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The Role of Money in Choosing a Relationship

This article was written by in Family and Life, Featured. 18 comments.


Do people have any kind of control over whom they fall in love with? Perhaps Cupid’s arrow strikes randomly, and there is no choice but to obey the heart — or chemicals in the brain — or sexual urges. But once that initial response has subsided, if you and your partner are headed for a life-long or major long-term relationship, there should be some discussion about money.

What role does that discussion have in determining the path of your relationship?

Relationships coupleA recent study explains that opposites don’t attract in relationships. If you’ve ever looked at relationships where each member of the couple is on a different side of a money-related philosophy, you’ve probably suspected this to be the case. A habitual spender in debt and a frugal saver could have a relationship full of conflict; or, if to avoid conflict money is never part of a conversation, the financial damage could be worse in the future.

Avoidance of tough discussions about money, deliberately hiding financial problems, and outright lying about a financial situation could be more damaging than the financial problems alone. When everything is out in the open, and the couple is fully aware of their individual finances, would a difference in philosophy be enough to curtain the relationship before it progressed to a more serious state?

Ginger, who wrote a guest article for Consumerism Commentary, argued that smart women should marry for money. Although the article was misunderstood by many readers, she was not saying that women should marry for quantity of money, but for their approach to money. A smart, independent woman shouldn’t need to take care of a husband as if she were his mother. The same may be true for men, though traditional sex roles tend to make the man-supporting-woman paradigm more acceptable.

There is more that goes into a successful relationship that being financially compatible. Differences in religion, social issues, values, and goals are important to address. This is a financial website, though, and readers are generally focused on their thoughts surrounding money. In planning to move a relationship forward, how important is a compatible philosophy of money when compared to other matters that define compatibility? Would you be willing to accept a difference in opinion about a divisive political issue before you accept someone who doesn’t share the same financial values? Or do you feel that you might be able to sway your partner’s approach to money more easily than changing other philosophical differences?

I’m interested in hearing opinions from every reader. What was or should be the role of money in choosing a relationship? Leave your comments below.

Photo: Dragunsk
Wired

Updated January 31, 2012 and originally published January 27, 2012. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Steve Dupree

It is essential that the couple be on the same page financially. Will you grumble when your spouse buys yet another fancy toy? Bristle when your spouse gets mad at you just for buying something? Of course when both are on the same page, if it’s the wrong page, the financially irresponsible attitudes can multiply each other.

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avatar Jon Elder

I agree with you, Steve. My now fiancee had long talks before I proposed. We have always been on the same page from day one and it’s been great. I couldn’t marry a woman who was not in tune with my Spiritual, financial, and health goals. However, I do think love is a choice. Love isn’t a feeling — and when times get rough sometimes the only thing holding the marriage together is Christ and the commitment you made at the alter.

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avatar Ceecee ♦53 (Newbie)

I would find it very difficult to have a partner who was a spendthrift. I would feel like my efforts to keep finances under control were being sabotaged. Being in debt would eat away at me. No thanks.

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avatar Peter

I remember reading something in the millionaire next door, and one attribute of millionaires was that they married well – they married someone financially compatible with them. So yes, it’s pretty important if you hope to build wealth and get ahead.

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avatar sub0ptimal

Not to stereotype, but there are two axioms:

Women won’t marry a man with a smaller income than theirs.
Men won’t marry a woman that is less attractive than they are.

My wife and I both have good jobs, but I’m a saver and my wife is not, so we both decided that I would take care of the family finances. My system is: we each pay 40% of our gross income to a joint account that is used to pay for our home, joint entertainment and meals, vacations, medical expenses, etc. Out of the other 60%, whatever is left over after taxes is used for individual purchases (cars, clothes, hobbies, and individual savings)

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avatar lynn ♦155 (Cent)

It may work if a spendthrift marries a frugal if the spendthrift gives control of the finances to the responsible party. But, it may feel like a control issue for the spendthrift down the road.

I don’t see spendthrifts in a very bright light. I think they are self centered and immature. But, that is my opinion. I could be wrong.

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avatar wylerassociate ♦162 (Cent)

a couple has to find common ground when it comes to personal finance, investing & building weath for the future. Otherwise, a lot of problems can arise.

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avatar lynn ♦155 (Cent)

Well stated.

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avatar Kelsey @ Zero to One Million Challenge

Sometimes opposites really do help, though. The last thing you want for yourself is to hook up with someone with a spending problem, when you have a spending problem yourself. Being around someone with the kind of spending behavior you want to avoid so frequently might just make things worse. I know that my boyfriend calms me down and is the voice of reason when I’m about to make a silly purchase I’m sure to regret, and we couldn’t be more opposite about any more things. It’s just a matter of whether you can use your differences to your advantage or if you’re just going to fight and bicker about it.

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avatar krantcents

Money should be a non issue! The couple should be compatible on all levels and discuss money, children and normal relationship issues. You should never marry if there is a red flag at any of these important things. You definitely need sufficient money to support yourself. You have to agree on important issues such as children, etc.

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avatar tigernicole86 ♦55 (Newbie)

I’ve seen what having 2 completely different personalities when it comes to money happens. I grew up in it. My parents never told each other what they were making but it was always a point of contention when they wanted to budget. My boyfriend and I met when we were broke college students and have been honest about what we had. We supported each other when either one had a job(ie, when he was finishing school and I was working, i paid the rent but he kept the house clean and cooked the food I bought.) and made sure to keep the lights on and keep the hustle up.

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avatar Earn Save Live

I married for love (not money). And I couldn’t be happier!

When we met, our combined income was around $25,000. He supported me through graduate school, I supported him through unemployment. Many years later, our income is six times higher and we are on track for early retirement.

Before meeting my husband, I dated a radiation oncologist whose starting salary was $250,000 per year. Could I have married him for money? Sure. But I chose to marry for love and I found someone who valued my intelligence, who wasn’t intimidated by my career path, and who is a fabulous father. My husband and I have the same financial goals. Since we’ve diligently and steadily increased our income over our marriage, we are really thankful for what we have.

We’ve built a life together – and I don’t think you can put a price tag on that!

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avatar lynn ♦155 (Cent)

I think you’ve said it all. Good luck on your endeavors.

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avatar One Frugal Girl

I think the most important factor in any relationship is communication. The first question you should ask is will your future spouse be open to discussing how and why he or she spends money. A lot of issues around money involve the secrecy of it. You should be open to discussing where each and every penny is spent. If you can’t do this then, in my opinion, you shouldn’t get married. The second question I would ask is do you have the same life long goals? If you both agree that you want to retire early for example then you can save money and work together toward that goal. You can make each other accountable to meeting the goal, which will ensure greater success. If however, your goals are completely different, like you want to spend all your money on extravagant trips and your future spouse wants to buy a house with a big mortgage than things will never work out. If neither party is too extreme than people with different money philosophies can certainly make things work. But if you have completely different ideas of how to spend the money you earn then I think the relationship is probably bound to fail.

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avatar Tyler S.

Money is going to play a huge part in your relationship whether you think it or not, but it’s not necessarily an absolute that you can never marry someone who currently isn’t living the same frugal way you are. There does have to be some kind of middle ground to come to.

It’s important to talk money before going long into any relationship, unless you want to be hit with some surprise loans to pay back down the road.

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avatar qixx ♦1,890 (Half-Dollar)

I second the distinction you make. Many people say you have to find someone of similar financial ways or compatible. I think knowing both of you will have to make some changes to fine a way to work together is more important. Open discussion and a plan to work through your differences can allow frugal and spendthrift individuals to still be compatible. Even more so if you are closer in personality.

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avatar DonnaFreedman ♦75 (Newbie)

If you marry someone who isn’t of a similar financial mindset you are setting yourselves up for conflict. Money is a major cause of fights.
We do hear of spendthrifts who married savers and became financially responsible. Personally, I don’t want to have to do all the heavy lifting in a relationship. I’d rather be with someone who feels the way I do.

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avatar Jeff Crews

I think it is good to talk about money within the relationship. One thing I have seen is that I pay double for everything. So when marriage comes, there will not be to much of a change in my finances.

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