Money is a tricky subject at the best of times, but can be even more challenging when you’re in a relationship.
In fact, one in five (21%) of Brits have had a relationship break down due to financial misunderstandings, a new study has found.
A further 14% have divorced their partners due to difficulties that have stemmed from a lack of financial understanding, the study from credit management company Lowell unearthed.
Not discussing debt was found to be the biggest misunderstanding for couples, and 41% of respondents said they had lost sleep due to stress from money problems.
“There's a reason why money issues are so commonly cited as a reason to divorce,” dating coach Hayley Quinn says.
“Whether we like it or not, money – or lack of it really impacts our romantic relationships. Money facilitates a lot of freedom, without it you may feel short changed if you can never go on holiday, or afford to pay for childcare. The increasing strain that this lack of leisure time puts on romantic relationships can cause resentment to simmer.”
Quinn adds that resentment can also begin if one partner earns more than the other and feels their contribution to the household is far greater.
“Money can also keep unhappy couples together who are simply unable to afford the increase in living costs that comes from being separated,” she adds.
The study found that an application to divorce costs £593 alone, and the average total cost to divorce is £14,561.
Relationship expert and founder of Wingman dating app, Tina Wilson, says that one of the main reasons money can cause an issue in a relationship is when one party is dishonest and tries to hide money issues – be it “frivolous spending or debt”.
“It can cause a lack of respect, a power struggle and self-doubt,” she adds. “If one party is consciously causing the issues then they may also feel shame, guilt and anger at themselves as well as their parter who could be seen as trying to provoke drama.
“Money issues amongst couples is one of the biggest causes of conflict – from minor to severe issues – minor being who is paying a bill, discussion around having a joint bank account to overspending ‘shared’ money without checking that both parties agree.”
Why can it be difficult to discuss money with your partner?
Whether you’ve been together for two or 20 years, money is always one of the more touchy subjects in any relationship.
“Most couples are conscious that money can cause tension and disagreements so some in fact avoid talking about it, which can only make matters worse in the long run,” Wilson explains.
“Age is also a factor as the older generation can still have ingrained ideas that they must be the breadwinner, especially on the male side. This can be a difficult discussion for some. Relationships change, jobs change, so talking about money and budgets may not be very sexy but will stop issues in the future.”
Quinn thinks the taboo subject of openly discussing money in the UK contributes to why some couples find financial conversations difficult – but says that a healthy relationship should have transparency around finances.
“There are many financial goals in life which (perhaps unfairly) are more easily tackled as a dual income household,” she adds. “Likewise, understanding your partner's finances may also help you both to make important decisions (in regards to children or employment, for example) together.”
What is the best way to approach discussing money with your partner?
Wilson recommends being open and honest with your partner about finances. “Any problems, expectations, and your financial desires, must be communicated honestly, so you are both on the same page,” she advises.
Quinn suggests starting a shared spreadsheet or a savings tracker to understand how you can both utilise your incomes to reach your financial goals.
“Just remember that even if one partner earns significantly more than the other, that both partners ultimately always bring something to the relationship,” she adds.
“Avoid belittling your partner around money. If you're unsure about them as a partner overall, or feel unsafe due to their attitude towards money, then take some time to consider whether this is the right relationship for you, rather than using that information as emotional leverage.”
How can you best ensure that money issues don’t lead to arguments?
“Disclose everything at the start of your relationship so there are no surprises down the track,” Wilson says.
“If your partner has something to off load try not to judge and be supportive – fix the issue together as a team. Talk about your joint goals in life and how you can be realistic about this.”
She adds that it can be productive to sit down and go through your outgoings together so that you both have a clear idea of what you’re spending your money on.
“Sometimes arguments can start from feeling like one of you is in the dark, so if you avoid this, you will find it will reduce the uncertainty,” she explains.
Quinn says it’s best to be pragmatic and transparent when it comes to money and financial discussions – but to also be realistic.
“While social media may make it seem like everyone else is financially set, in reality most people have to budget for big financial goals,” she adds.
She also recommends being grateful for your partner and to show this. “Focus on what your partner does bring to the relationship, even if it's not all financial.”
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