How Money Can Make Or Break Your Relationship

If there is one thing that my post-grad years have taught me it's this: Money, especially a lack-there-of, has a way of making everything in life harder. Financial stress can translate to almost every part of your life, affecting how you view your job, your self-worth, your social life, and money can impact your relationship, too. But when you finally do decide to venture out into the dating world in all of your broke glory, your financial situation, along with your partner's, may make or break your relationship.

From starting out in the dating game, to pursuing a serious, long-term relationship, money will always be an ever-present unifier or divider. To find out the specifics on how finances can affect your love life, I spoke to Refinery 29 contributor, Priya Malani who spends her days as an entrepreneur and partner at Stash Wealth, a financial planning firm for H.E.N.R.Y's (High Earners, Not Rich Yet). Through her wise, financial wisdom I was better able to gauge what role our bank accounts actually play in our relationships, and how we can make them work to our benefit. Ultimately, she gave me six ways money impacts your love life.

1. It Could Make It More Difficult To Date

For those who aren't in a serious LTR but are looking to date, money can definitely have an impact. Priya says that if you're on the broke side and looking to enter the dating game, your options may be more limited, especially if you live in a bigger, more expensive city. Does having a near-empty bank account prevent you from dating? No, but it definitely means you need to plan a bit better.

“We wouldn't say that not being financially secure would prevent a person from dating, but it definitely requires more creativity and even a little bit of strategy,” Priya tells Bustle. “Starting with coffee or a cocktail lowers your out-of-pocket costs until you're sure this person is worth your investment.”

Even though it seems super impersonal to think of someone as an investment, when you're dating this line of thinking makes sense. How much time should you invest in someone, and how much of your feelings can you put in as well? With money, it may be worth your while to regard a potential relationship this way too. Keep your dates simple and inexpensive until you guys become serious. Even then, going out doesn't have to break the bank.

2. It May Affect How Your Relationship Progresses

If you're looking to get serious with someone, chances are you want a grownass man or woman. The easiest way to tell if your new bae is up to the task of adulting? How they spend their hard-earned cash. If your new partner doesn't have the wisest spending habits, splurging on things he/she doesn't need when he/she has ridiculous amounts of student debt, then this could become a problem later on.

“When you're in the early stages of a relationship, their bad habits are their problem,” Priya says. “But if things progress, their bad habits become your problem and either you work together to find a solution or we strongly encourage you to find a third party to mediate and help you both get on track.”

Once finances start to be shared — maybe you two got an apartment together, and now have to split the rent — then those poor spending habits you noticed before become an issue. But like Priya said, necessary interventions and budgeting could help the problem, even though they may seem awkward at first.

But if your partner's need to splurge is a bad, unbreakable habit right at the very beginning of things, you might decide that there's no future there to begin with.

3. It Could Help Align Your Priorities

“It might not be that obvious at first, but the way we spend money is a reflection of our values and priorities,” Priya says. When you're a party of one, spending your money on that pair of shoes you've been dying for, or to go on that vacation you can't necessarily afford are things you can get away with. But once someone else comes into the mix and finances start to be shared, priorities need to be shifted a bit.

Because spending money can reflect what you care about, contributing money to a relationship or spending money with your partner in mind shows you're willing to make sacrifices for the sake of your partner. It'll also help you work more as a unit, planning and budgeting for both of your priorities

“You need to know what each other's interests are and it's a good idea to set goals together,” Priya says. “Whether they're big picture goals like saving for travel...or simple week to week budget stuff, it's important to be on the same page to begin with.”

4. Or It Could Lead To Some Bad Fights

But, if you don't compromise on financial priorities from the beginning, your relationship could start to face some problems

“'Financial Infidelity,' is a real thing and it can become very hard to unwind if it goes unaddressed for too long,” Priya notes. “It sounds harsh but couples that don't get on the same financial page in the beginning are taking a big risk.”

Financial struggles can be one of the biggest points of contention in your relationship. If your significant other is spending joint funds behind your back, or spending the rent money recklessly and lying about it, your trust in them will falter. It's hard to share money with someone when you're used to being responsible for just yourself, but know that not working together when it comes to both of your money will leave you vulnerable to disagreements. And the last thing you want is to lose your faith in the relationship because of money.

5. It Could Make Some Things Awkward

When two people come together, and their financial situations are very different, this could make things a tad awkward especially when the relationship is new. If your S.O. is constantly footing the bill because you're in a bad spot financially or vice versa, things can get complicated. The person who is primarily financially responsible may start to feel resentful or used, or the one who is always accepting the hand-outs could start to feel insecure.

But like Priya says, as relationships grow financial security usually changes from a “me” thing to an “us” thing.

“...What point in the relationship does the definition of 'financially secure' apply to the couple more than the individual? Does it matter if you're not financially secure as an individual if you both consider yourselves financially secure as a couple when you look at the big picture?”

Yes, it can be uncomfortable at first, but once things get more serious individual finances become less of an issue. When you pool your money together (in whatever way you choose to do this), what's most important is that you both talk about how you want to spend it, and adhere to the budget. The 'who contributed what' dynamic becomes a thing of the past.

Which brings me to the next point.

6. Or It Could Bring You Closer Together

Deciding to become a team with two shared incomes is just about as serious as you can get. When you finally get to that point in your relationship, you'll start to realize that this relationship may be for the long haul. And if you learn to communicate calmly and discuss financial problems openly, you'll have a very solid foundation for the future of your relationship.

“Having an understanding about your personal finances as a couple and being organized and strategic with spending and investing can help eliminate a lot of these potential issues, not to mention further your financial goals a lot faster,” Priya says.

Yeah, it's probably one of the least romantic ideas around, but a couple who can budget wisely together will stay together.

Want more of Bustle's Sex and Relationships coverage? Check out our podcast, I Want It That Way, which delves into the difficult and downright dirty parts of a relationship, and find more on our Soundcloud page.

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