5 Most Common Money Arguments — And How To Resolve Them

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Money can be a touchy subject — even with your spouse. Lately, the two of you have been arguing about the same financial issues, and you’re not sure how to work through them.

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Thankfully, you are far from alone on this issue as money is a common source of arguments between couples. However, it’s important to find a resolution that pleases both of you before it becomes an even bigger issue.

“This is such an important topic, given money is always at the top of the reasons for divorce,” said Sharon Gilchrest O’Neill, Ed.S., a licensed marriage and family therapist. “Money can trigger [a] myriad [of] conflicts and serious arguments that often bring couples to marriage therapy and/or finance managers.”

Ready to get to work? Several therapists have weighed in on the five most common money arguments they see in their practices and offered tips to resolve these issues.

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Spending Habits

When you were single, you spent money on whatever you wanted, whenever you wanted. However, now that you’re sharing a bank account, you need to get on the same page with your partner regarding spending habits.

It’s your money, but you’re sharing it with your partner, so Gilchrest O’Neill said couples commonly argue over how much one person can spend without consulting the other one. Unfortunately, she said this is typically only debated after several spending issues have already occurred.

“I always urge partners to set an amount that means they have to check in with their partner and discuss,” she said. “I have seen anything from $50 to $250.”

Aja Evans, a licensed mental health counselor based in New York City and a financial therapist for Laurel Road, emphasized the importance of opening your mind for a judgment-free conversation with your partner about each of your values in regards to spending.

She suggested asking the other person the questions, “What is important to you?” and “What do you want to spend money on?”

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After hearing their responses, she said you’ll need to decide how each person can prioritize their values in their everyday life. She said this might involve treating themselves once a month, only spending up to a certain amount or designating a specific account they can spend freely from.

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Financial Infidelity

Occurring when a person hides or omits certain money decisions, Evans said a few examples of financial infidelity include hiding something you purchased, having secret accounts — or credit cards — or not disclosing debt.

“Honesty and communication are [the] key to healthy relationships,” she said. “If everyone feels safe and committed to moving forward together, it’s best to sit down and discuss what’s behind the desire to hide, if you are worried about judgment and whether you’re holding onto past emotions from previous experiences.”

Salary Differences

In most cases, one partner inevitably earns a higher salary than the other, said Sam Nabil, CEO and lead therapist at Naya Clinics.

“This becomes a problem when salary is related to power in the relationship or thinking they have the right hand when it comes to financial decisions,” he said. “The best approach is to discuss which financial decisions should be prioritized, so you are both on the same page.”

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Regardless of who earns more, he said being in agreement regarding spending is a must.

Hesitancy Over a Shared Bank Account

When couples get married, move in together or otherwise combine their lives in a major way, opening a joint bank account is a standard practice. However, Nabil said it’s not uncommon for one partner to resist taking this step, which can cause problems.

“Most of the time, people fail to realize that this is an issue that stems from distrust and probably commitment issues,” he said. “Instead of clashing and pushing what you think is best for your relationship, try asking for advice from a professional financial advisor, so there is an objective perspective.”

He recommended trying to find common ground about the extent you would know about each other’s expenses. If a shared bank account isn’t an option — at least right now — he said you might try other avenues, such as maintaining a shared document to keep track of individual expenses.

Credit Card Use

Since credit card use is often associated with debt, Nabil said it’s regularly a contentious topic among couples. If your partner brought credit card debt to the relationship, he said it’s important to get to the root of their spending — i.e., was it necessary or frivolous — before assuming the worst.

“Avoid judging the other, as it does not help in conflicts at all, and try to proactively arrive at a decision together on how to pay it down,” he said. “The mindset you should have is that you and your partner are now a team and even if you don’t agree at all times, supporting each other must take precedence over financial differences.”

Ultimately, Gilchrest O’Neill said it’s important for couples to be honest with one another and open to each other’s need for change.

“For the most part, it is always best if both partners are involved with their money — even if one is only reviewing all the accounts on a regular basis and the other does most of the labor.”

If you feel like your relationship is falling apart due to money issues, she recommended finding a marriage therapist to work with together.

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About the Author

Jennifer Taylor is a West Coast-based freelance writer with more than a decade of experience writing about anything and everything. Since earning her MBA, personal finance has been her favorite topic, as she’s passionate about writing stories that educate, inform and empower. Specifically, she specializes in budgeting, debt repayment, savings and retirement.
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