7 Signs Your Romantic Partner Is Financially Unstable

Susannah Snider
·6 min read

Know the signs.

When you first start dating someone, financial stability may rank low on the list of attributes your sweetheart must have. But the longer you date, the more important financial security and compatibility become.

A financially stable relationship can help you meet big goals such as buying a home and retiring early while avoiding relationship-ending fights. In fact, 59% of divorcees said that money played "somewhat" of a role in their divorces, according to a survey from Experian. Hoping you won't join their ranks? Catch financial instability early by keeping an eye out for these red flags from your partner.

Your partner lets bills pile up.

Watch for avoidance tactics around finances and bills, says Michelle Goeppner, director of lending product strategy and analytics at Alliant Credit Union. A sky-high pile of past-due notices and unopened credit card bills might point to someone who's hiding from his or her financial problems.

What to do about it: It may be time to come up with a spending plan or household budget to address overdue bills and languishing debt. Ask your partner to sit down with you and review your credit reports, downloadable for free at annualcreditreport.com, to get an overview of your debt and payment history to come up with a plan for repayment.

Your partner struggles with addiction.

If your partner is addicted -- to drugs, alcohol, shopping or something else -- that addiction can take precedence over everything else, including his or her financial health. In some cases, funding that addiction can become more important than saving money, budgeting or even buying necessities like food.

What to do about it: Navigating addiction often takes outside expert help. Depending on your partner's history, you may want to visit a therapist, find an addiction support community and start dealing with the root problem. In the meantime, it may make sense to decouple your finances or restrict control to important accounts and savings.

Your beau is blissfully ignorant.

If your partner has high credit card debt or a low credit score but is working to remedy that situation, that's not necessarily a problem. But if your honey doesn't even know his or her credit score, debts owed or other personal financial statistics, that's a warning sign. Look out for someone "who doesn't have a good pulse on where they are," Goeppner says.

What to do about it: Set aside some time to review your credit reports. Again, you are eligible to download a free credit report from each of the bureaus each year at annualcreditreport.com. Take stock of your and your partner's debt, and start working on a plan for repayment.

Your mate has a stack of credit cards.

Unless your significant other is some kind of credit-card-rewards-points genius, consider it a bad sign if he or she has a wallet bulging with credit cards and other payment methods. It might mean that your partner isn't keeping tabs on his or her spending -- and is ignoring ever-increasing debt by spreading it out among payment methods. Misuse of credit cards can be serious and like an addiction. "Those credit cards are like beer or liquor sitting on your counter," says Laura LaTourette, ambassador for the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, also called the CFP Board.

What to do about it: Depending on the severity of the problem, you may need to work with a professional, including a therapist or financial counselor. Having a third-person referee to discuss financial red flags may help you make progress toward solving the problem.

Something doesn't add up.

If your partner drives a flashy car and is always showing up with fancy gadgets, clothes and accessories, but he or she doesn't seem to have a mortgage -- or a job -- that might be a sign of financial instability. If something doesn't make financial sense, don't shrug it off.

What to do about it: This is another situation where a money meeting, where you sit down with your credit reports, credit card statements and other important financial documents to reveal your financial situation, may be helpful. If you're already married, consider taking a larger role in managing your finances. Be present when filing taxes, visit a financial planner together and review account statements and bills.

Your lover is lying to you.

If you are seeing evidence that your partner isn't telling you the whole truth about his or her financial situation -- hiding purchases, sweeping bills under the rug or fibbing about other financial details -- be wary. It could signal that he or she is financially unstable.

What to do about it: Committing to a partner who lies to you may be a bad financial move. Address the idea of working with a financial planner to ensure that there's another set of eyes on your finances. But if truthfulness is a problem, you may want to consider ending the relationship before you are tied up financially or legally with something unsavory.

All of your activities revolve around shopping.

If shopping is the name of the game whenever you spend time together, you may be in a relationship with a shopaholic. When people shop solely for the high created by purchasing something new, they may have bad habits that are hard to break.

What to do about it: Identifying and discussing the problem are good first steps. You may want to develop a budget and create a separate minimally funded account for fun purchases. A financial counselor or therapist may be able to help your honey work through the issues or experiences that are causing shopping to become a coping mechanism.

What to do if you suspect financial instability

If you ferret out financial issues in your partner's life, your next course of action really depends on the seriousness of the issue and the strength of your relationship. One positive way to address your concerns with your mate is to frame the conversation around financial goals, not scolding. "Suggest ways to help bring your partner along as opposed to just abandoning them," Goeppner says. Regular meetings -- with just the two of you, a counselor or financial professional, depending on the circumstances -- may also help you make progress on remedying the situation.

Don't address the issue once, then let it go. "We want you to have conversations over wine and cheese on Friday nights," LaTourette says. "We want you to talk about money all the time."

7 signs your partner is financially unstable:

-- Your partner lets bills pile up.

-- Your partner struggles with addiction.

-- Your beau is blissfully ignorant.

-- Your mate has a stack of credit cards.

-- Something doesn't add up.

-- Your lover is lying to you.

-- All of your activities revolve around shopping.