Over the next few days, Britons will spend three-quarters of a billion on Valentine’s gifts. But to achieve long-term harmony, they would be better off spending time together discussing their finances.

According to credit card provider American Express, last year 56 per cent of adults bought a present for their partner, investing an average of £27 each – a total of £776 million.

With financial disagreements contributing to the breakdown of many relationships, it could be wiser to celebrate by simply sitting down to talk about where they stand.

A survey by GoCompare.com found that 58 per cent of adults are worried about the rising cost of living and spiralling bills, and 40 per cent fear their financial situation will deteriorate this year.

Georgie Frost, the website’s consumer advocate, said: “We know that money worries can impact on our relationships, our work and our mental health, causing us to make poorer financial decisions.”

Yet many people risk making things worse by keeping their fears – and, in some cases, the extent of their debt – to themselves.

GoCompare calculates the UK’s secret borrowers owe an average of £6,131 each, adding up to £1.3bn of hidden debt.

Ms Frost said: “Burying your head in the sand, or hiding it from your loved ones, is only going to make your situation worse.”

According to relationship support charity Relate, more than eight million adults are struggling with problem debt and a fifth have split up with a partner due largely or entirely to this. A quarter argue about money with their partner at least once a fortnight, and four out of ten say financial issues have damaged their relationship.

Relate chief executive Chris Sherwood said: “Talking about debt can be difficult, especially if you feel ashamed or have different approaches to money, but keeping things under wraps can be problematic for the relationship and make the debt harder to manage.”

Even couples without significant money worries can come to grief if they don’t address disagreements about spending priorities or long-term goals.

To give your relationship the best chance, sit down together and talk openly and honestly about your financial hopes and fears.

Pick a time when you won’t be overly tired or stressed and choose somewhere you won’t be disturbed. Don’t raise the subject when you are irritated with each other or have been drinking, as this is almost certain to result in a row.

To find common ground, uncover potential problems and diffuse them before they become insurmountable, discuss your attitudes to spending and saving.

One of you may want to enjoy life now, while the other may be more concerned about clearing debt or building up a nest egg.

No matter how different you priorities, make an effort to listen to each other’s point of view and reach a shared plan for what you aim to achieve and how you will go about it.

If you have debt, agree how long you will take to repay it, and think about what you want to save for and how much you will each put away.

Also review the way you organise your day-to-day finances and how well this is working.

Some couples prefer to have individual current accounts, paying a set amount into a joint one each month to cover bills and other shared expenditure. If their earnings are similar, they may transfer the same amount, but if there is a significant disparity, they may contribute proportionately.

Others do away with separate accounts and put everything into a shared pot, while some have no joint accounts and, instead, take responsibility for particular bills or expenses. Many have joint savings accounts; others keep these separate too.

There is no single right way to do it. What matters is that you agree the most comfortable arrangement for both of you, make any changes needed to achieve it, and keep each other fully up to date about what is happening.

Draw up a joint monthly budget, based on your income, essential expenditure, including debt repayments, and an agreed amount for savings. Allow a figure for shared treats and decide how much you can each spend without first discussing it.

Set regular review dates to check if you are staying on track, share worries and, if necessary, revise your plans.

Making a commitment to financial openness and joint decision making this Valentine’s Day could be the best gift you ever give each other.

For more on organising joint finances and drawing up and monitoring a household budget, see moneyadviceservice.org.uk.