Money is often cited as one of the biggest sources of tension in romantic relationships. Whether it’s a difference in spending habits, income inequality, or disagreements over financial priorities, there are many potential landmines that can cause conflict between partners.
But how do you know when those money issues are truly problematic, and when they’re just a normal part of navigating a shared financial future? Here are six financial warning signs for relationships, as identified by experts.
1. Hiding purchases or debts
According to financial coach Leah Manderson, one of the biggest red flags in a relationship is when one partner hides purchases or debts from the other. “If one person is keeping secrets about their spending or their financial situation, it’s a sign that there’s a lack of trust and communication in the relationship,” she says.
Manderson recommends setting up regular check-ins to discuss finances and make sure all accounts are transparent. “It can be uncomfortable to have those conversations, but it’s so important to make sure everyone is on the same page,” she says.
2. Unequal contributions
Another warning sign is when one partner consistently contributes more to household expenses than the other. “If one partner is always paying more than their fair share of the bills, it can create resentment and a feeling of unfairness in the relationship,” says financial therapist Lindsay Bryan-Podvin.
Bryan-Podvin recommends sitting down together and creating a budget that takes into account each partner’s income and expenses. “Sometimes it’s helpful to have an impartial third party, like a financial planner or therapist, to help mediate those conversations,” she says.
3. Disagreements over spending priorities
Every couple has different priorities when it comes to spending money, but when those priorities are radically different, it can lead to tension. “When one person wants to spend money on something that the other person thinks is frivolous or unnecessary, it can create conflict,” says Manderson.
She recommends finding a compromise that works for both partners, such as setting aside a specific amount of money each month for discretionary spending. “It’s important to respect each other’s priorities and find a way to meet both people’s needs,” she says.
4. High levels of debt
If one partner has a large amount of debt, it can put a strain on the relationship. “Debt can be a source of shame and embarrassment, and it can also limit the couple’s options for the future,” says Bryan-Podvin.
She recommends creating a plan together to pay off the debt as quickly as possible, whether that means cutting expenses, increasing income, or taking on extra work. “It’s important to tackle the debt as a team and support each other throughout the process,” she says.
5. Competing financial goals
Another potential warning sign is when partners have competing financial goals, such as one person wanting to save for a down payment on a house while the other wants to take a luxury vacation. “When there are conflicting priorities, it can be hard to make progress towards any of them,” says Manderson.
She advises prioritizing the goals that are most important to both partners and finding creative ways to make progress on all of them. “Sometimes it’s a matter of looking for alternative ways to achieve what you both want,” she says.
6. Lack of financial literacy
Finally, a lack of financial literacy can be a major warning sign in a relationship. “If one person doesn’t understand basic financial concepts like budgeting, saving, and investing, it can create a power dynamic where the other person feels in control of the finances,” says Bryan-Podvin.
She recommends taking a financial literacy course or working with a financial planner to get up to speed. “It’s important for both partners to have a basic understanding of finances so they can feel confident making decisions together,” she says.
In conclusion, if you notice any of these warning signs in your relationship, it’s important to address them sooner rather than later. By being open and transparent about your finances, setting shared goals, and working together as a team, you can build a stronger, more stable relationship that can weather any financial storm.