Major Money Issues Couples Argue About
It only took a couple months after saying “Yes!” to my now-fiance’s proposal for the reality of marriage to set in. Obviously, I’m excited to get the opportunity to spend my life with someone that I love. But, at least according to anyone I’ve ever known who has experienced marriage, it’s not always easy to stay in a healthy, happy, partnership for the rest of your life. While some aspects of life are inevitable – like wrinkles and grey hair – other stresses in growing with someone can be avoided. Or, at the very least, they can be mitigated.
I’m talking specifically about money. Financial stress, major investments, education, medical bills – you name it, couples can argue about it. As much as we’d all like to believe the future will be smooth sailing, the reality of the situation is you’re likely going to argue with the person you love most over money at some point.
Having action plans in place and open lines of communication can help prevent these arguments from getting too out of hand. Not communicating about your finances can be a huge strain on any relationship, according to California family law attorney, Shannon Payne. She explains, “Couples generally talk about everything but money. Money is that ‘off limits’ topic no one wants to discuss at dinner, or in bed, or ever. This is a huge mistake. Couples have to be comfortable talking about money. They know each other’s goals and dreams and they should be comparable.”
So below are just some of the major issues couples argue about the most. Hopefully by at least understanding that these things come up, you can begin a dialogue with your significant other to better prepare you both for possible future frustrations.
Different Points of View
Knowing Your “Money Personality”
Some people love to spend while others get a thrill out of saving. Knowing each other’s approaches will help you have a healthier point of view in future investments. Payne says, “The biggest arguments [I see] about finances come about when two parties have very different spending habits. Some people are savers, some are spenders, and there is a broad spectrum in between.”
The Value of Gifts
Just like money personalities, there are different love languages that people speak. And, for some people, high value gifts are an important way to both give and receive love. But, for others, gifts are just a waste of money. This doesn’t have to be a major discussion as long as you understand where the other person is coming from. It just needs to be discussed at some point to avoid it from becoming a major issue.
Your Financial Advisor Shouldn’t Know More Than Your Spouse
It’s great that you’re taking control of your finances by regularly meeting with a financial advisor. But because your finances are inherently linked to your spouses, your advisor shouldn’t know more about what’s going on in your bank accounts than your significant other. Share that information with all interested parties, especially your life partner.
You and your partner essentially become a money team together. And teams don’t function at their best if one side holds back important information from the other, even if they play different roles. Payne says, “The best way to reduce the likelihood of these issues is to make the family finances transparent. One party is generally the lead when it comes to paying bills and investing, but both parties should have access [to information] and an understanding of the net
Lacking a Plan
Allocations of Funds
Hopefully you talked about how you wanted to spend your money before you ever said “I do.” But it’s never too late to discuss common goals, including where and how you intend to spend in the future. If you find out that your significant other just spent money you had hoped to use for a vacation, well, that could result in a huge argument.
Bill Basics and Budgets
Financial conversations are seldom romantic, but there are some extremely pragmatic and practical choices you can make that may allow you more time to spend on the romantic and beautiful parts of your relationship. Payne suggests budgeting. “Budgets are also a good way to compare spending habits. If the wife spends half her monthly income on clothes and the husband is a saver, that could be a problem. However, if the same wife spends half her income on clothes and her income is three times that of her husband's income, that may not be a problem.”
Credit Cards and Loans
Knowing your “money personality” includes understanding how you approach credit cards and loans. If you tend not to worry too much about accruing debt while your partner prefers to do whatever it takes to stay out of it, you’ve got a few future fights on your hands. You don’t need to necessarily change your own spending habits completely, but you will need to understand and compromise if you want to avoid ongoing conflicts with your partner.
Who Earns What and Who Spends What?
Different partners can bring in different amounts depending on their phase in life. Having a positive, united approach to who brings in what, how much can and should be spent, and the allocation of who spends it can avoid resentment and frustration in the future.
Just because you’re being open, honest, and completely communicative about your finances doesn’t mean you can’t have your own financial independence. If it’s important to you to have some money that you can spend however you like without answering to your partner, that is something that plenty of partnerships can accommodate. You simply need to create trust and understanding with your partner. Make it clear this is something you need in the partnership, then respect whatever limits or parameters may be placed upon it by commitments to your relationship.
Living and growing with another person can be a difficult task. Based on her practice, Payne believes that poor communication – especially about major financial goals – can cause the largest strain in the relationship. She explains, “I believe [communication] is one issue that makes the first year of marriage the hardest to get through largely because couples are forced to discuss the money. Make a budget before the wedding. Set financial goals for your new family before the baby. Be ready and on the same page before you say ‘I do’ and you're less likely to say ‘Let's divorce.’”
Waiting For “The Right Time”
If you’ve got open communication lines, you can feel comfortable knowing that just about any time can be the “right time” to bring up any financial issue. But if you’re still working on improving communication, rest assured there’s never really a great way to start. There will never be the perfect time for you to talk about something that’s difficult to talk about. There could be times that are a little better than others in terms of your partner’s attention and ability to be open to the discussion, but it’s unlikely that you’ll ever find an absolutely perfect moment. Sometimes you need to just bite the bullet, trust your own instincts and in your partnership, and have the discussion you’ve been avoiding.
Avoiding Financial Confrontation
If you really never muster up the courage to have that seemingly difficult financial discussion with your partner, the problem is only going to get worse. Whether it’s because of a building resentment or piled on frustrations, completely ducking out of tough topics isn’t a healthy long-term solution. The moment you’re able to address a financial issue, you and your partner can begin to create an action plan to rectify it – whatever it may be.
No matter what may accumulate or disappear around you, it’s important to always prioritize your relationship. Buying anything – investments, experiences, or stuff – won’t make up for the basic connection you need with your partner. While it’s great to have healthy finances and a sound financial approach, it’s important to keep in mind that the end-goal is to maintain a happy relationship with your partner.
Honest Assessments of Your Joint Financial Health
Healthy, thriving relationships are built on honesty. Your partner loves you for who you are, not for whatever financial decisions you may have made (at least that’s hopefully the case). So remember to remain honest with him or her no matter where you may be with your finances. Being upfront about your current situation – whether it’s good or bad – will help you both to be better united about how to improve your future together.