Two-thirds of Aussies say money causes most relationship conflict

It’s likely that most couples fight about money from time to time, but it becomes a serious problem when money is an ongoing, dominant source of conflict.

It may be as simple as one partner feeling that their financial dreams (for example, owning their own family home) are not a priority for their partner.

Now, new research from eharmony reveals that finances are a “major cause of conflict” for nearly two-thirds of Australian couples.

Read more: What to do if you’re stressed about money

Of the 2079 Australians surveyed, 58 per cent described finances as a significant issue in their relationship.

Taking that into consideration, maybe it’s not hard to believe that one in five (20 per cent) Australian couples still keep their bank balances separate for financial freedom.

What’s more, one in 10 (14 per cent) admits to hiding finances from their partner, including credit cards, bank accounts or other personal debts.

Differing views
Early on in a relationship, many couples discuss their views on marriage, children and where they want to work and live. Unfortunately, couples rarely sit down together to talk about their financial beliefs and goals.

Whether we like it or not, our financial status plays a huge part in our long-term security, so it needs to be talked about in a relationship.

Financial expert Victoria Devine from she’s on the money believes the way we behave with our money does indeed have a significant impact on relationship quality.

“The pandemic saw money behaviours change in many ways. There was a strong focus on reducing debts and solidifying personal financial positions in the time of crisis. The uncertainty also created enormous fiscal stress for both singles and couples alike.

“There is no one size fits all when it comes to the best way to manage finances within a relationship. Whether it is paying back debt, supporting young children or even working how to split the grocery bill, couples need to work out what’s the best strategy for them.

Read more: Grocery shopping tips to save you money

“It’s so important to have those uncomfortable money conversations early in your relationship. My advice is to be upfront, because the more you hide, the more it can impact you in the future. I’ve worked with clients who have been in six figures of debt and haven’t told their partners. It’s a shock to the relationship to say the least and it can be really difficult to work through.”

It’s good to be open early but it’s never too late to have the conversation. Whether you’ve been in a relationship 10 weeks or 10 years, talking about your money history is a first step to getting on the same page about your finances and resolving some conflict.

The research also highlighted that one in three (33 per cent) singles do not think future partners will be as responsible as they are with their money.

On the other hand, one in five (20 per cent) feel a future partner would judge them on their spending habits.

eharmony relationship expert Sharon Draper concludes that money can really impact matters of the heart.

Read more: How to be more ethical with your money

“Regardless of income levels, financial stress can have a major impact on relationship satisfaction. If there isn’t a foundation of trust when it comes to money, it can lead down a dangerous route. A couple ideally needs to agree on their approach, whether they choose to merge bank accounts or keep things separate. And if they’re struggling to see eye to eye, I’d really recommend seeking financial advice together.”

Be a team
Couples often share duties, but financial duties may be difficult to divide equally as a firm division of financial labour can also be a source of conflict.

Day-to-day household spending and long-term saving and investing are naturally at odds with each other, so it’s hard to stay objective when you are only focusing on one area.

Some couples get around this by swapping jobs each month or each quarter, so they both get a taste of overall spending and saving.

Another good option is to share roles equally and sit down on a certain day to pay the bills, discuss expenses and review savings plans together.

Do you and your partner share finances or keep them separate? Why or why not?

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Written by Ellie Baxter

Writer and editor with interests in travel, health, wellbeing and food. Has knowledge of marketing psychology, social media management and is a keen observer and commentator on issues facing older Australians.

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