Couples argue and end up going their separate ways for many different reasons. But money is one of the most common sources of friction. More than one-third of adults who have relationship stress said finances are the primary cause, more so than annoying habits, according to a survey by SunTrust Bank.
That’s right: Your approach to finances — spending, in particular — could be ruining your relationship. So if you think he (or she) is just not that into you anymore, maybe he’s just not that into your spending habits.
1. You Spend Too Much
A recent GOBankingRates survey found that the top financial deal breaker in a relationship is overspending. The conflict often arises when one partner thinks the other is spending money on something that isn’t of value and feels that spending is taking away from a joint goal, said Renee Hanson, a private wealth advisor with Ameriprise Financial.
The key to preventing overspending from ruining your relationship is communication, Hanson said. Create a spending plan that covers your needs as a couple. Then, make decisions jointly about things you want that aren’t part of the spending plan, she said.
2. You Hide Your Spending
You might think you’re avoiding conflict with your partner by hiding your spending, but you could be creating bigger problems. For many people, being secretive about finances is almost as big of a financial deal breaker in relationships as overspending, found the GOBankingRates survey.
To avoid causing a rift in your relationship, you need to talk openly about your finances with your significant other so he or she can trust you. But, it’s OK if you still want to maintain some financial independence.
“Everyone should have their own money they don’t have to account for — a ‘fun’ account they don’t have to explain,” said Emma Johnson, a veteran finance journalist who blogs at WealthySingleMommy.com for professional single moms. Just make sure it’s an agreed-upon amount if you and your partner have combined finances.
3. You Have a Lot of Debt
About 33 percent of those surveyed by GOBankingRates said that having too much debt is at least one of their financial deal breakers in a relationship. However, experts say it’s usually not the dollar amount of debt that’s the deal breaker. “It’s the behavior that created the debt that’s the deal breaker,” said Hanson.
Your significant other might be worried that if you can’t control the spending that caused you to be in debt, you won’t ever get out of debt — which will prevent you from achieving your joint financial goals. So, you have to be willing to change that behavior to preserve your relationship, Hanson said. And, come up with a plan to pay off your debt.
4. You’re Too Cheap
It’s not always overspending that can ruin a relationship. Sometimes, not spending enough on your significant other — whether it be gifts, travel and other "fun" things to do as a couple — can be the deal breaker. Nearly 20 percent of those surveyed by GOBankingRates said that being too cheap is at least one of their biggest financial deal breakers.
If your tightwad ways are creating a problem in your relationship, you should have a conversation with your partner about why you’re reluctant to spend, Hanson said. Discuss your money story — what finances were like in your family — and your partner’s so you understand how your background affects your mindset. Then, agree on an amount to spend on "fun" each month.
5. You Have Poor Credit
If your credit score is low because of your spending habits, it might be doing more than just hurting your ability to get a loan — it might be hurting your relationship. Of those surveyed by GOBankingRates, about 18 percent said that poor credit is one of their biggest financial deal breakers in a relationship. And a Federal Reserve Board study found that the greater the difference in credit scores between two partners, the greater the likelihood that they’ll separate.
“Plenty of people have gotten dumped by a girl- or boyfriend who doesn't want to get tangled in this mess,” Johnson said. So if you have a lousy credit history, you should explain to your significant other why, she said. Then take steps — such as paying down debt and making on-time payments — to boost your score.
6. You Try to Rationalize Your Unnecessary Purchases
Your purchases might make perfect sense to you, but your significant other might see a flaw in your reasoning. For example, you might convince yourself you need a new car because the window isn’t working, so you buy one. This sort of thinking can lead to overspending and debt, and can put a strain on a relationship, Hanson said.
The key to preventing conflict is to agree to make purchasing decisions with your partner and evaluate all the options, Hanson said. So if the car window breaks, talk to your partner. He or she might suggest repairing it rather than shelling out a lot more for a new vehicle.
7. You Earn Less Than Your Partner
Nearly 14 percent of those polled by GOBankingRates cited "doesn't make enough money" as at least one of their financial relationship deal breakers. “The imbalance of income often leads to a division of control,” Hanson said. “The person who makes more feels like they’re more in power to make decisions. The other person feels like less of a decision maker."
Furthermore, if your paycheck is smaller than your partner's, you might not be able to afford to spend as much as he or she does on the things you do as a couple or on joint expenses. Trying to spend as much as your partner could lead to more financial issues, such as debt, which could eventually lead to a breakup.
You can prevent future arguments by coming up with a budget that should be spent on joint activities. For example, say you and your partner want to take an annual trip. Instead of spending $2,000 total to go out of the country because your partner can afford his (or her) half, agree to spend only a few hundred dollars total on a staycation so that you're still within your budget.
8. You Spend Rather Than Save for the Future
If your spending is out of control, your significant other might feel like you’re only living for today and aren’t doing anything to prepare for the future. “If there isn’t a future, you wonder what you’re working together for,” Hanson said. “It crumbles the foundation.”
The secret to securing a future together while maintaining your current standard of living is having shared goals with your partner. Hanson recommends creating a written plan of how you and your partner intend to spend and save money. Writing down your goals will lead to awareness and self-accountability, she said.
9. You Spend More on Other People
Maybe you're a giving person who often picks up the tab for your friends when you go out, buys nice gifts for family members or donates frequently to charitable causes. But, there’s no money left over to treat your sweetie.
It’s OK to be generous — just make sure your significant other is on the receiving end of your generosity, too. Otherwise, jealousy and conflicts could arise. Take the time to figure out how much you’re shelling out on others, then create a budget that trims that spending so you’ll have enough cash to indulge your partner from time to time.
10. You Spoil Your Kids
Whether you’re indulging the children you have with your significant other or children from a previous relationship, that spending could be putting a strain on your relationship. Your partner might feel that your spending on the kids is taking away from your quality of life as a couple, Hanson said.
To avoid conflict, you should have a conversation about spending on the kids. Agree on an amount that’s acceptable to both of you and doesn’t jeopardize reaching other financial goals, such as paying off debt, buying a house together or saving for retirement.
11. You Can’t Afford to Take the Next Step
Your spending habits might be preventing you from taking the next step in your relationship, like being able to pay for a wedding, buy a house or have kids. So, your significant other might be thinking about stepping away from the relationship entirely.
Have an open conversation about where you stand financially as a couple rather than avoiding the topic so it doesn’t erupt into an argument. In fact, a TD Bank survey found that couples who regularly talk about money are happier in their relationships than those who discuss it less frequently. Once you and your significant other have that conversation, you can then set goals and create a plan to reach those goals — together.