Money & relationships: When you can't just hug it out

Does money cause problems in your relationships?

Sometimes, having a manageable amount debt can be a good thing. It's an incentive to make a budget and stick to it. Plus, it gives you a sense of responsibility. Facing your financial mistakes can even strengthen your relationships or teach you better habits. We have some listeners who have stories along these lines, and financial adviser Liz Weston talks about possible silver linings of borrowing from and lending money to people important to us.

Weston has lent members of her family money, but she does it with trepidation. She says deciding whether to give money to someone really depends on the situation.

"Almost everything that has to do with money is situational," says Weston, who has also rejected certain requests for borrowing money from members of her family before. "It's really tough to say 'no' to someone who has asked you for help."


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Maggie in Beaverton, Ore., sent us an email with some questions about how to get control over the debt she and her husband have accrued. Combined they owe about $50,000 in student debt and she's borrowed money from her parents as well. She wants to know how to pay off what she owes while saving up to start a family through adoption or fertility treatments.

Our Facebook friend Jeff in San Francisco wrote to us about rekindling a relationship with an ex whom he separated from because of money issues. Jeff feels money is important while his ex didn't. Jeff's ex feels that he treats her like a child when it comes to money. Recently, the two have been seeing each other again and he wants advice on how to know if his partner's outlook on money has matured.

"When you're good with money, you can come off like a parent in a relationship," says Weston. "My focus in this situation would be on myself and make sure that I'm not the parent and make sure that I'm not the one dictating the terms, as it were. One of the best things to do as a couple is simply talk about what are your first memories about money, how did they handle money in your family. So many discussions that you can have."

For more advice from Weston, click play on the audio player above.

About the author

In more than 20 years in public radio, Barbara Bogaev has served as the longtime guest host of NPR’s flagship program Fresh Air with Terry Gross, as well as host of APM’s news and culture magazine, Weekend America and the weekly national documentary series, Soundprint.

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