Money Conflict: The #1 Relationship Killer



Financial disputes are considered the most frequent cause of conflict between couples today and can often lead to the end of the relationship. Multiple research studies confirm this finding and, according to data from the Utah State University, couples are 30% more likely to divorce if they argue about money every week, as opposed to those who argue about money less frequently.

In a survey conducted by Ally Bank, 55% of Americans desire someone with a strong savings and budget approach. Not surprisingly, this preference grew proportionately with the age of the respondent. In addition, they found that 76% of survey participants said it was important to have a compatible financial philosophy. Other attractive money management traits included thriftiness, bargain hunting, and “paying as you go” strategies.

Regardless of its long-term importance, fiscal responsibility isn’t usually one of the things people look for at the beginning of a relationship. When a couple first falls in love, clearly appearance and personality play the largest roles. But as a relationship progresses, each other’s spending habits can become an important issue for serious discussion and a determinant in a couple’s level of commitment. After you’re married, the “for better or worse” vows also apply to your partner’s financial history – his or her good or bad credit rating and any debt become yours as well.

If you didn’t have this talk prior to your wedding, or if you haven’t had it yet (!), it’s not too late to make amends. A couple’s relationship can grow through any challenge, if handled properly. One way to begin is by identifying your “money personality.”

In an online assessment, you can discover which of five money personalities best describes your attitude toward finances. Here are brief descriptions of the different financial types:

1. The “Saver” who gets a high from saving money and rarely spends impulsively.

2. The “Risk Taker” who gets a thrill from risking money, regardless of the payoff or lack thereof.

3. The “Spender” who doesn’t skimp, lives in the moment, and spends freely for any convenience.

4. The “Security Seeker” who is willing to sacrifice and has a plan for the future.

5. The “Flyer” who lets others take charge and make all the financial decisions for them.

It’s easy to see how some combinations of money personalities can lead to big conflicts between couples!

Here are some tips to keep your relationship financially healthy:

1. Try to identify the financial personality that you and your partner most closely follow. It may not be one clear choice, but a combination of two.

2. Discuss financial issues early on in your relationship. Be honest about your financial background. How much debt are you in?

3. Regularly discuss your goals, both short and long term, and if following a budget, check in with each other about it often.

4. Be on the same page with your partner about money; create a financial plan and share financial goals. Planning for the future (kids’ college fund, vacations, retirement, etc.) are all important compatibility issues.

5. Realize that finances can trigger different emotions, which may be unsettling for some people. Influenced by our early experiences, money may equate to power or security for some. It’s important to have the money talk without emotions getting in the way. Stay on topic and don’t let the discussion drift into other conflictual issues with your partner.

If you need help implementing the above suggestions, you may want to consider seeking appropriate financial help from an accredited financial planner.

However, if you and your partner are having unresolvable money conflicts due to personality differences and/or communication issues, seek couples counseling early on in the process to boost the overall health of your relationship.

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