Money And Relationships: Are You On The Verge Of Calling It Quits?

Is love enough for a healthy and happy relationship, especially when it comes to financial troubles? What if your partner was hiding a secret account or was lying about their spending? Are those issues you could work past? Unfortunately, negative issues with money and relationships are incredibly common. I actually receive lots and lots of…

Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Last Updated: May 27, 2023

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What To Do When Your Partner Is A Financial Disaster #moneymanagement #manageyourmoney

Is love enough for a healthy and happy relationship, especially when it comes to financial troubles? What if your partner was hiding a secret account or was lying about their spending? Are those issues you could work past?

Unfortunately, negative issues with money and relationships are incredibly common. I actually receive lots and lots of emails from readers who are struggling with some of these exact issues. Hardly a day goes by when I don’t get a question or comment from a reader who has concerns about the bad spending or savings habits of their partner.

Here are a few of the situations I’ve been asked about:

  • My partner earns $50,000 a year and wants to buy a $900,000 house, and we have NO savings. How do I explain why this won’t work?
  • My partner has the mistaken idea that if he has a coupon for Best Buy, Bed Bath and Beyond, etc. that he must absolutely buy something because he’s “losing money if I don’t use the coupon.” He is a hoarder and spends all of his money on stuff that he will never use. How do I help him work past his issues before it’s too late for us?
  • My partner spends over $1,000 a month on entertainment but we have a lot of debt. How should I approach them about it?
  • My partner is hiding her spending from me and I know it’s happening. How do we work through this?
  • My partner isn’t trying to find a job but we desperately need the money. What should we do?

If these situations sound familiar, you’re not alone. In fact, 35% of Americans named money as the number one thing causing friction in their marriage. CNBC reported on a money and relationships study done by SunTrust Bank, and here are a few more findings:

  • In 2 out of every 5 couples, someone lies about money.
  • 31% said that they have a secret credit card or bank account.
  • 75% said that financial deception has hurt their marriage.

It’s no surprise that money issues are one of the leading causes of divorce.

And, according to a recent story on NPR, even couples who managed their money well together in the beginning can still struggle with financial infidelity. This is especially true if one partner earns significantly more than the other, if one spouse is laid off, etc.

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Now, if you’re in a relationship with someone whose financial beliefs and practices oppose your own, does that mean you’re doomed and should end it all?

Not necessarily.

There are ways you can work towards resolving your financial differences and improving the behaviors that affect your money and relationships. Before calling it quits due to financial stress, you should:

  • Be honest and stop keeping money secrets from your partner.
  • Stop ignoring the problem.
  • Make a budget and start following it.
  • Make money conversations a priority, even if they have been difficult in the past.

Me and my husband have been together for over 12 years, and we are always trying to work at our financial situation as a team. We’ve had a lot of major changes in the past few years, like selling our house and moving onto an RV and now sailboat, and because each of these changes had a lot to do with money, we’ve had to share a lot of our feelings with one another.

And, every couple is going to handle money and relationships a little differently. We all have different spending habits, and in a marriage it’s important to come together to see how your behaviors affect your shared life.

Working together is key for a happy relationship, especially when you want to meet your financial goals.

If your relationship is struggling because of financial differences, here are some steps that you may want to take.

Here is my advice for handling money and relationships


Have regular money check ins.

A relationship that has regular money talks and budget meetings is more likely to be financially successful and happier than a relationship that doesn’t. That’s because regularly communicating about money is an important step for healthy relationships.

Being open about your money situation can help prevent any surprises, it will ensure that both people in the relationship are aware of what’s going on, and so on.

Here are some of the ways for these check ins to help you with your marriage and finances:

  • You can work together and succeed. If you are both putting effort towards your financial goals, you can tackle them as a team and are much more likely to have a positive outcome. You can motivate one another, troubleshoot together, and brainstorm for ways to work towards your goals.
  • Knowing your financial situation will help you keep a budget. Understanding your financial situation means you can create and keep a budget that works for the both of you. You will know more about the amount of money you are spending, whether you are living paycheck to paycheck, and more.
  • Being aware may prevent everything from falling on one person. Both you and your partner  should be aware of your financial situation. It’s not fair for one person to manage it all, and you would be in for a rude awakening if something were to happen to that person. You both should know how much money you make, how much debt you have, when bills need to be paid, etc.
  • Being involved can help you with your family’s goals. It would be quite difficult for a person to work towards their family’s financial goals if they weren’t aware of their financial situation. Being involved will keep everyone motivated and working in the same direction.
  • Regular money talks can lead to less fighting. When you are open about money in your relationship, you are less likely to have financial surprises and money fights. This is because conducting regular money talks and budget meetings means you will both be aware of what’s going on.

Recommended reading: Family Budget Meetings – Yes, You Need To Have Them


Be open about money.

Talking about money is seen as taboo, even among married couples. But, according to money and relationship studies reported by Policy Genius, nearly 30% of couples don’t know each other’s salaries.

I have personally met spouses who had no idea what their monthly mortgage payment was, how much student loan debt they had, and so on and so on. For some reason, it is the “norm” for one spouse to be completely clueless about their financial situation, while the other spouse handles the finances. However, this is definitely something that should change.

To become better with this money and relationships issues, you and your partner should sit down on a regular basis, like once and week or once a month, and be honest about where you are currently at. You could even use this time to pay your bills together, discuss future purchases, and more.

But, to make the most out of these money meetings you will have to go in with an open mind and be willing to share where you are at. You money meetings should include:

  • Your financial goals, money values, and more.
  • How the two of you are doing financially.
  • What changes may need to be made.
  • Any financial problems, and so on.

The key here is that both of you are up-to-date on what is going on with your marriage and finances so that everyone can work together on your family’s financial goals.


Always be honest about money in relationships.

In a money and relationships article on CNBC, it was reported that only 52% of people in relationships believe their partner is being completely honest about money. And, only 61% of people say that they are totally honest with their partner about money.

What I see there is that in many, many relationships, there are some serious trust issues when it comes to talking about money.

The problem with financial infidelity is that it can lead to even bigger financial problems (like debt piling up beyond what’s imaginable), stress, unhappiness, it may start impacting other areas of a your life (such as work), and it may even lead to divorce.

Unfortunately, it’s possible that you may already be a victim of financial infidelity without even knowing it. Here’s how to recognize the signs of financial infidelity:

  • You haven’t noticed any bills in the mail. This could be a sign that someone is hiding the bills.
  • You are getting calls from debt collectors. These may actually be legitimate calls!
  • Your credit cards are being declined. This could be a sign that someone is overspending without your knowledge.
  • Your partner no longer wants to talk about money. This could be a sign that your partner is too afraid to talk about money with you because they fear that you will uncover the truth.

Lying about money and relationships is very serious, but it’s important to realize that it’s an issue that both partners should work towards improving. While being honest with your partner is important, you should also make sure that your partner feels comfortable telling you when they are struggling.


Set spending limits for each other.

Spending limits shouldn’t be looked as limitations or rules – think about them as guidelines that help you work towards larger goals. That’s because spending limits are really just there to help you stay on track with your budget.

You can set limits however you would like, and some couples tell each other about every single purchase they make, whether they buy something for $1 or if they buy something for $1,000.

Others only tell their spouse if they reach a certain amount, such as $100.

Whatever you decide, it’s a good idea to sit down with your spouse and determine what kind of limits you should set for your specific situation.

Doing this can help keep the communication lines open with your marriage and finances so there are fewer arguments about money.


Learn how to improve your financial situation.

For anyone needing help with money and relationships, one of the best things you can do is learn how to improve your financial situation. It can be an empowering thing for you to work towards with your partner and it can bring you both closer together.

If you want to improve your financial situation, here are some of the things you may want to do:

  • Read financial blogs. Reading financial blogs can help you see what other people like yourself may be doing to improve their financial habits. While it may not always be perfect and/or applicable, it can be helpful to see real life examples.
  • Listen to financial podcasts. You can learn a lot about money and relationships by listening to others talk about their own situations and topics relevant to your life. And, there are so many amazing financial podcasts out there ‒ take your pick!
  • Read financial books. 17 Personal Finance Books That Will Change Your Life is a great read if you are looking for financial books to help you with money and relationships. That list shows books that will help you to pay off debt, find side hustles, manage your money better, figure out retirement, and more.
  • Attend money workshops. There are in-person workshops on the topic of personal finance, huge conferences, money meet-ups, and more.
  • Join money-related Facebook groups. I have a free Facebook community that you can find here, and another favorite of mine is ChooseFI.

The key here with this and any other money and relationships advice is to do it together. I think learning more about money can usually help get a person more motivated about improving their financial situation, so if your spouse is having a hard time managing money, this can be a good way to get them more involved.


Reevaluate your situation.

Should money break a relationship?

Some will say no, and others will say yes.

For me, I do believe that money can break a relationship. However, that doesn’t mean that divorce or separation should be the first place you go when you are struggling with financial infidelity or other issues affecting money and relationships. You will need to work on your issues together before deciding that it’s time to call it quits.

Being on the same page is so very important, and if your partner is the complete opposite of you, you may be fighting constantly, you may both be unhappy, and more. If that’s where you are at, then reevaluating your relationship may be an important next step.

Only you can determine what goes on in this step, as it’s a very personal decision and no one knows the exact issues you’ve been through and how they’ve affected your relationship.

What money and relationships advice do you have to share? What would you do with a partner who was bad with money?

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Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Author: Michelle Schroeder-Gardner

Hey! I’m Michelle Schroeder-Gardner and I am the founder of Making Sense of Cents. I’m passionate about all things personal finance, side hustles, making extra money, and online businesses. I have been featured in major publications such as Forbes, CNBC, Time, and Business Insider. Learn more here.

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  1. It really is important to be in a relationship where both partners are on the same financial page.

    Looks may come and go, but money habits are hard to change and are often permanent.

    You can’t have a saver and a spendthrift paired and expect a harmonious life as there will be tons of financial discord.

    My favorite saying I coined is that no matter how much water you put in, you can never fill a colander.

    1. That’s an interesting saying!

  2. People are judgmental nowadays. The same one who judges you for what you don’t have and doesn’t want to date you is the same one trying to speak to you either direct or through other people, when they find out you became a “side hustle millionaire.” Then they wanna compliment your car, style, outfit, and wondering “what’s up now?” Nada. Ain’t nuffin! L 😛 L

  3. Kris

    When you’re in a relationship, talking about money is really important to have. Doing money talks even once or twice a year is pretty good because you are putting your views on your financial status with your partner and thus you can figure out to how tackle your personal finances.
    I think having a partner is bad with money is an opportunity to show that person they can change their money habits and the results will be a bigger savings account and your net worth increasing a whole lot more. Also exposing them to the power of compounding is something they can be motivated to do.

    1. Yes, money talks are so very important!

  4. This is such an important topic, yet shunned due to stigma. So sad that more of us aren’t trying to shine light on this to alleviate the situation. I just wrote about how money problems affect our children, and how we “should” be placing managing our money higher on our priority list for their sake.

  5. Victor Romero

    What I really like about this post is the fact that having money meetings and being 100% honest with each other is literally what makes any relationship go from having no savings, being in debt, not knowing the dates of bill payments to- living on less than what you make, savings growing, having a monthly planner to be organized, not feeling too stressed unhappy and side hustles. Really glad this post was published. Keep killing it!

  6. Glad that you are on a good path now 🙂

  7. I think it’s very important that couples are on the same page regarding their finances.
    They also need to have similar money habits to be financially successful. If one likes to save and invest, while the other likes to spend—they are bound to have issues!

  8. This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart – financial infidelity almost ruined my marriage. There is definitely the need to rebuild trust through openness and honesty and it definitely takes time to work out what will work for each couple. For us, money problems in our marriage actually gave us pause to take a long hard look at how we were doing things with our finances and it gave us the push to learn more about money management. This was such a great article – thank you for writing it!!

  9. I’m pretty young and haven’t yet had any serious, sit-down financial chats with my partner of six months. How do you recommend I bring it up when it hasn’t really been a big part of our “important talks” before?

  10. one thing I learned in the past is that a person’s financial status plays a huge factor in relationships. Sad truth, but true.