Deep Dive

Can your money mindset be negatively affecting your romantic relationships?

Dee Holmes
January 16, 2024

We all have core beliefs about money and what it means to us. Your views on money may change over time but they will undoubtedly have roots in your early memories and upbringing. To really understand your relationship with money, it’s helpful to reflect. Grab a paper and pen, work through these questions and by the end of this blog, you will have a much better understanding of your financial well-being, and money motivations and how these can negatively play out in your romantic relationships. 

Answer these questions for a better understanding of your relationship with money

  1. When do you first remember being aware of money?
  2. What would the family motto have been when you were growing up around money? (It may help to finish the sentence ‘in my family money meant….’)
  3. Is it different or the same for you now, as an adult?
  4. Do you feel you deserve the money you have and work for or do you feel guilt/unworthy?
  5. Do you consider your relationship with money to be healthy?
  6. Is money a topic you embrace or want to avoid?

Now complete the following sentences:

  • Money is…
  • Too much money leads to…
  • Too little money means…
  • I can hurt /damage others if I do/don’t do…..with money
  • I can help others if I do/don’t do….with money

Notice how you feel answering these questions. Did you uncover something you hadn’t realised before? Was it uncomfortable or empowering? 

Now let’s look at how your relationship with money can cause trouble in romantic relationships:

There are different types of problems that can present around couples and money

Arguments around money are common and opposing beliefs about your finances can crop up over and over again if you let them. A classic clash is when one of you is a saver whilst the other one has no problem splashing the cash.

Even if you haven’t had issues relating to money in your relationships before, life events can crop up and throw a spanner in the works. Different spending habits may not be a problem if you both earn enough; but can become an issue if external factors like redundancy or pandemic can alter the status quo. Becoming parents can also prompt a total money management overhaul that can take time to get used to!

How to get help if money is causing arguments with your partner

By working through the questions, and asking your partner to aswell, you will likely have some ‘ah-ha’ moments that will help you to understand why you and your partner behave a certain way with financial decisions. A solid ground of understanding each other’s money motivations (and your own) is the first step in moving forward and resolving conflict.

Therapists and counsellors are not usually money experts, but they can help with identifying the relational roots of conflict. To help understand and explore the problems, get started with the following questions:

  • Has there always been a problem? 
  • Who controls the money?
  • What is the family history of money?

A lot of couples will have different beliefs about money from their family of origin, they will have different styles, different expectations and ideas about spending and saving.

The job of the counsellor or therapist is to help the couple to communicate without reactivity, so they can then begin to understand the roots of their own and their partner's behaviours and learn to cope with each other's differences.

It’s true that when you explore one area in your life, whether it's your sex life, your attitude to money, or your relationship with food/work; it is likely that you will unearth patterning that is similar across other life areas for you. Being curious about attitudes and beliefs around money can help you to discover insights and awareness in other areas.

In counselling/therapy and when people discuss and think about money, they discover things about their belief systems and attitudes, and that many issues were linked - with  money not standing alone as the only problem.

Tips on how to manage your money with your partner

  1. There are many apps around that help people manage money, and sometimes it’s just the fear of facing something that seems overwhelming - yet when you actually sit down and plan and organise it's not as bad as we anticipated!
  2. Agreeing on individual and joint money goals can be really empowering. An example of when this works well is each person allocating a percentage of their income to a joint account that can pay for household bills and couples ‘stuff’, including nights outs and holidays. This can be a fair way to balance things out whilst also allowing for financial independence too. 
  3. Communicating money ‘icks’ is also key. If one person always expects the other to pick up the bill for example, is very common and can lead to resentment. It’s also an example of where culture and traditions and ‘the provider’ role in a relationship can play out. Perceived ‘stinginess’ can also be a turn-off and trigger conflict.
  4. Experiment with what works best for you as a couple. Is it to use cash so you don’t get carried away? To create ‘pots’ in different accounts for different things? Cards like Monzo allow you to divide your money into pots, so you can see if you are overspending on food but under on entertainment for example.
  5. Avoid the pressure to spend when others do. You know those situations where a bill is split equally but one person hasn’t eaten or drunk as much, it's usually people who have ‘plenty’ who never think of the implication of this. You may need to reassess things if a friend or partner doesn’t notice or respect that others may not have as much money, as they may be someone you then choose to spend less time with. This example links to self-worth, the feeling we have to prove ourselves etc!
  6. Get help with your or your partner's worrying or unhealthy spending habits, like being financially controlling - or addictive spending habits like gambling. 

Confronting your relationship with money is, well, confronting! However, doing the work to understand your money beliefs and motivations, as well as your partners, can be the beginning of ending arguments relating to finances. Awareness, patience and compassion can counter the frustration and annoyance when it comes to finances and your relationships - and counselling and therapy can also be really effective in helping you to improve your relationships, with money and with partners.