Nila Sweeney


Financial issues test the strength of a couple’s relationship, and unfortunately some relationships don’t pass. 
A recent survey indicated over 70% of people believe personal finances cause relationships to break down.
Here are the most common ways money can drive a wedge between you and your partner. 
1. Hiding your debt 
We’re not saying having outstanding payments can damage a relationship. It’s the part about not being upfront about a $10,000 credit card debt to your partner that can end a relationship, because it underlies dishonesty and weakens your partner’s trust.
Psychologist Anita Vosper from Relationships Australia says many relationship breakdowns can be prevented if couples are willing to admit to their financial situations early on.
2. Abusing the joint account
Should you open a joint account with your partner? Men and women have been scratching their heads at this fundamental question since time began (or since joint accounts were introduced by banks). Opening a shared account is a significant stage in your relationship, and undoubtedly doing so has benefits: you both cut down on bank fees by simplifying your finances, and paying regular shared expenses such as rent is more convenient.
The big problem lies in misunderstandings about what the joint account is for. Sure, you’re happy to split the rent but were you prepared to help pay for the 54-inch plasma TV your spouse has just come home with? When it comes to joint accounts, you need to draw clear lines in the sand.
3. Having conflicting attitudes to spending
Parents are likely to have taught their kids different principles about managing moolah, so as you get older you’re likely to disagree on what constitutes spending a lot. For those wanting to tie the knot, these attitudes tend to be revealed during the planning of the wedding. 
You may not be immediately concerned if your significant other sees no problem spending $500 on leather shoes. On the other hand, it may be the case that your partner believes in splurging at Westfield’s before paying off the utility bill. The problem lies in staying in the dark about it.
4. Gambling
An estimated 1,600 divorces in Australia each year are related to problem gambling, and over 1 in 10 Aussie gamblers admit they lost contact with their kids as a result of their habit. Enough said.
5. Playing power games
A couple’s financial issues can sometimes signal deeper issues of power and control in the relationship – for example, strong-held views about which person should earn money or who has the right to decide how to spend it. Alternatively, it can involve someone blaming their spouse as the cause of the couple’s financial hardship.
How to get help
Individuals should see a financial counsellor if they are suffering from financial and emotional strains. “Financial counsellors aren’t just trained to help people budget and get out of debt; they’re also emotional counsellors who try to get to the bottom of the issue,” says Mike Bailey, CEO of Financial Counsellors Association NSW.
-- By Stephanie Hanna

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