Money issues between couples cause problems in any relationship or marriage. As much as a third of
adults with partners indicate that money is a huge source of conflict with their partner. Thus it is no
surprise that financial problems are listed among the leading cause of divorce and break-up. Key to
avoiding this is understanding that it’ll be a challenge no matter the person you’re partnered with.
Here are some of the most common issues relationships face about finances:
- If you want your relationship to succeed, sit down with your partner and have a calm and honest
discussion about one another’s current financial state, along with their spending habits, financial
goals, and concerns.
- Any preconceived notions regarding control or marital roles need to be left at the door for such
discussions. Relationships work best when you and your partner are working together rather
- Should debt pose a problem, couples can utilize numerous tools and strategies to work toward
paying off debt and get a better handle on finances.
- Having children is a huge financial burden, so any couple expecting or currently with children
need to communicate their expectations and ideas about how to generate money to pay for
their expenses. It’s best to prepare for children financially before they’re born.
Should you find trouble in holding a level-headed discussion with your partner about money,
consider seeking out the help of a financial advisor or planner for impartial guidance.
Now for the common situations that many couples find themselves in when struggling with finances.
Each scenario posed below are the common situations a couple may find itself in with regard to debt
incurred during marriage or a relationship.
1) Figuring Out Mine vs. Yours vs. Ours
When facing money problems in marriage or a relationship, it’s tempting to create his and hers spending accounts. If both of you work and can’t agree on financial expenses, it may be tempting to split the bills down the middle or assign them into a fair division. Once the bills have been paid, each partner is then
allowed to spend what is left as they choose. It seems reasonable enough, but this can create a
significant amount of resentment when it comes to personal purchases made by each partner.
Additionally, dividing finances creates a separation between spending power, which basically destroys
the entire value of being in a relationship or marriage. How can one plan for long-term goals like buying
a house or putting money away toward retirement? Both partners are spending all of their money on
frivolous expenses rather than pooling funds together and creating a budget. This is one way in which
financial problems in marriage can create relationship-destroying behaviors. It often results in financial
infidelity, wherein partners try hiding money from one another.
Splitting bills additionally pushes away any planning or consensus-building about how to handle finances
should one spouse suddenly lose a job, cut back on hours, take a pay cut, try a new career, leave the
workforce to raise children, go back to school, or care for a parent. In all of these situations, the burden
then falls to one partner to carry the other. To avoid money issues between couples, you need to have a
conversation to plan for such contingencies before they even happen.
2) Handling existing or new debt
Whether it’s school loans or car loans, credit cards, gambling habits, and so on, many individuals come
with a significant amount of financial debt. Should one partner have more debt than the other, or
should one even be debt-free, this can oftentimes result in sparks flying when discussions come up
about income, spending, and debt management. Myriad effects of financial stress on marriage and
relationships can create great strain on new and long-term couples alike.
Whether you have less debt than your partner or no debt at all, take some solace in knowing that debts
brought into a marriage will stay with the person who incurred them. So if your relationship were to end
with a break-up or divorce due to financial issues in marriage, you are under no obligation to pay off
your partner’s debts. It won’t hurt your credit rating either, because debts are linked to Social Security
numbers and tracked individually. However, any debts incurred after marriage are owed by both
spouses. Debts incurred by individuals are then still owed by the individual, excepting childcare, housing,
and food, which is considered joint debt in many regions. Some states will consider any debt incurred by
either person while married as a shared debt.
3) How personality affects spending
An individual’s personality plays a tremendous role in both discussions about money and spending
habits. Even should both partners be debt free, there exists an eternal struggle between spenders and
savers, which can play out in myriad scenarios. Thus, it’s important to know what your money
personality is, as well as your partner, and then discuss these differences. Whether your wife has a
spending problem or there simply exists debt and marriage problems, you need to create an air of open
Some people happen to be natural savers, which is easily construed as being cheapskates or risk-averse.
On the other hand, some people are big spenders and prefer to make a statement, or they simply take
pleasure from shopping in stores and buying lots of stuff. On the extreme end of the spectrum, some
people rack up significant debt—oftentimes with reckless abandonment—while the other partner is a
natural investor who prefers delayed gratification for future independence. It is quite possible for an
individual to exemplify more than one of these characteristics at a given time, but typically it reverts to a
main type. But with each of these personalities, it is quite easy to create money issues in a marriage.
No matter the spending personality you or your partner most relate to, it is always best to be able to
identify bad habits and discuss them with your partner.
4) Spending money as a power play
Power plays typically happen during one of several scenarios: one partner has a paid job and the other
doesn’t; both partners want to be working, but one is unemployed; one partner earns considerably
more than the other; or one partner comes from a family with lots of money and the other doesn’t.
During each of these situations, the money earner (i.e., the one who makes or has the most money)
feels like it is their right to decree how the couple sets its spending goals. This is an easy path toward
money problems in a relationship.
While there might be some foundation behind this idea, it is imperative that couples collaborate as a
team. A joint account may offer greater transparency and access to money, but it should not be considered a solution in itself to an off-balance control/cash dynamic in a marriage. Even with a joint
account, debt and marriage can still be a problem.
5) How children affect finances
According to current statistics, it costs approximately $233,610 (on average) to raise a child to the age of
18, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Factoring in inflation, the cost rises to more tehan
$284,000. This consists of all kinds of expenses, including clothing, shelter, sports, activities, vehicles,
and even college funds. These are all part of the incredibly-lengthy list of child-related expenses one can
expect. This doesn’t even factor in expenses for children who move out after 18 (assuming your kids do
leave the nest at a reasonable age). This makes children an easy target for debt incurred during
But of course having kids isn’t just about the financial burden. One parent might have to cut their hours,
work from home, or even leave their career entirely to raise children. This in itself creates financial
issues in marriage because income is easily cut by as much as half. Couples need to address how to plan
for such changes in marriage dynamics, especially to figure out how to still plan for retirement, maintain
a good qualify of life, and so on.
6) Dealing with the expense of extended family
It’s one thing to co-manage a couple’s finances and create goals, needs, and expectations to plan for a
successful financial future. But it’s another thing entirely to factor in the needs of an extended family.
The needs of a partner’s family can significantly contribute to money issues in a marriage.
For example, your partner might have a parent that needs a new car and can’t afford one. Her lazy
brother can’t afford to pay rent. His sister’s husband lost his job and they can’t meet their bills. Suddenly
your partner is writing a check and you want to know why that money isn’t being used to address your
existing debts or fund a vacation for the both of you. Maybe your partner already has debt before
marriage from keeping their family afloat.
This even works on the other end of the spectrum. His mother will pay to fly the family home for the
holidays. Her mother will buy her a new car. His mother buys the kids excessive gifts and her mother
can’t compete with that level of spending. The difficulties of extended family can cause marriage
Handling money problems in a relationship
As has been the general theme with each money issue posed, the best way to handle money issues
between couples is to have clear and concise communication. Each partner must be able to honestly
express their prospects, expectations, ambitions, and anxieties with regard to finances. Every couple
needs to practice showing empathy and have enough maturity to leave their egos outside the
discussion. A couple cannot succeed when there exists a constant struggle for power between partners.
Certainly it’s easier said than done. Many couples never get it right, but that doesn’t mean they can’t
achieve some level of success by implementing certain practices to address the problem of marrying
someone with debt.
Dealing with debt is the first problem that should be addressed between partners. If you’re on the road
to marriage, you’ll want to know what you’re getting yourself into first. And if you’re already in a marriage with someone, then it’s important to address how to get out of debt. Both partners need to have an honest and judgement-free discussion about bad spending or financial habits that need to be addressed and removed. Couples should also account for all debts and apply common payoff strategies,
such as addressing the higher-interest debts free or paying off small loans and snowballing payments
toward subsequent debts.
Treating debt with counseling
Financial debt doesn’t need to rip a relationship apart. You and your partner can adopt numerous
strategies to ensure that you save money and quickly pay off debts, thus addressing debt and marriage
Take a couples or single assessment
One of the main ways to help a loved one realize that they need to seek out help in salvaging your
relationship due to bad spending habits is by getting them to take a relationship assessment. This helps
to point out problems and strengths in the relationship. Our Couples assessment gives people the
opportunity to take inventory of your entire relationship and identify problem points that may
contribute to current financial burdens. You can then use the results of this assessment to explore how
both you and your partner scored yourselves and each other.
Simply fill out the questionnaire by truthfully scoring yourself and your partner on all aspects of the
relationship. Remember the truthful part, because that is critical for addressing problem areas and
helping a relationship to succeed.
Encourage your partner to see a therapist or try couples therapy
Once you’ve completed the assessment, you can sit down with your partner and examine the results to
identify relationship problems and discuss the possibility of couples therapy. If you and your partner
want to address financial debts and avoid a break-up or divorce, make this into an honest discussion.
But if you can’t simply discuss the assessment results, that’s where therapy comes into the equation.
With the results of your assessment in-hand, you can approach any counselor with evidence of
relationship problems you are encountering. A licensed processional can then use this during counseling
sessions to help address the issues flagged by the affair.
When you care for someone that is struggling with money, it’s too easy to try and address their
problems by acting like a therapist yourself. It might seem helpful to give them someone to talk to and
maybe even “vent.” But the problem is that you’re not a therapist. Trying to play that role while also
being supportive of your partner can become quite draining and may even make you resent your
partner. You aren’t responsible for being a therapist. But you can help encourage your partner to seek
Gently guide them toward working with a therapist. This can drastically help improve how they deal
with spending problems.
Try therapy yourself
Regardless of whether your partner agrees to or resists the suggestion of attending therapy, you should
still try it yourself. Such an effort will help you to develop the skills necessary to understand the signs of stress in a relationship that might be contributing to their spending habits. Therapists can also teach you
how to effectively support your partner without controlling them. Simply take the results of your
partner’s assessment with you and your counselor will tailor each session to giving you the tools to help your relationship succeed.
When dealing with marrying someone with debt and bad credit, help seems difficult to find. But it’s of critical importance that you take care of yourself. Going to therapy gives you the opportunity to also focus on your own mental health.