When you enter into a new relationship, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of getting to know your significant other. The sparks are flying, you’re enjoying your time together, you seem to have a lot in common, and you may start thinking about whether it could become something serious. Though your new love may check all the proverbial boxes for your ideal mate, it’s important to ask yourself whether there are any financial red flags that could amount to deal-breakers for you. Now, I know what you may be thinking: you should choose a mate based on love, not money… right? Well, the answer is more complicated than a simple yes or no because financial incompatibility can lead to many challenges in a relationship. Read on to learn why you should set some financial boundaries – and stick to them.
Is it a Good Idea to Have Financial Deal-Breakers?
You have likely already developed a good sense of which types of romantic partners won’t work for you. For instance, if you love dogs and can’t live without them, you likely won’t date someone who doesn’t believe in having pets. If you don’t drink alcohol, you may not want to date a wine enthusiast. So, it follows that you could have meaningful financial deal-breakers, too.
Here’s an example: Perhaps you don’t want a partner who is a spend-thrift, or one who gambles. Conversely, maybe you enjoy the thrill of semi-risky business ventures, and you don’t want a romantic partner who is ultra-conservative with their money. Regardless of the details, the point is that it makes perfect sense to be aware of your significant other’s financial habits. It’s not materialistic or selfish to do so. Rather, it protects your interests – financial and otherwise.
To be clear, having financial deal-breakers shouldn’t be about standards based on salaries or net worth. Instead, it should be about the money values and habits that are important to you.
Understanding Financial Incompatibility
There are lots of things that can make you incompatible with a potential romantic partner, and money is one of them. In fact, it may represent a fundamental incompatibility – one that cannot be overcome – because it speaks to your values, goals for the future, and overall worldview. The odds are good that when a couple is facing financial incompatibility, the relationship will face other struggles, too. The character traits that are giving you financial pause will usually manifest in other important ways if the relationship progresses. For example, if a person makes impulsive money decisions, they are likely to show the same tendency for erratic or emotional behavior in other areas of life, including romantic relationships.
While opposites do sometimes attract and complement one another in relationships, financial incompatibility isn’t usually one of these circumstances.
How Financial Incompatibility Impacts Relationships
You have probably heard that money issues routinely top the list of the most common causes of divorce, and the numbers don’t lie. For couples who remain together, it is often cited as both the number one issue couples fight about and the number one topic they like to avoid. If you and your future mate want to avoid becoming a statistic, it’s crucial to find someone who approaches money in the same ways you do, and who is willing to talk openly about financial matters.
It can be difficult to focus on red flags at the beginning of a relationship because you want to believe it will work out and because your mind is preoccupied with all the wonderful traits your new love exhibits. However, it benefits you to identify whether financial incompatibility exists early on so that you can avoid letting a relationship get too serious.
Common Signs You’re in a Financially Incompatible Relationship
So, what do you do if you think you’re already deep into a relationship that will be challenged by financial incompatibility? Well, there are a few common signs that may give you clarity:
- The Saver/Spender See-Saw: When you think of your relationship, is one of you a spender and the other a saver? Are you constantly at odds about whether to go on that fancy vacation or set more aside for your nest egg? This type of imbalance is a fertile field for relationship stress and inconsistent financial planning. It’s not always a predictor of failure, but it absolutely means you and your partner need to prioritize talking about money and getting on the same page.
- Hidden Purchases: Have you ever hidden a purchase from your significant other? Do you suspect they have hidden purchases from you? Recent reports show that 8 in 10 Americans have participated in this behavior – an alarming statistic because hiding purchases is a type of financial infidelity.
Though there are certainly more signs of financial incompatibility in a relationship, these two can wreak havoc when left unaddressed in a romantic relationship.
How to Build a Financially Sound Relationship
No relationship is perfect, but it makes sense to give some focus to financial incompatibility issues since they can lead to so many problems. Building a healthy, financially sound relationship means talking about money enough to learn one another’s values and habits. Specifically, it’s important to address how you both feel about saving, spending, and investing.
These conversations can be awkward and uncomfortable, and it’s rare to find someone whose financial outlook matches your own completely. However, simply talking through issues is the best way to know where you both stand – and whether that financial foundation will support a healthy, balanced relationship. If your general money visions are at least within range of one another, you’re well-positioned for success.
Final Thoughts on Financial Incompatibility and Deal-Breakers in Relationships
Boundaries are often a positive thing in relationships yet deciding whether to have financial deal-breakers – and identifying what they are – is a personal decision. It’s also a very personal process to discover whether someone meets your financial criteria, as well as how long it may take to come to a conclusion about whether you might face financial incompatibility issues down the road.
As with many things in money and in love, it’s important to listen to your intuition. Know your own financial goals, embrace deal-breakers that feel right to you, and trust your gut as you move forward both personally and financially.