Money & Relationships- Is it a Collaboration or a Competition?

Do you collaborate or compete when it comes to money and your relationships? Collaboration: the process of two or more people or organizations working together to complete a task or achieve a goal. Collaboration is similar to cooperation. Competition: Competition arises whenever at least two parties strive for a common goal which cannot be shared: where one’s gain is the other’s loss. (Wikipedia definitions).

There is competition in this world for sure, we see it every day. I am not discounting competition outright. Sports are one example where there is a winning team and a losing team. Yet, even in sports the term “good sportsmanship” is understood to mean respect is shown and no teasing or bullying is allowed. I used to run 5k road races and did it feel good to win sometimes? Yes, of course it did- and I pushed myself to win- and I liked winning! So I get it but..

Sometimes the competition gets in the way of the collaboration when it comes to money and relationships. For example, two people are in a committed relationship and one is a saver and one is a spender. The issue of money becomes a topic of contention and competition of conflicting needs and wants. This is where collaboration needs to step in. When money becomes a competing factor instead of a collaborating factor- money wins and the relationship suffers. The couple is letting money have control instead of controlling the money.

It seems simple but if it were money related matters would not be one of the leading causes of divorce. Additionally, other reasons relationships fall apart, such as conflicts and arguing, often have money wrapped up somewhere in the middle. So, money might not be the main reason of the breakup but it is often a secondary reason. Point being- money needs to be talked about openly in relationships. Money is not taboo but is often treated as such.

The Money Talk

Now, I am not saying you ask first dates their net worth and their money habits but I am saying pay attention. If the relationship is progressing, at some point before a serious commitment is made, money must be discussed. Do your money styles compliment each other or are you polar opposites? Do you have similar money goals? Is one or both of you heavily in debt? If so, how will that be resolved? Do one or both of you budget? Do you each have emergency funds? If not, what is the plan if an emergency occurs? Do you know each other’s credit scores?

Asking the money questions and having an open, honest, communicative discussion about money is key to not having a money blow out down the line. Also, do not money shame or money guilt your partner when you are having your money talks. This person is your partner and shame and guilt never help a relationship move through an issue to a collaborative solution.

If you are going to live together, how are the bills going to be divided and timely paid? There are many more money questions that can be asked and talked about but I think you get the gist. You have to talk about money in relationships. It is not a competition, it must be a collaboration. After all aren’t relationships a collaboration at their core? I know I don’t want to be in a relationship where I am always competing with my partner. Unless, of course it’s a road race- then game on! Seriously though, talk about money in your love relationships- be mindful, be respectful, actively listen to each other, and collaborate!


Susan, The MoneyMaestra

Susan Howell
Written by: Susan Howell, The MoneyMaestra.

Even though I grew up without money, I was able to retire at 50 based on my financial practices. I worked for the Federal Government for 26 years, with 6 of those years at the IRS and 20 at the Department of Justice, which included investigating many money-related cases.

I created MoneyMaestra to share what I know and to help people get on the path to Financial Freedom.


  1. Deena McElroy

    What a great message!

    • Susan Howell

      Thank you Deena. It really is important in love relationships to talk about money together. When couples are collaborating, instead of either competing with each other or keeping each other in the dark, about their money situations- I believe it makes the relationship more solid and secure and ultimately freeing.

  2. Farooq

    Thought provoking piece Susan. Rightly (or wrongly) my approach is always to be unconditionally ‘all in’… unconditionally because this is how I choose to be however I am sure you would have some thoughts on my policy!!

    • Susan Howell

      Farooq, thanks for your reply. I don’t think unconditionally “all-in” in a relationship is a bad thing- most of us want someone to be “all-in.” I believe part of being “all-in” is being open and honest with each other about money and having the #MoneyTalk- and collaborating to find solutions that work best for both parties and the relationship.

  3. Karyn

    Amen! You get a trophy for making this point 🏆 It’s a win-win!

    • Susan Howell

      Thank you Karyn! Absolutely- it is about collaboration and a win/win! Communicating openly and honestly about money is key.


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