Money can be one of the most difficult things for a couple to talk about. It’s normal for people to have different relationships with money. Decreased income increases the potential for strain on relationships, as disagreements on how to prioritise spending create potential conflict. This can result in reduced relationship quality due to worries, and further anxiety on how we might make ends meet.

A couple may also have different perceptions of money. For example, one could be a spender and the other a saver. How we’re brought up shapes our ideas and attitudes about money, and we take that over into adulthood. And when we don’t see eye to eye on these issues, it can spell trouble.

How money affects relationships

Money plays a huge part in relationships in many unspoken ways. We all have unconscious ideas about what we want in a partner. For example, it could be someone in the same social class, or someone we can share nice holidays with. This is natural and doesn’t make us shallow.

When there’s a cost-of-living crisis, these issues around money can change which can throw a relationship off balance. You might not be able to do the things you used to do. A cost-of-living crisis can also bring financial anxiety into a relationship, bringing up a side of a person that you may not have seen before; for example, arguing about turning on the heating.

Also, the power dynamics in a relationship may change due to a cost-of living crisis, making some people feel less in control. Worries over the costs and finances can arise, leading to conflicts or fractures in a relationship.

Top tips

Like many issues or points of conflict in a relationship, honest communication with your partner is important. Share what frustrates you about your partner’s relationship with money and spending, without being over-critical but by saying how it impacts you. Some people have a scarcity mindset, whereas others have a spend mindset. Once this is understood and brought into the light then an adult conversation can occur, and necessary changes can be made that benefit the relationship.

When it comes to the cost-of-living crisis, start talking about money and your plans over the coming months and years. Make this the start of an ongoing communication. Try to save up for things together and work towards a common goal. If one earns more than the other, you could split things, such as the cost of a holiday, based on how much each person makes.

When to see a therapist  

It might be time to see a therapist when you start to feel like money is causing additional pressure on your relationship, and it’s starting to affect you. It’s always best to see someone sooner rather than later and long before any crisis points.

If therapy helps to rebuild your relationship and can help you cope with other life pressures, then it’s money well spent. We service many things in our lives like our cars, washing machines, household appliances, but we don’t always think to service our relationships. You may be able to access free or low-cost couples counselling through charities, your work, or other organisations.

“We haven’t always had the best classroom of love. We’re not taught about how to maintain a relationship at school so it can be very difficult for some people to navigate, and relationships are hard work. And therapy can help.”

Arabella Russell, BACP therapist