Money can damage many relationships. In fact, according to a Money Magazine survey of 1,010 married adults ages 25 and over with household incomes more than $50,000 found that 70% of couples argued about money more than household chores, togetherness, sex, snoring and what’s for dinner.
Sometimes couples will even argue about other matters even though the problem is money. “If you find yourself lashing out at your partner over things that you truly aren’t angry about, because you’re harboring secret venom over money issues, you’ve got a money problem in that relationship, my friend,” says April Masini, relationship advice book author and founder of the “AskApril” advice column. “It’s like when people fight over the garbage and who takes it out. It’s never really about the garbage — and the same goes for money. You may find yourself squabbling over a tie color when you’re furious about how money is being handled in a relationship.”
It’s not just marriage that can suffer from monetary disagreements. Relationships with family and friends can also be severely damaged.
“There are signs that money is causing a riff in your relationship such as when either partner uses blame in terms of surmounting debt and/or lack of funds. Furthermore, a lack of transparency about how much money is being spent can be a telling signal that there is trouble in your relationship,” says author/relationship expert Indy Smith, who co-hosts ‘Confession of Love’ on Lenny Green’s popular radio show The Quiet Storm, which airs on WBLS 107.5-FM. “Thirdly, if either partner is being controlling with the finances, that can cause a riff in your relationship as well.”
Friends and family usually start disagreeing about lending, borrowing and repaying money. “Lending money to friends or lending money period can create a very uncomfortable situation for all parties involved. The root of problems when lending money can stem from the lender not being realistic with himself about when to expect to get the money back,” says Smith. So be ready for the possible consequences. “The lender should ask himself, ‘will lending this money hurt my friendship if I don’t get it back in a timely fashion or get the money back at all?’ As for the borrower being honest about when the money can be returned, that should be addressed. And if there is no intention of returning the money by a determined date, then that should be discussed as well. Honesty and transparency are the keys here,” explains Smith.
So what is typically behind the problems money causes between husband and wife? “Typically, there are several financial issues that cause problems between a husband and wife. They include the following: hiding debt or displaying poor spending habits; failure to discuss who will be responsible for what bills, and affecting your spouse’s credit rating and/or depleting the savings account,” Smith points out.
You can take these steps to repair a relationship damaged by money problems. Be consistent and transparent. “In the attempt to repair a relationship, consistency is very important. Being honest about your current financial situation is the first step,” says Smith. “Don’t hide your income or current debt; be honest about what it is you are willing to be responsible for.”
Put a plan in place and in motion. “Discuss and devise a short-term and long-term plan that you and your spouse are comfortable putting into action,” says Smith.
Get an understanding of your partner’s financial upbringing. “Many people bring their family histories with money to adult relationships. The way money was handled in your home growing up has a lot to do with the way you expect others to handle money. When there are discrepancies in these historical money cultures, you can find rifts in your relationship,” says Masini. “When couples come to marriage with different family histories with money, there can be problems. If his parents had a traditional money marriage and her parents kept their money and purchases separate, joining or separating money in a current marriage can be brought with problems.”
In the future, there are ways to avoid relationship problems caused by money.
Talk it out. “Have a series of conversations at the kitchen table, that are scheduled, calm and honest. Not talking about hopes, dreams and fears tied to money is a lot worse than talking about it — even if it causes arguments. Silence is golden in this case,” suggests Masini.
And when talking about money, be upfront. “Be very clear about your relationship with your money before you include someone else in your financial affairs,” says Smith.
Take care of outstanding debts, individual and joint. “Clear up your debt, create a savings and make a financial plan for yourself so that you are financially responsible for yourself prior to entering into a relationship,” advises Smith.
Only lend money when you can afford to. “People lend money to friends because they think they should do anything possible to help that person. They feel that the loan defines the relationship and makes them a better friend for having given the loan,” notes Masini. “When they can’t really afford to make the loan, but do so anyway, there’s a lot of stress between friends when the loan isn’t appreciated the way the loaner feels it should be, or paid back timely — or at all.”
Remember, if you need help, get it. “Not every couple can do it themselves. Hiring an accountant or a business manager may calm the fighting and bring back romance lost,” says Masini. “Know when money isn’t your strong suit, and hire someone who can take care of your financial planning.”