Personal Finance

Money and relationships

“The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the right time but also to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.” – Unknown

Financial stress is often a leading cause of arguments within relationships. According to a study of 2,800 couples by Professor Jeffrey Dew of Utah State University, couples who argue about money at least once a week are 30% more likely to divorce than couples who only argue about money once a month.

Related article: Couples need to talk about money

A few weeks ago I spoke with a friend who had recently taken a 3-day financial course. They’ve been married for over 30 years and had long ago stopped talking about money because they just couldn’t have a conversation about finances that wouldn’t escalate into a full-scale argument. The course challenged them not only to examine the beliefs and misconceptions that influenced the way they handled money but also provided a safe environment for them to have an honest conversation about things they had previously been unable to discuss without creating conflict. Their relationship has been dramatically changed as a result and so I thought I would share some of the key concepts in the hope of inspiring positive conversation about money at a time of year when spending is at its peak and money stress can also be high:

Experiences and limiting beliefs

The way that we feel about money and the way we handle our finances is greatly influenced by everything we have ever heard, seen and experienced in relation to money as children and young adults. Chances are, if your partner has challenges in relation to money then they will have parents and siblings with similar challenges. Understanding where these challenges are rooted allows you to stop blaming your partner for their behavior and to support them in making changes.

Related article: Limiting beliefs can limit your finances.

Money personality

If you’re a Saver and your partner is a Spender or an Avoider there’s plenty of potential for conflict. Understanding how your money personality conflicts or complements your partner allows you to create a strategy for managing the family finances.

Related article: What is your money personality?

Great teams are built on the idea of taking responsibility for the tasks that require your strengths and delegating the tasks you don’t enjoy someone whose strengths make them better equipped to take responsibility for them. That’s not to say that you should just let your partner handle everything but instead find a way to share the responsibility in a way that works for both of you. If you’re both Avoiders or Spenders then try to find a way to get excited about your money so that you’re more motivated to manage it effectively.

No fighting

Allowing money issues to create conflict in your relationship creates a cycle that is hard to break. Money can be an emotional issue and it can create feelings of guilt or fear that can easily spark a simple comment into a huge fight. Understanding your partner’s relationship with money as well as your own allows you to set ground rules that make conversations about money constructive rather than destructive. Treat building financial security as a team project that sets you up for a solid financial future and reduces money stress at the same time. Celebrate your progress and make time to enjoy some of the wealth that you’re building along the way.

Money is a significant component in building a strong life together. Knowing that disputes about money have the ability to destroy relationships is a great reason to take the time to talk about money before getting married or moving in with someone. It’s also a good reason to commit time to make sure that money doesn’t become a destructive force within your relationship.

How do you avoid money conflicts in your relationship? How has money negatively impacted your relationships in the past? If you have tips or strategies that have worked for you, I’d love to hear them.


  1. Donna McCaw

    Good article especially for this time of year when the pressure to spend are so great. Money and power go hand in hand in relationship conflicts, then children, household management, and intimacy including time spent together. Eyes wide open can prevent mine fields in the relationship later on.

  2. Janine

    Great article! I couldn’t agree more, my boyfriend and I recently moved in together and we sat down and went through a list of the the FCAC recommended such as: going over our net worth, our money goals, spending habits. Then we made a budget together and set some goals. It’s great because now we are working together and on the same page for everything.

  3. Joe @ Retire By 40

    I am so lucky to marry my wife who has the same financial outlook. It would be much more difficult if one of us is a spender.

  4. Matt

    Thanks. Although I write about personal finance too, I need all the advice I can get regarding couples and money at the moment. My other half is terrible with our cash. I’ll be sure to mention this post, when I’ve finished writing about my own experiences.

  5. Michael Rennie

    My wife and I are coming up on 31 years of a very happy marriage. When first married we spent several years overseas ‘volunteering’ on a combined $600 a month and now thanks to our MBA’s pull in over $20,000 a month. While our financial circumstances have changed dramatically, one thing has remained constant, our money discussions. We never actually argue about money. Every major purchase is discussed beforehand, and we can just tell if the other is not comfortable with the idea, and if so we delay or modify the idea. We use the ‘our money’ concept and have just one bank account so every dollar spent is visible. It might not work for everyone, but it works for us.

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