By Victoria Devine
Fusing finance and relationships can be tricky – unless you’re completely aligned on every single purchase, chances are you and your partner will have money disagreements from time to time. As a financial adviser, I’ve seen hundreds of couples over the years and there are certain issues I see plaguing relationships again and again and sometimes these issues can become too much and lead to a break-up.
To help you avoid that fate, I’ve thrown together the most common issues I see when it comes to money and relationships, so you can address any potential problems when they’re in their infancy instead of when they reach the point of no return.
A difference in goals
This is an issue I see impacting young couples in particular; excitedly, they make the decision to combine their finances for the first time because they’ve moved in together, but a few months down the line they realize they have very different spending habits like one loves to splurge while the other prefers to save.
This isn’t a problem if you combine some of your finances (establishing a joint account for bills/groceries/rent) but it can be an issue if you make the decision to combine every cent from the get-go.
To avoid resentment of your partner’s spending or scrimping habits, have the conversation early on about what each of your money goals are, what you’re working towards, and create a budget that will help you reach your combined goals. If your goals are misaligned and one of you wants to travel the world while the other wants to save for a house deposit, you need to seriously ask yourself whether you’re willing to compromise or if this relationship is right for you.
Debt is something that can often carry an immense feeling of shame. People in debt tend to consider themselves as failures for falling into an unhealthy financial spot and so they may hide it from their partner not out of malice, but because they’re embarrassed. Unfortunately, the only way we can work our way out of significant amounts of debt is by pulling our head out of the sand and facing it – we need to know what we’re working with and develop a strategy to pay this debt down. If you and your partner share finances, then it’s really important that you be upfront with them as soon as possible because it’s their money too, and they have a right to know what is going on.
It sounds daunting, I know, but the longer you hide this debt away the larger it will become and the worse you will feel about it, so I really encourage you to be open and honest – I promise you will feel relieved as soon as you do.
Not allowing for financial independence
Micromanaging is a major mood kill and it’s important to remember that while we should strive to be smart with our money so we can set ourselves up for financial freedom, we also need to enjoy our lives and have fun with our money along the way. I often see couples in distress because they haven’t managed to let go of having complete financial control, and I get that – if you’ve worked really hard for your money it’s understandable that you’d want to make sure you’re not wasting it.
However, when you’ve made the decision to fuse finances, we need to adjust our thinking from “it’s my money” to “it’s our money” and give each other the space to spend without the suffocating feeling that someone is watching over our shoulder and monitoring every cent. If you feel like your partner is spending too much while you’re exerting extreme spending discipline, don’t be afraid to bring it up with them kindly, remind them of your joint goals and just keep that line of communication open!
But please note, if your partner is stepping over the line by restricting your access to your bank accounts and monitoring how you spend every cent, then this is edging into financially abusive territory and if you are in this position, then I’d urge you to get in touch with a reputable counseling and support service.
Victoria Devine is an award-winning financial adviser and founder of the podcast, She’s on the Money. Her new book She’s on the Money (published by Penguin Random House) is touted as “the ultimate millennial money guide”.