Plenty of things can cause fights in a relationship, from infidelity to a misalignment of values, but many issues boil down to a lack of trust, a lack of communication, or a blending of the two. And then, you have your finances. Money causes major stress to many of us all individually, so it makes sense that it would create strife between two people who might be splitting meals, rent, a mortgage, or the costs of a wedding or child-rearing. A new survey is shedding some light on the most common financial fights—so hopefully you can avoid them in your own relationship.
Not talking about money in a relationship is the main problem
Legal Templates surveyed 1,200 Americans, either married or divorced, to figure out how finances played into their relationships. A major problem soon revealed itself: The couples themselves frequently entered into their own unions without figuring out how finances would play in.
Nearly one in four of those surveyed didn’t discuss their salaries or their savings before getting married. Overall, 76% did discuss their salaries prior to marriage, 74% discussed savings, 58% discussed debt, 47% discussed spending habits, and only 37% discussed crypto earning or spending. Just over half discussing debt is not good—that’s bound to come up when combining finances, working out the legalities of who inherits what upon the other person’s death, or getting a mortgage.
Even though it might feel awkward, you do have to talk about money with a prospective partner. It doesn’t have to be on the first date, but eventually, you will need to share what you make, how you spend that, and how much you owe. Legal Templates found that married Americans were more likely than divorced or separated couples to have discussed all of the financial aspects listed before getting married.
To get started, here are our tips for fostering financial intimacy in a new relationship.
The other most common money fights between partners
A lack of communication is one thing, but negative interactions stemming from money are another. Among the divorced or separated Americans surveyed, 83% pointed to financial issues as a cause of the breakup. Overall, 39% of those surveyed cited overspending, while 36% focused on poor budgeting, 32% on not saving enough, 30% on secret purchases, and 29% on missed payments or bills. Poor investing led to conflict for 26%, income differences led to conflict for 25%, 24% pointed to student loans, and 23% zeroed in on dishonesty about debt.
Much of this, too, boils down to communication. You might not be able to change whether one partner makes significantly more or less than the other, but you can be open about your spending, actively avoid making secret purchases, and be honest about your debt. Other issues, like differences in spending philosophy, are more about overall compatibility—but again, you won’t know there’s even an incompatibility hiding there if you don’t talk about it.
One key takeaway here is that secret purchases were a much bigger problem for divorced or separated couples than married couples: 28% and 37%, respectively. The types of things purchased by one partner matter, too. Luxury goods caused the most conflict of anything, being cited by 33% of respondents. Clothes, eating out, travel, hobbies, alcohol, home decor, stock investments, and video games followed. Talk about your spending habits and set savings goals to work toward together.
Solutions to consider with your partner
There are fixes to these problems. Setting up a budget worked for 52% of the married people surveyed, while consulting a financial professional worked for 37%. Sharing expenses proportional to individual salaries was helpful for 34%; assigning issues to one person in the relationship worked for 33%; couples therapy worked for 33%; defining monthly spending money worked for 32%; and opening a joint account worked for 24%.
Sit down with a financial planner or couples’ counselor if you and your partner are struggling to figure out which of these strategies might work for your relationship.