The Truth About Money and Relationships

Are you arguing with your spouse about money? You’re not alone.

According to a study by TD Bank, 63% of couples think their significant other overspends in some way. You know that’s fertile ground for arguments to happen. And those little spats can often lead to more serious marital problems. A study published by the National Council on Family Relations found money fights are the top predictor of divorce. Sure, it’s tricky to figure out how to not fight about money, but you can learn how to discuss your finances in a more productive way.

It’s no secret that cultivating a solid marriage takes time and work. Marriage brings together two individuals from two different backgrounds with two completely unique ways of thinking. No matter how much you love your spouse, trying to merge your lives—and your money—can be a beautiful (but bumpy) ride.

Whether we realize it or not, money issues can wreak havoc in multiple areas of our marriages—even topics that seemingly have nothing to do with money on the surface!

Seven Points of Conflict That Can Cause Marital Problems

Separate But Equal

Some couples think the best way to avoid money arguments is to keep separate checking accounts. His paycheck goes in one account, hers goes into another, and they each pay bills separately. No harm, no foul, right? Wrong. This lays the groundwork for financial problems as time goes on.

How to work on it:

Marriage is a partnership. The officiant said, “And now you are one.” Both parties need to be involved in the finances. Separating the money and splitting the bills is a bad idea that will only lead to more marital problems down the road. Don’t keep separate accounts. Put all of your money together and begin to look at it as a whole.


Let’s say you’re perfectly content shopping at Goodwill when you need to update your threads, but your spouse loves to buy name-brand items at full price. If you have an income that doesn’t support expensive tastes, there’s going to be a problem.

How to work on it:

Marriage is all about compromise. If one of you is attached to name-brand items, consider shopping at an outlet mall to snag those brands at affordable prices.

Because the bottom line is: Your lifestyle needs to line up with what your actual income is—not what you wish it was. You might want to live like a perfectly curated Instagram post, but don’t let yourself fall down that rabbit hole. Especially when there aren’t enough zeros in your bank account.

Personality Differences

Everyone’s personality is different, and opposites tend to attract. Chances are, one of you loves working numbers (the nerd) and the other one would rather not be tied down by what the numbers show (the free spirit). One of you might be the saver and the other is more inclined to spend.

While that can cause some marital problems, it isn’t the real issue. The source of the problem is whenever one of you neglects to hear the other’s input. Or when one of you bows out from participating in the financial dealings altogether.

How to work on it:

Listen up, financial nerds. Don’t keep the money details all to yourself. And stop acting like a know-it-all while using your “knowledge” to boss around your free-spirit spouse. And if you’re the more carefree spouse, don’t just nod your head and say, “That looks great, dear.” You have a vote in the budget meetings! Give feedback, criticism and encouragement.

News flash—you’re both on the same team here, so work on the budget together! Use your personality differences to unite and become a stronger team.


For most couples, one of them probably makes more money than the other. Rarely will you both be making the exact same amount of money. But whether the amount comes to $50 or $50,000 more a year, the same problem can arise.

Instead of seeing the full pot as “our money,” you might think you have leverage over the other—all thanks to a few extra digits on your paycheck. Sometimes the spouse bringing in the most money can feel entitled to the most say. Don’t even go there. That’s just asking for marital problems.

How to work on it:

It’s not “yours” or “mine”—it’s ours. There’s no reason to hold a higher income over the other’s head. You’re on the same team. Start acting like it.


Being unfaithful to your spouse doesn’t always involve an affair. Sometimes it’s when you’re unfaithful to a shared financial vision by opening a side bank account or stashing away cash. That’s deceitful. The same applies if you have a credit card your spouse knows nothing about.

How to work on it:

Be open and honest about any side checking/savings accounts or secret credit cards you have. It’s time to own up to the truth and clear the air. Then, work toward establishing financial trust again. Recommit to your shared goal and remember why you’re doing it. You’re in this together!


The quickest way to feel unfulfilled and unsatisfied is when you expect things to go a certain way only to find out reality is a bit different. If you always thought you have to immediately buy a house after getting married, you might feel let down when you celebrate your first anniversary in the apartment you’re renting. Don’t let your unrealistic expectations pave the way for marital problems and discord.

How to work on it:

There is no rule stating married couples have to buy a home during their first year of marriage, or start a family, or go on a trip to Paris. If those things aren’t feasible for you right now, stop worrying. Get your finances in order now so that later you can make your dreams a reality. We recommend you save 20% for a down payment and only take out a 15-year mortgage when you buy your first home.


Your kids are begging you for the latest video game. You think about how well they’ve behaved lately and figure, why not? But your spouse is upset because it isn’t in the budget. Hello, impending money argument! Whether it’s buying toys, giving them an allowance, or just paying for their sports equipment—kids have a way of shedding light on how couples handle money.

How to work on it:

Talk about it and make a plan. Decide together how to budget for the things your children need. But what about all of their pesky wants? Discuss the possibility of establishing chores and an allowance for the work they do. This can establish a great work ethic while teaching them how important it is to work for the things you want in life!

Marriage Is a Partnership

It’s time to find common ground. You married a different person for a reason. Believe it or not, you need their skills—especially the ones you don’t have. That free spirit or nerd can bring valuable insight and knowledge to the table. They are your teammate, and it’s time to start treating them like one.