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Money in a Relationship and its Effect on Romantic Dynamics

by Jeannie Assimos - November 22, 2023

It may seem like a somewhat trivial notion when you first start dating, but the issue of money in a relationship can start to become a more pressing issue as you decide to move in together, share costs and generally begin building a life together. A survey from Royal London found that money is the most common source of arguments in couples at 62%1.

But are finances in a marriage or long-term relationship really that important and what are some healthy ways to approach the topic? We explore the issue. 

Finances in a marriage or relationship and how it can affect it

The important thing to remember is financial compatibility can come up at any time in a relationship, even in the early dating days. When one of you can afford to go on more luxurious or expensive weekend dates it can create tension, particularly if one party is always making up for it and carrying the financial load. This can create a negative shift in your relationship power dynamic and affect some people’s self-worth in it, which can be difficult to reconcile.

Money in a relationship and how much you can collectively contribute can also have a large impact on your shared plans for the future. One of you may be planning to buy a house someday, have multiple children and set up a comfortable nest for your retirement, for instance, and your current shared finances in a marriage may be making those goals more unlikely. This can lead to relationship tension as you struggle to align your goals with practical realities.

However, financial compatibility isn’t always just about being on a similar financial footing or having similar earning potential but also about how you each approach money in a relationship. If one side of the couple is more interested in immediate gratification and impulse purchases when approaching their finances while the other is steadfastly saving and investing toward their shared future, this can create a lot of discord and resentment, especially down the line. A healthy relationship is both an emotional and financial investment and when one person isn’t carrying their weight, it can be a definitive dealbreaker.

How to talk about money in a relationship

There are many healthy ways to approach and work through the topic of a couple’s finances. Communication is key in getting past these issues so let’s look at some healthy ways to talk about money while in a marriage or growing relationship.

Be transparent about your finances in a marriage or relationship

Insecurity in a relationship can often lead us to fudge our financial status to pump ourselves up a bit. But honesty is not only the best policy as your lives begin to merge, it’s the only policy. So be upfront about what you earn, what your expenses are and, most crucially, any existing debts you have.

Mutually establish a spending a savings plan

Sometimes you just have to recognize that one of you is the more financially responsible one in the relationship and let them help. Finances in a marriage or long-term relationship are about achieving mutual goals so while you don’t have to give up your entire income you should agree on how to contribute to a joint savings plan and avoid unnecessary spending.

Discuss the future you envision building together

Creating a solid idea of what you want to achieve together and the life you envision living. How much savings and financing options will it take to achieve those dreams? Can you realistically achieve them? If not, you need to adjust or come up with achievable ways to develop your finances and career to meet these goals.  

Money in a relationship is an uncomfortable topic so try to stay calm and understanding

When there’s a wealth imbalance or one part of the couple is more frivolous with their spending, talking about finances can be a difficult topic to broach. People get defensive about money so it’s important to start the conversation in a calm, agreeable setting and to be open to their perspective of the situation.

Be assertive in your views

While it’s important to be flexible and understanding when talking about your shared finances in a marriage or relationship, remember you also brought up the topic for a reason. Don’t lose sight of the central issue you wanted to address about your finances just for the sake of harmony. The longer you let it stew, the deeper the issue will become. 

Make talking about money a casual and regular thing

A very important component of a healthy relationship is a rational view toward money in a relationship. So rather than making it the subject of an argument or a long overdue exploration of your status, talk about your finances openly and regularly. This will make it a more common and comfortable feature of your interactions.

Some tips for dealing with money is a relationship in a healthy way

So, before we end off, let’s just look at some practical everyday tips you can follow to set up a healthy financial situation within your relationship or marriage. 

  • If one of you is the primary breadwinner and the other the house partner, it’s also important to value what they bring to the relationship, particularly as they handle most of the household issues. An allowance may also be a respectful contribution in this regard.
  • Consider the idea of keeping some of your finances separate. This isn’t just a contingency if you break up but can also help you both feel a sense of budgeting, independence and agency in the relationship.
  • But also combine your incomes on a set budget so you can achieve your relationship goals quicker.
  • Decide on who should pay what household bills but make sure it’s also equitable and proportional.
  • If one of you is in debt, hold off joining finances for liability issues and rather come up with a joint plan to deal with the existing creditors.
  • Mutually agree on large purchases before making them and always be transparent about your spending.

As long as you both stay a team throughout the process by making constructive and rational financial choices together as you go along, there’s no reason you can’t achieve financial compatibility in your relationship, achieve your lifestyle goals, and ultimately grow closer as a couple through it.    

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