Financial arguments are one of the leading causes of conflicts in relationships.
Financial arguments are positively linked to marital dissatisfaction and are often listed as one of the leading causes of divorce. They are unique in that they often last longer and more severely impact the health of relationships than other types of arguments. Despite this commonality, there isn’t enough discussion on why couples disagree about money and what couples can do to better navigate financial decisions in their relationship.
Why Do Couples Fight About Money?
One common misconception about financial arguments is that they only occur when financial resources are scarce. However, financial arguments commonly happen throughout the course of a marriage, even when a couple has sufficient funds to meet their financial needs.
Often, money disagreements in relationships are actually driven by deeper interpersonal money beliefs and behaviors. A well-cited example of this is when a person who is very comfortable with saving, “the saver,” marries someone who is very comfortable with spending, “the spender.” This difference in spending behavior can be a continual source of marital conflict as a couple works to make various financial decisions together.
Differences in financial behaviors and preferences can cover a lot of topics like risk tolerance, charitable giving preferences and visions of retirement. Couples who have similar financial behaviors and preferences report higher levels of marital satisfaction. However, many couples find themselves in a relationship with people who have opposite financial behaviors and preferences.
Part of the reason couples are often composed of individuals with different financial habits and preferences is that it is common to be attracted to others with the opposite characteristics of themselves. These money beliefs and behaviors are developed throughout the life of an individual, especially in childhood, and can be deeply held. The differences in the financial beliefs, behaviors and preferences of the individuals within the couple may not present itself until the couple is faced with a financial decision where they decidedly and vehemently disagree.
What Can Couples Do to Argue Less About Money?
As daily financial decisions permeate the lives of many couples, it can be a challenge to work through financial conflicts together. Although it will always be challenging to be in a relationship with someone who has different financial habits, there are two simple strategies that can help make addressing these differences easier.
Financial discussions can be difficult, but being curious about the underlying reasons behind a partner’s financial preferences and behaviors before conflicts arise can greatly reduce the impact of individuals’ differences. Having precautionary discussions can lead to more effective conflict negotiation and decreased financial conflicts overall.