In 1964 The Beatles sang, “I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love.” And while it’s still true today that love is, indeed, something money can’t buy, when two people in love form a partnership, money is always part of the equation. Love and money are intertwined in often complex and confusing ways in a relationship.
If everything is going great, both romantically and financially, a couple might have the luxury to not worry and obsess over their finances and will likely not find themselves discussing financial matters ad nauseam. But most Americans don’t have that luxury.
“Finances are the leading cause of stress in a relationship, according to a survey of people in a relationship or partnership, reported CNBC. Some 35 percent of all respondents experiencing relationship stress said money was the primary cause of friction. (Annoying habits came in second, at 25 percent.)”
In other words, for most couples, money is often a major point of contention. Stress is a normal experience in any relationship. When that relationship is healthy and the couple is communicating they are able to weather the stress and withstand it. But when things get rocky between two people stress becomes a big problem. Once a relationship begins to break down, financial problems are sure to be magnified.
This is why it’s so important for couples to have financial discussions early on in the relationship and keep open their communication about money.
According to author and clinical psychologist Andrea Bonior, “Couples who don’t talk about money in an honest and respectful way often set themselves up for disaster.”
If you don’t start discussing financial issues until there are problems in the relationship or your finances, chances are good that emotion will clash with logic preventing prudent behavior and wise decisions. Arguing about money is not the same as talking about it.
Make a financial plan with your partner and keep updating it throughout your partnership. Understand each others money management styles and attitudes toward money. Don’t assume that you and your partner have the same ideas and practices. Assumption is not a good foundation for long term financial planning.
The older a couple is, the more likely it is that they are contending with more complex financial matters than they had to deal with when younger. This is likely why CNBC found that, “Among [survey] respondents with relationship stress aged 44 to 54, 44 percent said money was the primary cause.”
The longer a couple is together the more intertwined their finances become and the more complex those finances often are. For example, a newly married couple might rent an apartment in their 20s, buy a house in their 30s, have various savings and retirement accounts by the time they are in their 40s, be making plans for retirement in their 50s or 60s. A couple with children will likely have even more complex finances due to the cost of raising children, including college saving accounts and college tuition.
Being open and honest about finances and planning ahead will save you some stress on your relationship and contribute to a happier, healthier partnership. In fact, if a relationship does not last, that openness and honesty about finances could make divorce a little less painful for you, your spouse, and your family.