You already know that opinions on money and spending can influence whether you're a good match with someone, but as it turns out, your credit score also has a say in the fate of your relationship. The higher you and your partner's credit scores are, the better your chance at a happily ever after, says a new report from the Federal Reserve Board, the Brookings Institution, and the University of California, Los Angeles.
The researchers examined data from 49,363 couples. Credit scores can vary a bit, depending on the company performing them, but the study authors used a range of 280 to 850 as their metric, then looked at the first six years of each couple’s relationship. When the researchers controlled for other characteristics, they found that each 105-point bump in an individual’s credit score made them 32 percent less likely to break up with their partner in the six years after getting together.
“People with higher credit scores tend to be more responsible to begin with,” says Arlene Goldman, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist and sex therapist with a private practice in Philadelphia and coauthor of The Secrets of Sexual Ecstasy. “When deciding to marry or divorce someone, they may be more thoughtful and think about long-term effects.” On the other hand, people with lower credit scores tend to be more impulsive, says Goldman.
"People with higher credit scores tend to be more responsible to begin with."
Another problem arises when you’re cozied up with someone whose score isn’t quite as sterling as yours, or vice versa: If one person’s high credit score is something of a breakup buffer, it follows that the higher your initial average score as a couple, the less likely the relationship is to crash and burn. A 66-point difference in a couple’s individual scores was connected with a 24 percent higher likelihood of separating between the second and fourth years of a relationship and a 12 percent higher chance of a breakup happening by the sixth. And if you both have low scores, you’re two to three times more likely to break up than couples who both have great ones, say the researchers.
"A 66-point difference in a couple’s individual scores was connected with a 24 percent higher likelihood of separating between the second and fourth years of a relationship."
Think of it as: Those who spend together stay together, and the same goes for saving. “When people have similar credit scores, they probably also have similar values,” says Goldman. “But if one person is a spendthrift and the other is a saver, there will be clashes along the way.” The overarching message is that money can make or break your relationship, but all isn’t lost if you have a checkered checkbook past! Here, four more financial factors that can stand in the way of relationship bliss and how to make it through them.
1. You Want to Spend on Different Things
Maybe you’re eyeing a new armchair that would be the perfect addition to the living room, but your partner would rather use the cash for a sanity-saving getaway. “Money is one of the leading causes of relationship disagreements because it’s really about control,” says Goldman. “It’s about who gets to do what they want the way they want to do it.” That’s why butting heads about how to spend can quickly spiral into a serious relationship face-off.
"If one person is a spendthrift and the other is a saver, there will be clashes along the way.”
The key to getting past it is figuring out a compromise that both of you can deal with but, most of all, realizing it’s okay if the other person isn’t over-the-moon excited about spending money on the same things as you. “Your partner doesn’t need to be as happy about something as you are,” says Goldman. “The fact that they’re doing it for you is good enough.”
2. You Make Way More Than He Does
First off, pat yourself on the back because being the breadwinner can be an awesome thing. That’s not to say it can’t turn into a potential relationship minefield, too. “It can change the balance of power,” says Goldman. If you happen to be with a dude who rakes in less cash than you but you’re both fine with it, more power to you. But if either of you feel weirded out by your household’s status quo, open it up for discussion. “Talk about what you’re each contributing,” says Goldman. “Money is only one of the resources in a relationship.” If you’re off to work every day while he stays home with the kids or while he keeps the house in tip-top shape, make sure you each shine a light on how much value he brings to the table.
3. One of You Is Loaded with Debt
As scary as it can be, a mountain of debt is manageable as long as you communicate about it from the get-go. You should start a serious relationship with a clear picture of how much you each owe because no one likes a nasty surprise down the road.
“Money is only one of the resources in a relationship.”
Once you’ve given each other the debt lowdown, parse through the financial logistics, says Goldman. “Talk about how you’re both going to pay it off,” she says. “Will it just be the responsibility of the person who accumulated it, or will you work on it together?” If you’re each on the same page about how you’ll chip away at the debt, you’re taking on a potential deal breaker as a team.
4. Judging Becomes a Habit
Whatever your financial issues are as a couple, they can tear you apart if they come with a heaping helping of judgment. “It’s not about one of you being the better person and having the right value,” says Goldman. “It’s about understanding your partner’s point of view from a place of empathy.” How you handle money is deeply rooted in your childhood, and once you both understand that, you’re one step closer to meeting in the middle. “When I work with couples, I ask both of them what money was like when they were growing up,” says Goldman. If you were raised in different financial situations, it makes sense that you’d prioritize different things or deal with money mishaps in opposite ways. Even if your partner has destructive financial habits, it’s in both your best interests to leave judgment out of it when tackling the issue. If you’re not sure how to do that on your own, a couple’s therapist can walk you through it and help make your relationship even stronger.