How Money Can Affect Relationships: Both Negative and Positive

How Money Can Affect Relationships

We all know how money can affect relationships negatively. After all it’s one of the most common things that couples argue about. However, have you ever thought about how money can affect relationships in positive ways? Whether for good or bad, communication is the key to dealing with money in your marriage or primary relationship.

How Money Can Affect Relationships Negatively

Money is one of the biggest sources of conflict in most marriages. Even before you get married (if you choose to do so), money can rear its ugly head in your relationship. Here are just a few of the most common ways how money can affect relationships negatively:

  • When one of you out-earns the other, it can lead to feelings associated with a sense of power imbalance. This can also relate to strain over ingrained beliefs about gender roles in the home.
  • One of you has significantly more debt than the other which creates arguments. Similarly, if you have different viewpoints about how to deal with debt, then you could end up resenting one another.
  • You have different money personalities. For example, one is a spender and the other a saver. If you don’t respect each other’s approaches, then you could have a problem.
  • If you haven’t discussed your long-term goals then you might not be on the same page financially. This can show up in arguments over day-to-day spending.

Money is rarely just about money. People come to the topic with a lot of emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Many of these things have less to do with money and more to do with beliefs about career, identity, family, power, security, and love. If you’re not discussing the underlying issues, then you can end up fighting about money. Since money isn’t the true issue, the problem is never resolved.

How Money Can Affect Relationships Positively

It’s easy to become afraid of dealing with money in your marriage. However, it helps if you think about how money can affect relationships positively. If you have open, authentic communication, respect one another, and are willing to compromise, then money can actually be the source of some beautiful things in your relationship.

For example, one of you may become physically or mentally ill and thus unable to work. This could add up to a lot of medical debt as well. If you approach this setback in a healthy way, then it can be a period that strengthens your relationship.

The spouse that is able to carry the couple financially during this time may feel like they have a small bit of control during a scary time. The spouse that is ill may experience a kind of relief that gives them space to heal. It’s not an easy time, but it doesn’t have to be one in which money is the enemy.

It’s All About Communication

There are several similar scenarios that have the potential to be negative but could also be positive for your relationship. More than anything else, though, you can work together to use the vehicle of money as the starting point to discuss those deeper issues. If you recognize that it’s not really about money, then you can dig into the deeper emotions and issues at the core of the problem.

For example, let’s say that you’re fighting about one person working while the other is a stay-at-home parent. You fight about the lack of money or how money is spent. Underlying issues might include:

  • Fears by the stay-at-home parent that they aren’t doing enough to support the home
  • The stay-at-home parents feelings of losing their financial autonomy and what that means about their identity and life options
  • Hesitation by the stay-at-home parent to express times they’re dissatisfied with staying home because they’re “lucky” not to have to work
  • Fear by the working parent that the children are closer with the other parent
  • Resentment by the working parent that they have to be at work all day
  • Emotions about the power dynamic that might relate back to childhood issues

Those are just a few of the things that might be unsaid when fighting about money. If you can discuss money practically and respectfully, then you can make space to deal with those other issues. It’s all about communication. The more you learn to talk about money with each other, the more ways you’ll see how money can affect relationships positively.

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Is Your Marriage at Risk of Financial Infidelity?

financial infidelity

More and more marriages are ending in divorce due to financial infidelity. Although the phrase is new, the problem isn’t. Couples have always fought about finances. Money issues are one of the leading reasons for divorce. It’s just the language that’s new. However, this new language is powerful. Could your marriage be at risk?

What is Financial Infidelity?

Of course, infidelity means that you are cheating on your spouse. Therefore, financial infidelity means that you’re cheating on your spouse with money. Of course, you aren’t having an affair with money. So then what is financial infidelity? Put simply, it means that you’re lying to partner about something related to your shared finances.

Examples of Financial Infidelity

Right now I’m reading Kathy Curto’s memoir Not for Nothing. She shares little vignettes about her mid-century childhood. Her father worked. Her mother was a housewife. Their relationship was tumultuous. In one vignette, Curto shares several ways that her mother squirrels money away. For example, she writes a check at the grocery store for more than the amount of groceries. She tells her husband she spent it all on groceries but keeps the cash back for herself.

Likewise, I know many women in the crafting community who don’t tell their husbands when they buy more craft supplies. It would cause a fight. They don’t want to deal with the fight. So they spend the money, hide their “stash” and never mention it to their spouse. These types of things are common. And yet, they are examples of financial infidelity.

What’s the Line? Do You Have to Tell Your Spouse Everything?

As with the other kind of infidelity, just what falls into the category of financial infidelity depends upon the boundaries of your relationship. Think of it this way: some couples think it’s okay to kiss someone else but not to go any further whereas other couples would consider this cheating. Likewise, what a couple considers a lie about money varies from relationship to relationship.

There’s also the issue of an outright lie vs. a lie of omission. You get an expensive new haircut. Your partner never asks about it. Is it financial cheating for you never to bring it up? That depends upon the unique agreements in your own marriage. These agreements may vary depending on all types of factors including:

  • Whether or not you both have jobs
  • If there’s a significant pay difference between your jobs
  • Whether all of your accounts are joint accounts or you keep some money separate
  • If you both do financial paperwork or only one of you handles it

Ultimately, it’s not the specific details that matter. Instead, what matters is that you and your partner set financial boundaries. You have to discuss them. You have to get on the same page. Then, you have to stick to the agreements that you’ve made. Otherwise, you’re at risk of committing financial infidelity.

Problematic Types of Financial Infidelity

Although each couple must set their own boundaries around financial infidelity, there are some common types that tend to wreak havoc in a marriage. First of all, if you agree to certain boundaries then lie about behavior that crosses those boundaries, you’re committing financial infidelity.

Additionally, if you place your partner at financial risk without their knowledge, then you’re committing financial infidelity. What this looks like can vary from relationship to relationship. For example, if you have agreed to each have your own separate credit cards, then it’s not infidelity to run your debt up without telling your partner. That’s what you’ve agreed to. However, if you’ve agreed to limit your debt then you run up credit card loans without their knowledge, that’s financial infidelity.

Broadly speaking, if you’re lying about or hiding any of your earning, spending, or saving then you’re marriage is at risk of financial infidelity.

Signs of Financial Infidelity

Perhaps you’re worried that your partner is committing financial infidelity. Here are some common warning signs:

  • They shut down any conversation about money.
  • You frequently see credit card expenses they won’t explain. Alternatively, their explanations don’t make sense.
  • When you go to use a credit card, it gets declined. It’s over limit or you have been removed from a joint account without your permission.
  • Your partner has changed their passwords to online financial accounts. They won’t share the new password.
  • It’s baffling to you where your partner has gotten the money to afford large new expenses.

If you are worried about financial infidelity, then you might want to seek help. There are therapists who are trained to help couples with money matters. Or you might just start with an open, honest conversation about setting some financial boundaries and see where that takes you.

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Financial Tips for Live-in Couples

Financial Tips for Couples

Financial Tips for Couples


Just because you don’t have a marriage license together doesn’t mean you do not need financial tips as a couple.

When you make the exciting (yet scary) decision to move in with your partner, it needs to be about more than just sharing a home; it needs to be about sharing your financial goals as well.

Deciding to co-exist with your significant other in one space is a big step in the relationship, which is why money needs to be a topic of discussion before knowing where the couch is going to be located in the living room.

Financial tips for couples can be missed among all the other advice being provided by friends and family on how to keep the love alive in a long-term relationship or what to expect when cohabitating. But, here are some simple things to consider as you begin to move forward together:

Be transparent about your finances. 

Don’t wait until after a marriage proposal or, worse, after the wedding to discuss your finances with one another. If you want to build a long-lasting healthy relationship, you should talk about your debts, financial goals, savings, assets and the like so that you can start things off on the same page. You may want to go as far as sharing your credit score. This is often needed prior to renting a home or apartment anyway.

Take care of your own debts. 

Unless discussed for special circumstances or confirmed future goals, you should strive to always cover your own debts. Having your partner cover the costs of your financial obligations can cause some serious issues. Have you ever heard that money is one of the biggest causes of break-ups? That statement exists for a reason. Discuss your monetary goals with one another but also create your own together. This can help to determine when it would be necessary to help cover debts in the relationship that aren’t yours.

Know how the household expenses will be split. 

Being aware of one another’s income and debts will also be helpful in knowing whether a certain space is right for you as a couple. If there is concern there may be resentment if one is paying more than the other, choose another space that won’t put a strain on anyone’s bank account. If actually purchasing a home together, be sure to put both of your names on everything so that responsibility does not fall all on one or the other in the relationship just in case a break-up were to occur.

Because my boyfriend and I are only leasing an apartment, we found what would be easiest for us would be for him to pay the rent and I would cover the household bills. Over the last three years of living together, we have worked hard at really building a team setting.. If we need groceries and he is out and about, he will pick them up. We do, though, tend to go together so that we can split this cost 50/50. Our house is not just somewhere we sleep at night; it’s our home that we’ve built together, even if it is a lease.

Overall, it is all about maintaining that open communication and applying financial tips that make sense for you and your relationship.

Are you taking that big step with your partner? What challenges have you faced or overcome financially together?