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Posted on 08/05/2019

Managing Financial Stress in a Relationship

Managing Financial Stress in a Relationship

Financial stress is something almost all people deal with at some point in their life. When you’re in a relationship with another person, that stress may be one of the biggest struggles you face as a couple. 

While it’s natural to endure stress when you’re married or in a long-term relationship, it can also have a detrimental effect. Unresolved stress related to finances can erode any relationship and ultimately contribute to divorce or the end of the relationship. It’s important to be proactive in how you manage financial stress and confront situations in a healthy, productive way, rather than allowing them to remain unresolved.

Money Is a Leading Stressor in Marriage

According to a recent survey from LendEDU, a top issue that couples argue about is money, and many survey respondents claimed money was the most stressful aspect about their marriage or relationship. The survey also found that couples hold financial communication and transparency in high regard – even more than fidelity.

A few findings from the study include:

  • 48.9% of respondents claimed money was the most stressful part of their relationship.

  • 64.1% wished their spouse would save more money.

  • 31.3% of spouses have hidden purchases from their partner.

  • 32.3% said honesty regarding personal finance was more important that honesty about fidelity.

Clearly, money is at the forefront of everyone’s minds, and married couples are certainly not an exception. When people create stress for themselves, it can cause many other problems, impacting other areas of your relationship.

How to Address the Stress

Communication is essential in dealing with financial stress, but beyond being open and honest about fears, anxieties, and financial goals, it’s also important to take other concrete steps to improve your financial situation.

Establish Open and Honest Communication Regarding Money

There is no way to tackle any problem in a marriage or long-term relationship without communication. That communication needs to be open and honest. You should talk with your spouse about not only your debt and the specific things relating to your finances that cause you stress, but also what your goals are. Get on the same page so that you can work towards things that you both want in life, rather than working against one another.

You should remember to remain calm, refrain from criticism, and perhaps let go of some of your need for control. If you find that it’s extremely difficult to talk about finances with your partner, you may want to work with a financial planner who can provide unbiased support and strategies.  If the communication in your relationship has reached an unhealthy level then you may want to seek out a licensed therapist to help you work through rebuilding your communication and trust issues. A therapist can help you work through the financial discussions in a healthy way and put you on the road to more productive and loving discussions about your financial future. 

Settle On a Budget and Hold Each Other Accountable

After you discuss your goals, put a plan into action. Start with a household budget, with specific consideration to limiting your credit card spending, reducing expenses, and allocating only a certain amount of extra spending money outside of your budget each month. 

When you are budgeting, you need to first be very clear on how much debt you have, and what the interest is on all of your debt. It’s tough to sit down and take a hard look at debt, but absolutely necessary to move forward. Avoid playing the blame game in this situation, and instead, think about positively moving forward as a team. 

You should also agree to hold each other accountable, but do so in a positive and productive way. You don’t want to be negative or harsh in how you practice accountability because that can lead to more secrecy and further breakdowns in communication.

Focus on Paying Down Outstanding Debt

One of the biggest financial stressors people face individually and in relationships is outstanding debt. If you can create a solid plan for paying off your debt, it’s going to go a long way to improving your financial situation and likely your relationship as well. Focus on the most toxic debt first, such as high interest credit cards. Then, you can move onto other forms of debt, such as student loan debt.

There are plenty of options for dealing with these debts. For example, credit cards may require debt consolidation, the debt avalanche method, diligent repayment, etc. There are several options for student loans; for instance, married couples may consolidate student loans, stick to 10-year standard repayment, or sign up for an income-driven program.

Try to Build Credit Moving Forward

As part of your larger financial plan, as a couple, you should also make it an objective to build credit together. You want to have a good credit history as a couple, which will provide you with opportunities to make important purchases such as a home. 

An important part of this is paying down debt successfully. First, you are building a track record of successful debt management – in addition to reducing your debt-to-income ratio. It’s crucial to reiterate the impact of paying down debt on building credit.

Plan a Reward for Reaching Milestones Together

As part of any financial plan, you want to set milestones. These milestones should be small and attainable, but you should also have larger more challenging milestones you’d like to meet as well. 

When you reach certain milestones, celebrate as a couple. You will have worked hard to achieve those goals, so integrate celebration plans into your financial plan. Being able to share in your successes together will strengthen your relationship.

Honest and strong communication related to financial issues can be something you integrate into other areas of your relationship as well. Creating positive communication patterns can help you enjoy a thriving marriage or relationship, regardless of the situations you may face.

Andrew Rombach is a Content Associate for Lendedu – a website that helps couples, consumers, and more with their finances. When he’s not working, you can find Andrew hiking or hanging with his cat Colby. is a helpful, free resource for individuals and couples who are seeking professional help for their relationships. All therapists on our registry believe in long term relationships and most of them have post graduate training in relationships.

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