen is founder of Bank On Yourself, a financial investigator and the author of two New York Times best-selling books, including her latest, The Bank On Yourself Revolution: Fire Your Banker, Bypass Wall Street, and Take Control of Your Own Financial Future. Pamela investigated more than 450 financial strategies seeking an alternative to the risk and volatility of stocks and other investments, which led her to a time-tested, predictable method of growing wealth now used by more than 500,000 Americans.

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6 Ways to Keep Money from Wrecking Your Relationship