Don't Let Money Ruin Your Relationship

Don’t Let Money Ruin Your Relationships’s Kathryn Vasel on why money is a leading cause behind divorce and how couples can work together to sort out and avoid potential disagreements.

When it comes to finding your soul mate, it might also be in your best interest to find your financial mate.

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According to research from Jeffrey Dew, an assistant professor in the Department of Family, Consumer and Human Development at Utah State University, arguments over finances are a prime risk factor for divorce.

Dew identified the five most common arguments couples have: chores, spending time together, sex, money and in-laws, and found that across all income levels and both genders, money was the most-cited hot-button issue among couples for a divorce.

“For men, money was the only type of fight predicting divorce; for women, it was money and sex, but money was the stronger predictor.”

And it’s not just lack of funds that cause couples to fight. Dew says it’s more about conflicting money management styles and personalities that cause friction, and oftentimes, financial arguments aren't about money at all.

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“When couples are having the same fight over and over, there is usually something deeper going on then who spent what,” he says. For instance, a spouse constantly overspending might be seeking more attention, or a person being restrictive over spending might be feeling insecure.

What’s more, Morgana Rae, author of Financial Alchemy: Twelve Months of Magic and Manifestation, says money has a tendency to extravagate any tensions already in a relationship and that    it’s easier for more affluent couples to gloss over problems. “Partners are more likely to pretend things are OK when money is there, but when it goes away, those cracks show up a lot more quickly.”

While money isn’t the most romantic subject to broach, experts recommend couples start talking about finances when a relationship get serious to avoid any major problems down the road.

“There is so much fear and shame around it; either you don’t make enough or you make too much,” says Rae. She suggests couples start talking finances when they are about to move in together or get engaged and that each person should disclose how much they make, how they spend their money and their savings goals.

Experts say money values are often deeply rooted, making these arguments harder to resolve and last  longer. To avoid having money issues ruin your relationship, experts offer the following tips:

Talk About It. According to Kathleen Gurney, president of the Financial Psychology Corporation, couples are more likely to talk about sex than money – and that’s a problem.

We all equate different values and meaning to money, and in order to be successful financial partners, couples need to be frank about their views.

“You need to get super clear and honest about your expectations,” says Rae. “Every human being is like their own country with different customs and expectations when it comes to money management. You can’t know what country you are moving into without doing your research and knowing the facts.”

Set Priorities Together. Creating a budget together and establishing savings goals that take into account both individual’s financial personalities will increase the success of plans, says Jonathan Chevreau, author of Findependence Day.

“If couples set goals together both sides will feel more invested in the plan and will be more willing to commit and carry out the goals.”

Negotiate. Experts say money savers and spenders can have long, happy marriages if they remain respectful and supportive of the other’s money values.

“Sit down and come up with a compromise. If one person is a spending, maybe give them $200 that they can spend a month on whatever they want and the other person can’t say a thing. They are still able to spend, but in a more controlled manner,” says Dew.

Chevreau says this tactic has worked well for him and his wife.

“For me personally, I would rather spend $10,000 on getting Google stock then going on an elaborate vacation in the far. And I will tell you, my wife and daughter are there right now, but next year, I know that my priorities will be focused on.”

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