Secret purchases. Hidden credit cards. Permission to spend. All of these could extinguish the flame of romance, if you don't take time to talk about money with your significant other.
You might overhear couples arguing in a restaurant on your next date night: Generation X tends to fight a lot more about finances, according to a new survey from CompareCards.com, a subsidiary of LendingTree.
CompareCards surveyed 1,134 U.S. adults in relationships or domestic partnerships about their household finances. Money quarrels generally aren't a problem for younger couples, but the study found a cycle where conflicts grows in middle age and tapers off as couples move into their mid-50s and beyond.
Among Generation X (ages 35-54), 20% reported that they fought over money in the past month, compared with 17% of millennials (ages 18-34), and just 9% of baby boomers (55 and up).
The cycle can be broken if you have honest conversations about your financial goals, not just with your partner, but with people who have been there before.
Hiding financial decisions could lead to heartbreak
Even if you're not actively fighting about finances in your relationship, hidden issues left unresolved could pose a serious threat to your partnership's happiness down the road.
The survey found that 37% of adults reported hiding purchases from their partner, and 11% had bank accounts, credit cards or loans that were kept secret, too.
Who is most likely to hide purchases? Women between 35 to 54 years old (42%), according to the survey and men 55 to 64 years old (43%), according to the survey.
Money doesn't buy happiness, but talking about money could
If your relationship is rocky and it seems to come back around to your financial situation a lot, taking time to come clean could spare you years of slowly building resentment or an unnecessary breakup.
In fact, ultimate satisfaction in a relationship has a connection to money. Of the adults surveyed, 82% of people who didn't fight over money said they were "extremely satisfied" in their relationships, compared with 59% of people who did fight over money in the past month.
Money management concepts are often learned from our upbringing, from observation and concepts passed down by parents.
Talking to older parents or friends who have been through it already can lead to new ways of thinking, spending and saving in a partnership.
Millennials who are still "figuring it out" and Gen Xers who are finding themselves wrought with financial worries should also spend time conversing with their significant others about money. It can be uncomfortable, awkward or even embarrassing, but the fallout of too much financial secrecy could be worse.
Eliminate unspoken financial stress between you and your partner by approaching your money as a team with these three steps.
1. Choose a common goal: If you haven't had the money conversation, ask your partner out for coffee and be honest about how you approach finances and your financial dreams, such as saving for a house, college or a vacation. Even if you and your partner have different goals for your individual finances, set the goal to support each other in achieving those goals. You'll also have an awareness of how your financial actions impact theirs - and you may decide then to spend an evening on the couch with Netflix instead of a fancy dinner out and expensive tickets to a concert.
2. Share the knowledge: It can be natural for one person to fall into the role of the "money person" who handles the bill-paying duties and knows the bank accounts and monthly cash flow. The other person might know little more than what they're allowed to spend (the survey found that women are more likely than men to ask to spend money before making a purchase). So take turns doing the books. Or stay in on a date night and do the bills together, which can keep transparency in your financial relationship. A mutual understanding of how much comes in, how much goes out, and where it goes is key.
3. Friends don't keep secrets: And neither should partners. A secret credit card can lead to queasy guilt and a fight. Fudging the numbers when you tell your significant other how much is in the bank account might lead to overdraft fees and mistrust. In the survey, 62% said for purchases $500 and up, the spouse needs to be consulted.
Your relationship with the person you love is more important than your account balance. That may not be on a Valentine's Day card or candy heart, but it's an important message for healthy relationships.
MagnifyMoney is a price comparison and financial education website, founded by former bankers who use their knowledge of how the system works to help you save money.