NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- It's Valentines Day, and the living is uneasy for couples squabbling over money. After all, who wants to spend a romantic, if manufactured, holiday fighting over that $200 Kate Spade purse you bought, or that new $250 driver that will upgrade your golf game? Not to be a sour note on Cupid's big day, but studies show that money troubles are the primary driver of divorces in the U.S. these days. According to one study , rising debt is the main reason couples fight -- and split up -- after getting married. In addition couples who fight over money once per week are 30% more likely to divorce than couples who don't. Fortunately for Cupid, and for married couples, there ware good ways to defuse financial stress and keep marriages healthy even when you do talk about money issues. According to Pamela Yellen, a national personal finance expert and New York Times best-selling author, talking turkey about money doesn't have to be the personal financial version of root canal. In fact, good "financial intimacy" can strengthen romantic relationships. "The solution is to sit down with your partner every month and go over your spending and savings plan," Yellen says. "Look at everything you bought during the past month and everything you're thinking of buying soon and ask yourselves, 'Is this really a need or a want?' Awareness is the key to taking control of your spending habits, and asking questions like this one is very powerful." To really pitch in, Yellen has come up with five steps in fueling financial intimacy that can reduce anxiety and enable couples to "save for their dreams."
- Talk before spending without your spouse's knowledge. Yellen advise setting parameters and strongly urges couples to get ahead of any issues. "Even if you don't always agree with your partner's spending habits, you can agree that any purchase over a certain amount, such as $200, will be discussed in advance," she says.
- Go all in on your golden years. Take the long view and discuss your retirement goals regularly -- a once-a-month conversation is fine. "Discuss when you both plan to retire and your plan for getting there," she says. Yellen says that about 40% of couples who responded to a survey she produced have not discussed their retirement plans in depth.
- Be equal partners. Yellen doesn't like financial "imbalance" in a relationship. "One of the biggest traps that leads couples into financial disharmony is when the partner with the biggest income makes the major financial decisions alone," she adds. "The solution: make all decisions about major purchases together."
- Quit making the credit card companies and banks rich. Yellen says couples should generate a plan to alleviate debt and "commit together to building an emergency fund to help you weather life's unexpected costs."
- Have a "Plan B." "What's your back-up plan if things change?" Yellen asks. "What if one partner loses their job? Or what if one partner wants to go back to school? What if one of you gets a job in another part of the country? Talk it over and come up with a plan together."