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Today, we’ve launched The Cost of Love. An important campaign in association with national relationship charity, Relate, that shines a spotlight on the nation’s struggles with being open and honest about money, and how it’s negatively affecting our relationships.

Providing practical tools and tips, such as ‘talk to me’ conversation cards and a Cost of Love risk quiz, we invite couples to make having healthy conversations around money their resolution for 2024.

What our research found

We discovered that two-thirds of couples argue about money and nearly a third have had relationships end because of financial issues.

But it’s not the case that couples are refusing to talk about money. More than 80% say they have spoken to their partners about their personal finances, but the crux of the issue comes down to the fact that they’re not having the right conversations.

Reflecting on this, Natasha Silverman, Relationship Counsellor for Relate, the UK’s largest provider of relationship support, said: “While couples may engage in discussions about money, this research highlights that these conversations often fall short of effective communication.

“Couples may not be delving deep into uncomfortable topics. A strong and healthy relationship is rooted in a foundation of open and honest communication, where all cards are on the table. Secrets, lies, mistrust, and concerns about judgment can erode a relationship and lead to breakdowns in communication and intimacy.”

A third of people have had a bad previous experience because of a joint financial set up and more than a quarter of respondents would feel uneasy about opening a joint back account with their significant other. Feelings of distrust, loss of control and shame feed into this.

When asked about why having a joint bank account would make someone feel uneasy, answers included:

“It just feels uncomfortable to not have control of your own finances.”

“I would be worried he would spend from the account without informing me.”

“Because if the relationship goes wrong, I would feel my money is unsafe and there would be lots of arguments.”

“I’m embarrassed by my financial situation and my ability to deal with money and manage my money.”

Natasha says, “To maintain a harmonious household, it is crucial to engage in regular, open discussions about finances, understand each other’s differing approaches, and collaboratively plan for the future, taking into account the needs and aspirations of both partners.”

Women and finance

The taboo and consequent lack of communication around money affects everyone, but our research highlights that women are especially impacted.

Men are more comfortable with money. They are more likely to understand their own personal finances compared to women, 74% compared to 64% respectively. Men are also wealthier when it comes to personal investments. Men, on average, have £58,000 invested whereas women only have £28,000.

Perhaps linked to this sense of security with money, men are more likely to be left in charge of the household finances. Nearly half of the men surveyed are likely to make all or most of their partner’s financial decisions, compared to only a quarter of women.

If a relationship were to breakdown, nearly three-quarters of men would be comfortable understanding what they’d need to do with their personal finances. Just over half of women questioned would feel the same way. And when it came to managing personal finances during a breakup, only one in 10 men would feel worried compared to nearly one in five women.

“The research surprised us. Despite money causing arguments and breakups, nearly two thirds of respondents would turn to their partner first for money advice. Less than half would seek professional financial advice. And when they do, women are half as likely to seek financial support than men”, Samantha Jackson, our CEO, said.

“While speaking to partners about money is important, we know from this research that navigating these conversations isn’t easy and can lead to arguments and break ups. A financial adviser can act impartially and with the expert knowledge to help you manage your money. We’re not afraid to ask those difficult questions, encouraging a healthy, open, and honest conversation between two people.

“It’s important people understand you’re never too young to start having these conversations. Our research highlights that few seek professional advice before getting married, starting a family, buying a home or other significant relationship milestone. There’s a misconception you must be wealthy to consult a financial adviser. That’s not the case. The earlier you start, the more confidence you’ll have in managing money.”

We have developed free tools to help you understand your cost of love risk and conversation starter kits to help facilitate money conversations. To find out more and take part, visit