Money woes affect every aspect of our lives -- including relationships. After all, when you're in a lot of debt and you're dealing with tons of financial worries, romantic gestures probably aren't at the top of your to-do list. Financial problems can also cause fights between couples who are sharing their lives -- and repeated arguments could lead to relationship disasters.
Since finances have such a big impact on day-to-day living, sometimes it can be hard to tell if money is the leading cause of your relationship woes. But recent research studies from The Ascent revealed a few red flags to watch out for that suggest money issues are coming between you and your beloved. Here are five warning signs.
1. You're stressing about money all the time
Debt has major psychological costs, according to The Ascent. In fact, 97% of people who owe money believe they would be happier if they didn't -- and those with no debt are significantly more likely to report being satisfied with their lives. Non-debtors were also more likely to say they live life to the fullest and live a fulfilling and meaningful life.
Debt, on the other hand, can make you less optimistic, less positive, and less certain of your life goals. In fact, more than four in 10 Americans reported the money they owed had a negative impact on their self-esteem, outlook on life, and sense of direction. This isn't surprising considering how much mental energy is consumed by thinking about debt, as 71% of survey respondents said that they thought about their debt more often than they'd prefer.
If you're spending life stressing about debt and you have lower levels of life satisfaction and self-esteem because of it, naturally it's harder to find a committed relationship and to be a good partner once you're in one. Financial worries go hand-in-hand with stress, and stress leads to short tempers and fights. And, this can be especially true if both partners are in debt and down about it.
2. Your financial woes make being generous impossible
You don't have to buy your partner lavish gifts to build your love -- but being generous to your partner in all aspects of your life is important to building a positive relationship. This could mean little things, like picking up a surprise gift once in a while or not quibbling over spending shared cash on ice cream your partner loves that you don't eat. It could also mean big things, such as making financial sacrifices so your partner can finish school or stay home with the kids.
Unfortunately, as many as half of all survey respondents with debt told The Ascent their debt affected their ability to be generous to friends and family. It's understandable that it's harder to be giving to your partner when you're struggling to pay your own bills -- but that doesn't make building a relationship easy.
3. You're routinely financially unfaithful
Financial infidelity is extremely common. In fact, 67% of men and 73% of women admitted to at least one instance of it, according to a different study by The Ascent. But just because it's common doesn't mean it's not a big problem.
Dishonesty about financial issues was found to be a bigger concern for survey respondents than issues with a partner's family, religious differences, or political differences. Most respondents considered financial dishonesty to be at least a moderate problem in a relationship, and it definitely undermines trust.
Unfortunately, debt may make you more prone to dishonesty with your partner. In fact, 40% of people told the Ascent that they'd hidden or lied about their debt at least one time. That's especially bad news, as lying about debt was considered a more serious relationship problem than lying about earnings, assets, or purchases, according to The Ascent's financial infidelity survey.
If you're financially unfaithful, this dishonesty could become a serious relationship issue even if your partner never finds out about your lies. Becoming comfortable with one type of dishonesty could open the door to other lies or cause feelings of guilt that eat away at your love. The fact you have to lie is also a sign of an underlying communication problem and suggests you can't handle shared financial decisions -- which is a big problem when you share your life with someone else.
4. You can't talk about money with your partner
The Ascent study had some good news: about 70% of survey respondents said financial discussions with their partner were easy. Of course, this means three in 10 couples don't find these conversations to be simple. If you're in that 30% minority, you have a lot of work to do.
To make a relationship work, you must be able to set shared financial goals, discuss purchases, and make joint money decisions. This is true even if you maintain separate accounts, as each person's borrowing and spending behavior can affect your ability to do things together as a couple. Most couples also agree that discussion is necessary about shared purchases once a certain dollar threshold is reached, although men think that discussion is only necessary for purchases of $498 or more while women would prefer to discuss purchases once they hit an average price of $427.
If you can't talk openly about these big buys or other money issues, arguments are inevitable and reaching a compromise will be an endless challenge.
5. Your relationship prevents you from having financial freedom
While you need to be able to share your financial life, each partner also needs at least some freedom -- and far too many people aren't getting it. In fact, 65% of men and 47% of women indicate their relationship has prevented them from owning an item they want.
When either partner is too controlling about how money is spent, conflict is all-but-certain. That explains why as many as 82% of survey respondents told The Ascent they'd argued about purchases. Repeated fights every time one of you hits the mall is a surefire way to destroy your relationship because no one wants to be with someone who judges every dollar they spend.
What to do if you spot these signs
If you spot any of these red flags, it doesn't mean your relationship is doomed. You just need to work on changing the way you deal with finances in your relationship. It's important to set aside time to talk about money goals regularly -- and to have these conversations without judgment so neither partner ever feels the need to be dishonest.
It's also important to respect each other's differences and aim for finding compromise. This may mean giving each partner some leeway to spend on things they want, as long as the purchases don't impact your overall financial goals. It will take some work to overcome financial issues, but if putting in the effort can make your relationship as a whole stronger, isn't it worth it in the end?