If you want a long-term relationship in Singapore, you need someone you can see eye-to-eye with on money matters.
Let’s be real – no one wants to talk about money, especially when you’re falling in love. Why discuss debts, budgets, and financial goals when you can get to know each other emotionally and intimately?
But if you want a serious long-term relationship, you need to be with someone you can see eye-to-eye with on money matters. Studies show that money conflicts are among the leading causes of divorce, right up there with infidelity and basic incompatibility.
This doesn’t mean that you need a partner with identical money behaviours as yours. Someone who is still getting their financial footing might find balance with a fiscally-responsible mate, for example.
However, some differences can be difficult to bridge. Here are signs you and your partner might be financially incompatible, and how to make your relationship work.
1. You Constantly Fight About Money
This one is obvious, but well worth including.
If you find yourself constantly squabbling over small money matters, take a step back and think about why you’re really fighting. Psychology professor James Cordova points out that couples who fight about money are not actually arguing over math.
“These arguments are more about the unspoken emotional meanings each partner has about money,” he explains in a Q&A. “For spenders, the meaning of money is related to feelings of deprivation and needing to feel like life is being lived vividly. When money is “over-saved”, spenders feel like the joys of life are being taken away from them. For savers, the meaning of money is about feelings of safety and security. Without a nest-egg, it’s impossible for savers to feel safe in the world.”
See Also: 3 Money Topics to Discuss Before You and Your Beau Get Serious
The next time you feel an argument rising, Professor Cordova suggests approaching your partner from a place of mutual compassion. Listen without judgment and try to understand what money represents to your partner. From there, work out a compromise.
2. You Keep Money Secrets From Each Other
If you and your partner keep disagreeing about money, resist the urge to lie about your spending habits.
It may be something small like an impulse purchase done in secret, or something as devastating as a gambling habit. Regardless, lying or keeping money secrets counts as financial infidelity, and it can destroy the happiest relationships.
A survey done in the US showed that 67% of couples affected by financial infidelity had more arguments, while 42% felt less trust in the relationship. And to no one’s surprise, 16% of them said their partner’s money secrets actually led to a divorce.
Theo Pauline Nestor, author of the book How to Sleep Alone in a King-Sized Bed, says that discovering her husband’s gambling problem felt like uncovering an affair.
“When your spouse cheats sexually, you can walk away and it’s gone. But when they cheat financially, you have to live with the effects for however long it takes to dig out of the hole,” she says.
3. You Don’t Share the Same Goals
Relationships are more likely to succeed when a couple shares common goals. But what if you financial goals don’t match? What happens if your partner puts a higher priority on saving for his own plans than your shared goals?
Couples in this scenario face a value conflict – that is, you have differing views on what’s important, and what you need to achieve the kind of life you want.
Trent Hamm of The Simple Dollar says that these value conflicts can be easily resolved. However, both partners must be willing to work through it, compromise on a solution, and follow through with the solution.
“This requires the ability and willingness to communicate,” he says. “The only way relationships work is through compromise – you agree to certain arrangements that allow you both some freedom to retain your values but also respects the values of your partner.”
Hamm also says that both of you should be willing to accept the other’s values while bending your own. If only one of you is subjugating your values for the other, your relationship is not likely to see a happy ending.
4. You Have Radically Different Lifestyles
One of you loves partying; the other prefers staying in. One of you splurges on expensive dinners; the other doesn’t like spending money on meals out. One of you is hip and stylish; the other schleps around in old clothes. You get the idea.
Even though you enjoy each other’s company, your lifestyles and spending priorities may clash. What your partner thinks is a good purchase might be a total waste of money for you.
Having different lifestyles is also a matter of having different values. Natalie Lue, author of the book Mr. Unavailable and the Fallback Girl, thinks that relationships with conflicting values are likely to end.
“Ultimately you both want different things,” she explains. “It’s not a judgement on your characters; it’s that recognition of an incompatibility that can’t be ignored.”
Wanting different things can be tough to reconcile, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it work. “There are many differences that can be overcome when you respect the individuality of others as opposed to trying to make the other be a clone of you,” Lue says.
Again, communication and compromise is important. Be honest about which things are non-negotiable, and which ones you’re willing to accept and compromise to make your partner happy. Perhaps you and your partner can occasionally dine out at mid-range restaurants. Or you can spend one weekend each month staying in together.
Regardless of where your money differences lie, it’s important to talk about your finances and goals. Otherwise, your romance could be doomed before it goes any further.
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By Lauren Dado
Lauren has been a content strategist and digital marketer since 2007. As SingSaver.com.sg’s Content Manager, Lauren edits and publishes personal finance stories to help Singaporeans save money. Her work has appeared in publications like Her World, Asia One, and Women’s Weekly.