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5 money fights

And how to avoid them


Felicity Hannah

Felicity Hannah

Virgin Money mentor, personal finance and consumer affairs journalist


Fighting couple

You’ll probably argue with your partner about these money issues but you don’t have to (really!)

What do you think would put the most strain on your relationship: fighting about money or infidelity?

You might assume that an affair would cause the most tension, but research carried out by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that a majority of people (62%) said that money worries were the biggest stress for relationships1.

And when you look at the statistics, that’s not surprising. Research carried out by the Money Advice Service found that the average couple has 39 arguments about money alone a year2.

So what are we all fighting about and how can you make it stop? Fortunately, we know what the most common triggers are because counselling service Relate has highlighted the top five.


1) Spending

A lot of couples argue over how much each other spends, with a surprising number of people concealing their spending from their partners. If a couple disagree on how much cash should be spent day-to-day or on a large purchase then this can be a huge source of friction.That’s especially true if they are dealing with money troubles and debt too. Some couples may find it easier to deal with this with the help of a counsellor or even a debt adviser.

2) Debt

This is a serious issue for lots of couples; research shows that almost a third of adults have been with a partner who turned out to be in serious debt while almost one in five say they have concealed their debts from their partner. Emotions can run high over debt, meaning there’s the potential for sparks to really fly if a couple begin to argue about it. The good news is that there is a lot of support available for those struggling with debt and, once the situation has been faced up to, it can be better for it to be out in the open.

3) Secret savings

While it might be the opposite of hidden debt, secret savings can be just as difficult for couples. Almost one in 10 married UK adults admit to concealing a secret store of money from their partner specifically as an escape fund in case they want to leave the relationship.The average amount was £7,500, so it’s not exactly small potatoes.

4) How to manage money

Should couples have a joint account or keep their finances separate? Should they split the bills in half or share them out? Should they take out separate financial products or do everything together? While couples who live together and share financial commitments are considered to be linked by credit reference agencies, that doesn’t mean they see themselves that way.

5) How to split assets

Sometimes relationships end, that’s unavoidable, and the arguments over how to divvy up assets and debts can quickly become tricky. If the fights have to be conducted through solicitors then it can become very expensive to resolve.

Well that was depressing…

Okay, listing potential conflicts is not that helpful, what we all actually need to know is how to avoid them. After all, money is one of the most common reasons couples fight, according to Relate – and they should know.

If you can avoid fighting about finances then you’ll remove a huge source of stress from your relationship. In fact, you’ll probably end up so sickeningly happy and content that your friends will start avoiding you. Or you’ll start fighting over who has the remote instead, but either way it will be better.

Unsurprisingly, the more open and honest you are with each other the better – especially if your circumstances ever change.

But talking about money can be really challenging and bring up all sorts of complicated feelings, making it quite difficult to talk about without getting upset. And if you have gone a long time without discussing money or financial worries then it can be really hard to finally get it all out in the open.

Here are some top tips on avoiding fights and getting those tricky conversations to run smoothly.

  • Talk about it early on. Many of us are concealing debt from our loved ones but it’s a conversation that won’t get any easier. Hiding problems from your partner could put your future happiness at risk.
  • Set a realistic time to talk. Conversations about cash are always easier if you approach them at the right time. Last thing at night, after a few drinks, or during a stressful car journey are probably not the best times to start discussing something as potentially fraught as money. Pick a time when you’re both relaxed, and have time and space to talk. Also, once the first big conversation is out of the way it’s a good idea to schedule regular conversations about finances. Yes that might sound like a bizarre thing to do but having a regular catch-up about money that you both expect helps you both check you’re still on the same page.
  • Be fair. If one of you has more assets or earns more than the other then consider factoring this into how you pay for things. Perhaps a 50/50 split isn’t fair and might leave one partner struggling to keep up; maybe a 70/30 share is more appropriate.
  • Set some rules. It’s common for couples to have different ideas about money and that doesn’t have to be a disaster. However, if there are any red lines then it’s a good idea to discuss them before they become an issue.

Look, most of us don’t make enough time to manage our money, let alone spending time as a couple doing so. But regular conversations about cash can help smooth out a number of tensions in a relationship and make you happier in the long run.

Make the effort, bite the bullet and feel the love.

1https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/wellbeing/articles/measuringnationalwellbeing/2015-02-12

2https://www.moneyadviceservice.org.uk/en/corporate/uk-couples-financial-secrets-revealed

 

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