Money and Relationships: The Long-term Forecast

The sun is shining. Birds are singing. Flowers are sprouting. And something other than the wind chill is in the air. It’s warm and refreshing. It’s new and exciting. It’s love! Spring is often endearingly (and even scientifically) referred to as the season of love. It’s a time when many couples catch “the fever” and unite in a natural, free-flowing expression of affection, often without a care in the world.

Inevitably, though, seasons change, temperatures drop and the reality of every day life settles in. That’s when a common mood killer can creep up and put a damper on that lovin’ feelin’. And that culprit is (drum roll please) money!

Till debt do us part

According to most surveys on the topic, money is one of the leading causes of conflict in relationships. Ramsey Solutions reports that money fights are the second leading cause of divorce. The larger a couple’s debt, the more likely they are to argue about money. The study goes on to say that couples today are twice as likely to start off their marriages in debt when compared to previous generations. More specifically, 86% of couples married in the last five years began their marriages while their finances were in the red.

So why do money matters pose such an enormous roadblock to relationships? Many believe people are naturally hardwired to consider money to be essential to survival. Thus, having opposing financial views can feel very threatening. This is further amplified by the fact that nearly 73% of individuals have money management styles that are different from their partner’s.

Rivalling money mindsets and innate emotional impulses can make for a volatile combination, especially when other factors are added to the mix: my debt, your debt, our debt, and – a big one – financial infidelity (i.e. secret spending).

For richer or poorer

So what’s a couple to do? While the latest statistics may seem a bit dire, there are proactive steps couples can take to keep their relationships alive, their spending in check and their bank accounts thriving:

  • Start talking. If you’re a spender and your partner is a saver (or vice versa) getting on the same financial page can be challenging. But experts agree that beginning an open, honest financial dialogue (and keeping that conversation going) is a big step in helping understand your current situation and setting future goals.
  • Create a plan. Once you and your partner start to recognize and appreciate each other’s financial personalities, you can begin to create a plan and budget that works for you. Working together is a great way to curb financial anxiety, while nurturing a healthier and more communicative relationship.
  • Be financially faithful. Once you’ve created a plan, stick with it. One in three people confess they have hid a purchase or kept a financial secret from their partner. When you’re working on building financial trust, it’s best to tell the truth and be accountable.
  • If you can’t do it alone, ask for help. Recognizing and asking for expert help is a courageous way of taking proactive steps towards a more financially stable future and a more harmonious relationship.

If there’s one thing we know for certain (particularly in Alberta), is that the seasons will change. Spring will not last forever. But with communication, proactivity, honesty, planning (and perhaps with expert guidance), your relationship will have a stronger chance of withstanding any storms that might be in the forecast.