Four big reasons we argue about money
We don’t like to talk about it, but sometimes we have to and it doesn’t always end well.
Money is the top strain on relationships, according to a survey by the charities Relate, Relationships Scotland and Marriage Care. And it’s a common cause of rift between family and friends too.
So what causes the conflict?
Are you saver or a spender?
When people argue about money, it’s often because they have different attitudes to money.
Our attitudes to money are formed in early life from our home environment and experiences. But this doesn’t mean you’ll just copy your parents. If money was always tight, for example, you might become a spendthrift in later life - eager to spend money now that you have it.
And we give money meaning beyond it’s transactional facility. For some of us money provides security, for some it’s freedom, for others it’s how we show love, and for some it gives a feeling of status and power.
So our relationship with money can be complex and deeply ingrained, and that can cause misunderstandings and frustrations when we get together with someone with a different money mindset.
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You might be cautious and risk averse and hate to see your partner frittering their money away on new clothes and nights out; while they might think you should stop being so miserly with your cash and splash out once in a while. When our relationship with money is so deeply entrenched, it can be hard to understand where the other one’s coming from.
For richer or poorer
Turning ‘my money’ and ‘your money’ into ‘our money’ when you’re starting out in a relationship can be tricky.
Deciding how to share your funds can be fraught with resentment. 50:50 may not feel like the fairest way, but what is the magic formula that will work for you both?
And you may have to negotiate all over again when there’s been a change of circumstance - a new baby or a redundancy, for example. Now what’s fair? Or perhaps one of you has inherited a large sum of money. Are you going to share that?
If you’ve got less money than your partner, it can create a power imbalance in your relationship. You might feel frustrated that you can’t do what you want to do and that you’re reliant on somebody else.
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“It was like she’d been having an affair with Visa. She’d been living this ridiculous opulent existence outside our marriage.”
Radio 4 listener James felt betrayed when he discovered his wife had racked up thousands of pounds of spending on a credit card without telling him.
When you start out in a relationship, levels of trust are often high. You believe in your partner and you believe they care for you.
But if you have different attitudes to money that trust can be badly damaged.
Neither a borrower nor a lender be
When someone turns to you for money, what do you do?
It might be a friend in a tight spot, or a relative who needs a bit extra for a home renovation or a new car.
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What should we be prepared to pay for a packet of washing up tablets?
You might happily lend them a sum, but what happens if they take it as a ‘gift’ and never pay it back? They might feel they need it more than you do, but that wasn’t the deal.
Communication is the key
The solution to all these situations is good communication and having an honest and open conversation about money, which is what BBC Radio 4’s Money Clinic is all about. If you’d like to find out more about how you could take part in the programme, email email@example.com
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