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Money woes wrecking your relationship? A Relate counsellor gives her advice

How honest are you about money with your partner? There's no doubt it's a tricky topic of conversation and can be prone to cause arguments.

Our recent research has revealed an astonishing 45% of people in relationships aren't always honest with their partner about their finances. 

18% admit they've lied to their other half about their earnings and it's the men that lead the pack here, with 22% admitting to lying. In total, 41% of those who have a partner in work said they don’t know exactly how much their partner earns. For many people, a lack of knowledge of their partner’s earnings is not a result of dishonesty, but not having the conversation at all.

Is difficulty talking about money gnawing at your relationship?

We asked Priscilla Sim, a relationship counsellor at Relate to help give her thoughts about how to kickstart the conversation.

Is it all about the money, money, money?

In the counselling room at Relate I often see couples struggling to talk to each other about issues around money. In our ‘The Way We Are Now’ report last year,62% of people surveyed said that money was the biggest strain on their relationship, so it’s clearly a prickly subject for many.

I think money can be a very contentious and sensitive topic because of its meaning to each individual.

For some it can tap into a sense of self-esteem and value, both as a person and in their relationship.

Also, it’s something very real and practical that we need for survival in our society, so it’s hard not to be concerned about it. These things combined can set the scene for some major arguments if we’re not prepared.

However, what might seem like an issue about money in relationships can actually be more pervasive. For example, it’s not just the way we talk about money that can be the problem, but the way we communicate more generally about other concerns in our relationships.

Financial issues can often just be an added pressure that highlight or exacerbate deeper conflicts, and it’s these deeper issues that I’m  interested in as a counsellor.


Keep it practical, not personal

What might start out as a fight about money can, by the end of a counselling session, sometimes turn out to be about power struggles between a couple or feelings of inadequacy.

Often I work with couples to talk through feelings about the worth of what each of them brings to the table. Or we might identify a pattern in the way couples handle problems - that they don’t talk about things until it’s too late, or they blame each other and don’t feel heard by the other person. Or maybe it transpires that there needs to be a renegotiation of responsibilities, which starts with money, but can lead into conversations about child care, domestic chores and even down to who initiates sex!

In all relationships you’ll have to negotiate and won’t always agree on everything, so making decisions around money is no different.

I think when it comes to talking about money it can help not to make it personal. Money is ultimately a practical commodity, so keep the talk focused on working towards a solution.

This guest post is from Priscilla Sim and doesn’t necessarily reflect the views of the Money Advice Service. You can find out more about Relate and what they do on their website.

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  • Chris / 18 May 2015

    How do you begin to talk or discuss money with someone who has made a mess of their finances but still don't see it for the sake of chasing a dream. The effect on the family is huge, too painful to discuss

  • John Harwood / 17 May 2015

    Total mutual sharing and absolute loving concern will take care of money issues !

  • Jane / 17 May 2015

    After 3 years, we've decided to pool our money and get a joint account. I have this month been having disagreements with my partner about money. My partner earns more than I do and I feel he should pay more towards the house - not to make me richer but for the principle of sharing in our relationship. We've decided to mull it over and talk about it next month when we're both hopefully in the same place. It is very hard to get the wording right with each other in these conversations as its a touchy subject for both of us.

  • Ana / 17 May 2015

    How would you initiate a discussion though to make sure it doesn't get personal? What sort of words or language would you use?