In a relationship, conflict is inevitable. We may argue with our partners about time spent together vs. apart, in-laws, communication needs, etc. One very difficult and commonly fought about topic is our finances. A discussion dealing with money (or lack thereof) requires a person to open up, not only about his or her present state of affairs, but about the past. Issues such as salary, debt and money-spending habits must all be discussed in the process of sharing with our partner.

Is Money Our Biggest Relationship Obstacle?

Some studies have reported that money is the biggest problem that couples face (Oggins, 2003). Other research suggests that while money is not the most argued about topic, it can create marital strife (Papp, Cummings, & Goeke-Morey, 2009). In fact Papp et al. (2009) have shown that marital conflicts about money tend be more problematic and recurrent than non-financial issues. In addition, conflicts surrounding this topic are often difficult to resolve. As a result, it is not necessarily how high the topic of finances is ranked as a marital problem, but rather the nature of these arguments that may be problematic.

Papp et al. (2009) demonstrated in their diary analysis research with 100 male-female couples that money was the sixth (according to husbands) and fifth (according to wives) most discussed topic during marital conflict in the home. Wives also reported that the conflicts surrounding money lasted longer, and husbands reported money issues to be a recurrent problem in the relationship. Behavior changes often co-occur with conflicts about money. Both men and women reported that they experienced more depressive behaviors, such as withdrawal, sadness and fear, compared to when arguing about other topics.

Financial Q&A For Couples

As a result of the likelihood for financial arguments to resurface, and the negative behaviors that are experienced as a result of these heated discussions, it is important to deal with financial issues head on. Talk with your partner before deciding to cohabitate or marry. Despite any reservations you may have about this topic, you must be open and honest with your partner so you are both on the same page.

Looking to get the conversation started? Here are a few ideas:

  1. What is your current salary?
  2. Do you have any outstanding loans (student, business, etc.)? What is your plan for paying them off?
  3. Do you have any debt? How do you plan to deal with it?
  4. What are your money spending habits? Do you pay off your credit card(s) during each billing cycle?
  5. Do you monitor your monthly spending?
  6. Do you have any large purchases that you plan to make? If so, are you saving up money for these?
  7. What are your retirement plans? How are you financially planning for retirement?
  8. Do you plan to combine finances prior to getting married, when married, or never?
  9. How do you want to handle purchases before finances are combined or if they are never combined?
  10. Should the desire to purchase expensive items be shared prior to purchasing them?

Use these questions to help gauge whether you and your partner are a good financial fit.

You may also be interested in Fighting Fair: Dos and Don’ts For Fighting In Relationships



Oggins J. (2003). Topics of marital disagreement among African-American and Euro-American newlyweds. Psychological Reports, 92, 419 – 425.

Papp, L. M., Cummings, E. M., & Goeke-Morey, M. C. (2009). For richer, for poorer: Money as a topic of marital conflict in the home. Family Relations, 58(1), 91–103.

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