Money, not love, is the glue that keeps couples together. This may seem like a very shallow statement. But if you hang in there with me I think you’ll see exactly why money is more important than love . First, let me explain what I mean.
I’m not saying that money should be the objective of your relationship. Quite the opposite. Financial success results from a partnership that works. That’s why it’s so important for couples to learn how to talk about money with each other.
Anytime you do something just for the money you are going to feel empty and unsatisfied. Based on my own personal and professional experience I feel very strongly about that. And this goes for all relationships. Marriage, friendship and even business.
And I’m not saying that having a lot of money will make your relationship successful either. No amount of money in the world can guarantee that. So what am I referring to? I’m talking about the agreements you have with your partner about finance (how money works and what it’s for).
Without agreement on your goals, values, attitudes and financial behaviors, your relationship is doomed. One of you will dump the other or you’ll live a miserable life together. This may take weeks, months, years or decades to manifest but it absolutely will happen sooner or later. I know this sounds harsh but only because it’s true.
This is not to say that you have to agree on all things financial from the get go. Often, it takes time to see eye-to-eye on money. But if you or your “lovie dovie” aren’t willing to discuss these issues openly and honestly and be willing to change your financial behavior in a meaningful way when required, you should take a hard look at the relationship and stop kidding yourself.
I’ll give you a few examples of how my wife and I handled our financial differences. I think that might help. When we first got married, we had different opinions about charity, spending and income. Fortunately this didn’t cause too many problems. We divided up the financial responsibilities and resources. And we gave each other complete responsibility and freedom within our respective realms. We also set up separate checking accounts. That’s what worked for us at first.
But this wasn’t a perfect solution. We did have our differences about spending and every now and then, it caused angst. It was difficult to find a balance between our different approaches.
My bride is anything but a spendthrift but she was more willing to open up the purse strings to enjoy life. I was still living in a great deal of financial fear when I started my career. I can honestly tell you that I was way too tight for no good reason. But we were both convinced that we were right and the other was being silly.
We eventually learned that we had to honestly address each other’s values and concerns. And we each had to compromise. We had to listen to each other. Really listen and hear what the other was thinking and understand what they were feeling. Then we had to actually implement the agreements we came up with. Agreement without action has no value. Until we did that, we figuratively slugged it out.
So when I say that money is more important than love I’m really saying that a relationship is in jeopardy as long as money disagreements go unaddressed. All the love in the world isn’t going to solve that problem. Money problems will beach your love boat whether or not you fight about them, ignore them or lie to yourself and tell yourself that everything is fine and/or will work out.
Until you fix what’s broken, the problem isn’t going to disappear. And as long as there is a basic structural fault in your financial foundation, you are walking on very thin ice. You are wasting your time and your partner’s time. You are either being enabled or enabling. Either way, you are being unfair to each other because you are both stuck.
Money symbolizes security and happiness. That’s because, to some extent, money provides those things. Take the time to listen to how your other half thinks and feels about money. As you listen, ask yourself,”what is right about what they are saying” rather than thinking of ways to protect your position. Make sure your partner/spouse does the same. If you are willing to do this and your huggie bear isn’t – it may be time to find a new companion.
Come up with tangible and meaningful ways to improve your joint financial life over the short and long run. Then put those changes in place immediately. If either of you are unable to do this, I strongly recommend that you seek counseling.
There is a lot at stake when it comes to money and your relationship. My experience tells me that you can never be happy with another person if there is wide disagreement on money and/or disconnects between shared values and actions. This is true no matter how much two people love each other.
What has been your experience? Have you seen this issue come up in your own life or in the lives of others you are close to?
I’m going to have to disagree. While I agree that financial clarity and the sharing of responsibility is crucial, and (almost) every point you made is valid and well-articulated, you said it yourself – “Anytime you do something just for the money you are going to feel empty and unsatisfied.”
I understand that the stance that money is more important is probably to draw in readers, but it’s still wrong. Love is most important in a relationship because love makes it a *relationship*, not a business deal. If not for love, we wouldn’t have a want to support our partners, to care for them besides our own gains. Love is, and always will be, the most important part of any relationship.
Neal Frankle, CFP ® says
Thanks – and very well said. I guess what I’m trying to say is that even if you have love, if you don’t get the finances right, the relationship is headed for the rocks. However, if two people are financially compatible, they may not have the most loving relationship – but they have a better chance of survival. This is not to say one is BETTER than than other – actually, I agree that love is more important.MUCH more important. But finances are the glue that keeps people together or allows them to fall apart. FWIW
David Offutt says
There is a great deal of truth that a couple in financial termoil are headed for troubles.
My wife and I agreed (OK I finally agreed) that we should pay the bills together. I makes sense, afterall our wives are smart and pretty — that is why we married them.
Neal Frankle says
David – you area wise man. I’ll be the first to admit that even though I am the CFP of the family my wife often makes far better decisions. Smart AND Pretty. Double Win..
I know first-hand that you have your finger on the pulse with this piece. My relationship with a financial opposite has worked for only a short time. The marriage has deteriorated steadily, and with tens of thousands in credit card debt wasted on junk I feel so betrayed that I am now unable to meet the basic requirements expected of a good spouse. I have checked out of the house of insanity although I still live in the same household. The end will come and it will be devastating but liberating (for me) nonetheless. Marriage is a contract in more ways than one. If I could have a do-over I’d be paying much more attention to compatibility in matters of financial responsibility and spending habits instead of expecting that married life will inevitably bring you to a common denominator and create a unique and satisfying identity for the team you had wanted to create in the first place.
Neal Frankle says
Of course I am very sorry that your relationship hasn’t worked out. Does your spouse see the result of her spending/financial outlook? I am sure you have searched for common ground but I just thought I’d throw it out there. Is she completely unwilling to work on this with you?
Scott @ Youthful Investor says
I know of a lot of husbands and wives who have no idea what the other spends money on, whether it’s because they maintain separate accounts or because one person looks at the money and the other doesn’t.
The biggest preparation a couple can do though is sit down and talk about finances before the wedding. It’s going to hurt, trust me! Dave Ramsey has a funny piece on this in one of his earlier DVDs. There will be some yelling, a little fighting, even some poking fun at the other. However, getting it out of the system at that point and developing a firm foundation, a battle plan if you will, will make things much more smoother.
You are right though to a certain degree. Without a strong emphasis on the money side, we might just end up worrying about that the whole time and then love becomes a backseat priority.
Neal Frankle says
I like the way you put that together Scott. Sounds like you’ve done a good job of implementing the ideas you detailed.
I agree on what you said, money is really important but choosing between love and money really depends on what a certain person wants. Still, they have the option to choose both. I’m that kind of person that will choose both and do everything I can for me to achieve it. It will also help if you and your partner can agree with one another when it comes to finances and other stuffs.
pramod baviskar says
i think money and love to different things but incomplete without one another!!
Neal Frankle says
I completely, 100% agree with you. Too many couples break up because of financial difficulties. This world preaches too much of the “money doesn’t guarantee happiness” BS. Yes, money doesn’t guarantee happiness, but neither does poorness.