With Valentines Day coming up this might be a good time to remind couples of one thing that can throw cold water on red hot romance – money. In particular, disagreements about it.

You may disagree about a whole range of lifestyle issues and it's nothing that can't be worked out. But disagree about how to manage money and the wheels can come off a relationship before it even gets started.

Disputes about money management can begin as early as the first date, and they can start to snowball when they go unaddressed. As the years go by, what could have started as a constructive conversation about finance becomes a heated battle over who is right.

Financial infidelity

For example, you can't just observe that partner A tends to spend a lot of unbudgeted money each week without it turning into an accusation. And while sexual infidelity is a huge relationship killer, the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) has found financial infidelity – one partner hiding financial dealings from the other – is just as damaging.

In fact, it registered on a survey of couples seeking financial counseling as the top stress point for 25% of the respondents.

“Most people have a different approach to money management than their spouse or partner,” said Bruce McClary, spokesperson for the NFCC. “Left unattended, those differences can lead to the end of the line for many couples.”

McClary says couples can avoid these pitfalls by having candid discussions early in a relationship so both know the rules and what the financial goals are.

Talk it out

“No matter the differences or challenges, the best approach is to start communicating early,” he said.

The NFCC recommends a few money rules for couples:

  • Be honest about all financial matters. Get on the same page and work as a team.
  • Set money rules and follow them.
  • Don't try to hide debt or other sources of income.
  • Don't let financial discussions turn into accusations.

When queried about which of their partner's financial habits irritates them most, 25% of respondents said secrecy or dishonesty about money.

Interestingly, only 2% were upset by a partner who is too frugal while 14% were bothered by a partner who overspends. Being thrifty, it appears, is considered sexy.

Good looks secondary

A 2013 survey by Experian appears to bear that out. It found that among both men and women, financial responsibility is a highly desirable trait in a mate.

In fact, it trumps physical attractiveness. In the survey 96% said financial responsibility is important to 86% who valued good looks.

Consumers have learned the hard way that not being on the same page with a mate can have very negative consequences. Chris, of Lewisville, Idaho, got a rude awakening when she shopped for an insurance policy with Geico.

“Their representative tells me thank you for my interest on my quote and that she would be happy to help me, Chris wrote in a ConsumerAffairs post. “But she then proceeds to tell me I owe them money on a delinquent account.”

Chris had never had a Geico insurance policy but her ex-husband had, and he didn't pay the bill. All of this happened before they were married, Chris said.

Another reason to talk about finances before things progress very far.

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