The Truth About Love and Money

By Sallie Krawcheck

We’ve been thinking a lot here at Ellevest of all the things that money is, in addition to just being money.

Last week was “money is power.”

This week is “money is relationships.”

An illustration of a stack of bills wrapped by a heart with the words 'money is relationships.'

Certainly, there’s our own relationship with money — which can represent our dreams for ourselves and our families, or can be fraught, or can be driven by guilt.

For many of you, your relationship with money has changed during the pandemic, as women+ have taken a disproportionate hit to the wallet. In our recent community survey about financial wellness, many of you told us that your relationship with money was more stressed. Others found the pandemic to be a wake-up call for a more intentional relationship with money — like Noele, who told us, “We’re friends now, instead of mortal enemies.”

Money can also shape our relationships with others. And how.

Even when we don’t immediately see the connection: For example, does anyone really think that women would have been doing so much more of the unpaid child care and home labor during the pandemic if we made more money than the men in our lives?

I didn’t think so.

Because of the often-unspoken power dynamics of money in our relationships, money can be tough to talk about. We hear from many of you that even bringing up money in a relationship can be tough because a partner can view this as questioning their competency or their breadwinning ability. That’s particularly true for people whose partners are cis men: Social norms are still so strong that both partners underreport a breadwinning woman’s earnings.

And some of you have said you’re nervous to bring it up because your partner may think you’re asking because you’re considering a divorce. (I know, that escalated quickly, didn’t it? But we hear it all the time.)

That said, the happiest couples are the ones who talk about money often. And those who talk about it least are the unhappiest.

Seriously. Some 78% of couples who talk about money every week report being happy, while only 50% of couples who talk about it very infrequently say the same. Now I don’t know which is the chicken and which is the egg (does talking about money make you happy or does being happy mean you talk about money more); but what I do know is that if you’re not on the same page about your money, you could be setting yourself up for real conflict down the line.

The importance of getting on the same page with your partner about money is probably a reason that one of our most popular articles of all time is about how to split expenses with a partner.

Money is also the ability to leave relationships when you need to.

Another person who took our survey, Kelly, told us she’s going through a mid-pandemic divorce. To her, money means “the freedom to make decisions with more clarity and less panic.” That’s so important — especially for women, whose income and credit scores fall more sharply after divorce. (One study even found that for women, their standard of living goes down post-split, while for men it goes up.)

Sadly, lack of money is way too often a reason for staying in a bad relationship. Which is why I worry when I read that divorce rates are way down during this pandemic and She-cession.

But when you’re able to leave on your own terms, that can be so affirming. I love Sara’s story of using her f**k it fund to leave her “grumpy boyfriend” and buy a condo near the mountains she loves.

Because finding out what (and / or who) you love, then arranging your life to give those relationships space to grow, is really loving yourself.

And money can help you do that.

PS: We’re holding a special event for Ellevest members later this month to help you work through some common issues around love and money. Stay tuned for more details in Thursday’s Money Cheat Sheet newsletter, and if you’re not a member yet, you can get started here.

Sallie Krawcheck Signature

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Sallie Krawcheck

Sallie Krawcheck is the Founder & CEO of Ellevest.