The issue of money can destroy a serious relationship - even marriage - and it has. Many times, it's because the topic isn't discussed until it's too late.

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Finances can be quite the controversial and sensitive subject, but one that can't be avoided once two people start depending on each other in order to make a life and a home.

"Couples, at the beginning, don't talk about money," said Stacey Rose, psychotherapist with the Rose Relationship Learning Center in Ocean. "The man is courting the woman, and it's all wonderful and exciting."

Even when couples discuss living together or getting married, though, dollars and cents may fall to the wayside. They love each other, and that's enough, or is it?

"I've never seen two people in a marriage or any relationship where they have the same exact beliefs about money," Rose said.

A common issue among couples is the fact that one is a spender and the other is a saver. It's difficult for both lifestyles to exist without some form of conflict.

Typically, one's views on money reflect how they were raised. To one person, more money in the bank equates to security down the road. To the other, saving is for later in life, and the real importance right now is a new television or pair of shoes.

"It's not about who's right and who's wrong," Rose explained. "It's just about different approaches, different histories, and how they can work together to make decisions as a couple because so many things revolve around money."

In a recent survey from Certified Divorce Financial Analyst professionals, "money issues" ranked among the three leading causes of divorce, along with "basic incompatibility" and "infidelity."

Another sore subject is the amount of money each party contributes to the relationship. To make things easier, Rose said, couples should decide on a percentage of income that goes to the joint account. It most likely won't be the same dollar amount for each person, but it's a level playing field.

And parting from the olden days of couples that pooled all money together, Rose suggested the healthiest approach is a separate bank account for each party, as well as a joint account. However, the couple may want to add a rule that any purchase over X amount of dollars must be discussed first.