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Money and Marriage: What Are We Fighting Over?

Sept. 4, 2012
5 mins
A man and woman review paperwork as they sit on the couch

When it comes to money and marriage, 86% of Canadians admit to fighting over their finances. When you take into account that 41% of Canadian marriages end in divorce, you have to wonder - why do financial disagreements top the causes for conflict with our significant others? What exactly are we fighting about - and how do we resolve our money issues?

Why Couples Fight About Money 

According to the experts, there are a number of reasons why we fight about money. Some of us fight because we come from very different belief systems. Some of us have diametrically opposed money personalities. Others simply disagree about what the money should be spent on. And, for some, the problem really isn’t money; it’s a personality conflict.

Being raised by different families means that we often enter into a relationship with entirely different belief systems – especially when it comes to money. Some come from wealthy families and have never really had to worry about their finances, while others come from families that struggled to put food on the table and therefore often have a better grasp on frugal living. Who we are and where we come from plays a huge role in how we behave now – and how we spend.

For some couples, money fights occur because of diametrically opposed money personalities. Sara is a spender, while Mike is a saver. Julie is a planner, but Mark is a dreamer. It can sometimes be frustrating when two totally clashing personalities try to work together.

Sometimes the issue at hand isn’t really about money, although it looks that way on the surface - sometimes it’s about control. For example, Lucy used to work full-time, until she and Bob had kids. Now she stays at home and he works. When they met, she was footing the bills – she even handed over her savings account. Now Bob says that she can’t spend money because she doesn’t make any. The issue here isn’t money – it’s control – and Bob wants to be in control.

Get On The Same Page

Other issues can arise for couples who don’t mind spending money but can't see eye to eye on financial priorities. For example, Tina wants to go on a cruise, while Dave wants to pay down the mortgage. While Dave thinks they desperately need a new car, Tina wants a new kitchen. How can they resolve these issues?

There’s no doubt that money plays a huge role in many of our arguments. How then do we know if we’re on the same page? Experts suggest that you and your partner make a list. The list should include both long-term and short-term financial goals. Be sure to make the list separately so that one doesn’t influence the other. Once you’ve made your lists, compare them and discuss why you included the items you did.

Resolving Money Issues

With all the different types of personalities – and potential arguments that come with those personalities – how will we ever get along? Experts offer these suggestions for living together harmoniously:

Talk openly about money: For some couples, money is harder to talk about than sex and childhood trauma, but an open relationship when it comes to finances will keep it healthy. Talk to one another about your financial goals and your worries.

Come up with a money plan: No one system works for every couple. You have to come up with something that works well for you. Here are some of the ideas that experts suggest when it comes to managing finances as a couple.

  1. Pool everything together – with a plan. This is perhaps the most traditional method of money management that couples use, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best method. In order for this system to work both of you must be on the same page when it comes to spending and saving – otherwise, trouble ensues. Talk openly about your financial goals before pooling all of your resources together.
  2. Use one joint account with two (or more) separate accounts. Some couples have a joint account where they either put a certain amount of money each month, or they keep their savings. Either way, they still have separate accounts for personal spending and a joint account for joint spending. This system works well, but only if you’re on the same page.
  3. Start a monthly allowance. Some couples like to keep the traditional “let’s pool all of our resources” attitude, but keep a little for themselves. They do this by allotting one another a monthly allowance. What they do with that money is totally up to them; they can spend it however they see fit.
  4. Keep everything completely separate in two accounts. Although this system is uncommon, young couples are starting to see its benefits. In this system, couples keep their finances completely separate but split on the cost of bills. Although they have common financial goals – as in, paying off the car or house – they have complete financial freedom once the bills are paid off.

There’s no single system that works best for all couples. The most important thing is to remain open and to communicate often about your wishes and your worries. Spend happily, but wisely – and always, always talk.


The RATESDOTCA editorial team are experienced writers focused on sharing stories and bringing you the latest news in insurance and personal finance. Our goal is to provide Canadians with the information and resources they need to make better insurance and financial decisions.

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