Can’t Buy Me Love? 10 Ways Money Is Changing Your Love Life

Celebrity lookalikes embrace holding money

Celebrity lookalikes play with both love and money. | Ray Moreton/Keystone/Getty Images

For many generations, Americans had some very simple ideas regarding where love and money intersect. Typically, two people would get married, and the husband — the de facto breadwinner — would head to work. But times have changed. These days, both husbands and wives have careers and handle parenting and household duties. Prenups aren’t all that uncommon. And a family’s finances are everyone’s business — not just the breadwinners’.

Still, finances and money are inherently uncomfortable to discuss. For that reason, we like to brush them off — to look the other way. We hope somebody will take care of any issues that arise. This can create fissures and divisions in a relationship and end up being a fatal problem for even the strongest marriage.

Even if you’re not married, money has a way of shaping our love lives. Would you propose (or agree to a proposal) to someone who had large amounts of debt? What if it were debt you initially didn’t know about? Would it change how you view them or even how attractive they appear to you? According to recent research, these are all things that come into question when love and money are thrown together.

We drew from two primary resources to see how money and love intersect. First, we looked at the 2017 Avvo Annual Relationship Study by Dr. Nika Kabiri, a Law & Society analyst at Avvo, a legal advice and research site. The study sampled more than 2,300 adults and surveyed them on topics related to love and relationships. Second, we researched the Love and Money report from Lending Tree, which surveyed an additional 2,000 adults about debt and relationships.

Here are 10 interesting tidbits about how money impacts your love life.

1. Cheaper than finding a roommate

Man holds up hands while woman holds open empty wallet

A couple find they lack both love and money. |

Here’s a good one to start: “14% of Americans who have ever been in a relationship or married say they’ve stayed in a relationship longer than they wanted to because it was more affordable than being alone,” according to the Avvo study. Obviously, 14% isn’t a gigantic figure. But it represents a fairly large number of people who are evidently willing to ride out a relationship and split a bottle of Tide rather than shell out more money for rent.

2. Who’s in charge?

A young woman making money decisions

A woman makes money decisions. |

You might have heard the expression: “wears the pants in the relationship.” This can mean a number of things, but often it refers to a household’s finances. According to Avvo, “47% of Americans married or in relationships say they’re mostly responsible for making important financial decisions in the relationship.” This represents roughly an even split as to who’s handling the family checkbook.

3. How much does it take to make it work?

A couple looking over their finances

A couple looks over their finances. |

How much money do you think you need to make a relationship work? Most people tend to think it isn’t much. “Many respondents (43%) said that it doesn’t take a lot of money to make a serious relationship or marriage work,” the Avvo study said. On the flip side, 31% agreed with the statement that it takes a lot of money to make a marriage work, and 26% were neutral.

4. The dagger

Sarah Jessica Parker

Characters in HBO’s Divorce should have responded to this study. | HBO

Does financial strife lead to divorce? In some cases, yes. Although you’d assume a majority of divorces would cite money issues as a leading cause, Avvo’s study suggests it’s a much smaller factor. Among divorced Americans, “17% said disagreements about money contributed to the end of their marriage.” Other studies, however, have pointed to financial difficulty as the leading cause of stress in relationships.

5. Sunken costs

Piggy bank on buoy floating

Some couples want their sunken costs back. |

Are you familiar with the “sunken cost” fallacy? In economics, this is used to refer to the idea that something has more value than it actually does because you’ve “sunk” a lot of money into it. These costs can’t be recovered, so you insist on a higher asking price than you’re going to get — be it for a car or a relationship. Evidently, this is something that pops up in marriages. According to Avvo, 9% of those surveyed said they put off a breakup or divorce because “they had already spent a lot of money to make it work.”

6. What up with a prenup?

A couple exchanges rings during a wedding ceremony

A couple exchange rings during a wedding ceremony. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Prenuptial agreements are typically something we associate with the rich or famous celebrities. They protect people from “gold diggers,” who might simply be marrying for money. But they’re becoming increasingly popular — at least in theory. Avvo’s study says only 4% of married couples signed prenups. But when answering whether they would get up a prenup if they were engaged “right now,” 31% of respondents answered “yes.”

7. Debt is an ugly asset

A trader rubs his face while working on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange

Like it or not, people find money attractive. | Mario Tama/Getty Images

Now, jumping over to the Lending Tree study, there are significant amounts of evidence that suggest debt alters how attractive others think you are. By comparing and rating the attractiveness of fictional men and woman before and after revealing their financial situation, one thing became clear: Debt makes you less attractive. And of that debt, credit card and auto loan debt take the biggest toll.

8. Have a job? It’s important

Mechanic at work in his garage

This mechanic is more attractive because he has a job. | Studio

Having a job typically means you’re receiving a steady paycheck. That translates to economic security and solid financial footing. It makes sense, then, that having a job would be a big deal to a potential partner. Per the Lending Tree brief, 65% of women responding to the survey said it was “extremely important” for their partner to have a job. Conversely, that number dropped to 32% among male respondents.

9. Would you run a credit check on a partner?

A man looks over financial forms

It might be an invasion of privacy, but some people admit to running credit checks on their partners. | Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Running a credit check on someone is a big step. For many people, it’s probably a big step over the line and a total invasion of privacy. Nevertheless, some people are willing to do it. According to Lending Tree’s survey, “4.1% of women and 5.3% of men said they have checked their partner’s credit score at some point, and roughly 35% of women and 30% of men said they hadn’t in previous relationships, but they would.”

10. Nobody wants to pay for everything

Person holding several $100 bills

No one wants to pay for everything in the relationship. | Mohammed Huwais/AFP/Getty Images

You should know nobody likes to foot the bill — at least not all the time and not the whole thing. From Avvo’s report, 58% of respondents answered “yes” to the question, “Would you feel uncomfortable in a relationship if you had to foot most of the bills?” Younger adults (ages 24 to 34) tend to be the most uncomfortable under such an arrangement when broken down by age group.

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