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Financial Disagreements With Your Partner: How to Handle Them

Angela Mae Updated: July 26, 2023 • 4 min read
Personal finances in a relationship

Money is a leading cause of stress and tension in many households. In fact, a recent study found that roughly 41% of couples attribute most of their fights to topics related to their personal finances. Left unchecked, these financial disagreements can lead to bigger relationship problems and, in some cases, divorce. If you and your partner frequently find yourselves fighting about money, Here are things you can do to get on the same page, resolve financing conflicts, and build a stronger, more harmonious relationship.

Having and achieving shared financial goals can be rewarding for both you and your partner.

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Common Causes of Money Conflict

Finances in a relationship require open communication, understanding, and patience. You can build greater empathy and improve your relationship as a whole by listening to your partner, especially if they're stressed about money or dealing with other financial issues. But even the most empathetic couples can still end up fighting about money. You might not always be able to recognize the cause of the disagreement, but there are several common triggers that lead to money conflicts. Here are the main ones, according to the Financial Psychology Center and CBS News:

Budgeting issues: The challenge of sharing finances with someone else can be challenging, especially when one party wishes to set a strict budget while the other wants a more flexible budget. Having no control over your money can lead to conflict. Talk to your partner about your concerns and reach a compromise.

Lower earnings at work: A partner's income can affect their self-worth. It can also cause problems or create a power imbalance if they feel they are not doing as well as their partner at work. Your worth is not determined by how much you earn.

Family finances: Financial windfalls – like inheritances – could also disrupt the household dynamic if one partner suddenly becomes wealthy. Family-related triggers include births, marriages, and major life events. Set some boundaries and financial goals with your partner and discuss such changes openly.

Too much debt: Debt can lead to major financial anxiety and money fights. If either of you have debt, sit down and discuss it. Then, make a financial plan for how to address it.

Financial infidelity: It can be daunting to bring up money issues, such as gambling or spending. Depending on the problem, you may think it's better to hide it or downplay it. But this can lead to distrust and stress at home.

It's important to understand both your own triggers and your partners. At the same time, try to communicate openly and listen to your partner when they need a compassionate ear. Doing this can help resolve money conflicts and prevent future financial arguments.

Finances in a relationship require open communication, understanding, and patience.

How to Handle Money Issues With Your Partner

Understanding personal finances is a key part of achieving financial stability and resolving financial conflicts. And when you share your money with someone, it’s even more important to learn how to co-manage your finances together. Here are some practical steps you and your partner can take to better manage your personal finances together and prevent money fights:

  1. Create a monthly budget: When creating a budget with your partner, consider both your everyday living expenses and any major purchases you anticipate. Talk to each other about how you spend and save. When setting your budget, consider your future goals and allocate a small percentage of the total budget to each partner to spend on discretionary items.
  2. Set up a banking structure that works for you: When setting up your finances with your partner, decide how you want to handle your money. You can keep your finances separate, combine all of your income into a joint account, or use a combination of both. If you choose to combine some or all of your finances, you can set up separate accounts for shared expenses and savings goals. It's important to communicate openly about your financial decisions and to be flexible as your needs change.
  3. Maintaining financial autonomy: Financial autonomy is important for maintaining personal financial independence, even when you share expenses and goals. This can be difficult to establish, especially if one person earns more than the other, or if you don't have clear shared financial goals. You can review your budget and set aside some money each month that each person can use or spend as desired, without guilt or judgment.
  4. Planning your expenses: As you reach different financial milestones, it’s important to plan your expenses as a couple. This can build greater mutual respect and happiness within the relationship, as well as keep you both in sync to achieve mutual financial goals. 
  5. Resolving debt together: Everyone's financial situation is different. It’s possible for one or both partners to enter a relationship with debt. It's important to communicate with your partner about your debt and make a plan together to resolve it. This doesn’t mean that you have to pay your partner’s debt, but rather that you work together as a team to improve your finances. Listen to your partner without judgment or resentment, as this can lead to more money conflicts. If you can’t settle matters in-house, consider speaking with a financial professional or nonprofit credit counseling agency.

Bottom Line: Building Toward Financial Stability Together

The more you practice communicating with your partner about your finances, the easier it becomes. There are many potential financial triggers that can cause stress in a relationship. However, it is important to communicate openly and work together to resolve any financial conflicts that may arise. By doing so, you can build a strong financial foundation for your relationship.

Written by Angela Mae

Angela Mae is a personal finance writer specializing in loans, debt management, investing, retirement planning, and financial literacy. She comes from a journalistic background and pulls from hands-on experience and deep-dive research to breathe life into her stories. Her goal is to help others achieve financial stability and independence. When not writing, she can be found traveling, honing her yoga skills, hiking, or exploring new means of healthy, sustainable living.