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7 Reasons Why So Many Couples Fight Over Money — And How To Find Balance



Money fights are just different.

There are a million and one things that could spark a fight between you and your SO: sex, not spending enough time together, half not doing their part of their chores, the list goes on and on. But when it comes to the main things couples fight over that lead to splitsville, money ranks at the top.

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Digging deeper, a recent American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) The survey reveals that 73% of cohabiting couples say that financial decisions are definitely a source of tension in the relationship. What’s more, this tension bleeds into the bedroom; almost half (47%) say that this form of financial stress has a negative impact on issues of physical intimacy.

I spoke with Elle Martinez, host of the Couple money podcast and Megan McCoy, Financial Therapist, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, and Director of the Master’s Program in Personal Financial Planning at Kansas State University, to discuss some of the common reasons couples argue over money and how to overcome these obstacles and work to build a life together:


Money is a taboo subject. Money issues can be so quiet in our culture that we just don’t know how to navigate financial conversations, McCoy explains.


When it comes to money, arguing with your partner is just different from other types of fights, McCoy says. For one thing, they tend to heat up faster and last longer than other problems.

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“They often end up without resolution, leading to tension seeping into other areas of functioning,” says McCoy. “And because money fights are so unpleasant, your kids may see conflict and internalize anger, or create bad beliefs about money by watching things unfold.”


Opposites attract (as evidenced by Paula Abdul and MC Skat Kat). It’s one of those strange phenomena, but spenders can tend to be romantically attracted to savers and vice versa.

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For those who are drawn to their “opposite money,” spenders tend to be drawn to the conscientious, responsible saver, and savers may be drawn to the fun-filled, carefree spender, McCoy explains. “But as time goes on, we are unable to really ‘understand’ the behavior of our partners, because it is very different from ours, and since we are not talking about money, we tend to assume things about our partners. The saver probably assumes the the spender is materialistic, and the spender begins to assume that the saver is controlling or boring. “

It turns out that neither is true. “Research finds that spenders and savers do not differ in materialism or boredom, but rather that their brains differ,” says McCoy. “It turns out that the pain area of ​​the brain for savers really lights up for spending money, while that pain center doesn’t light up for spenders.” In other words, savers may experience the pain of getting rid of their money.


We all have different money stories that influence our behavior. In short, a money story is the set of beliefs, perceptions, and attitudes we have about the mighty dollar.

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These narratives are largely shaped by our observations, what society teaches us, and also by our own experiences about money. “What we saw with the way our family dealt with money and cultural / community expectations are two big factors that can unconsciously influence us,” says Martinez.

Therefore, our behaviors and habits related to money can be very different from those of our partners. What triggers fear and anxiety in one person can easily generate a feeling of happiness and joy in the other. And if we do not discuss money with anyone, much less with our SO, we have no idea what is going through the other person’s head when a financial situation arises.


Money is a finite resource. Unlike knowledge, creativity, and cat memes (which are endless), we might be more likely to fight over money in a relationship because it’s a limited resource, McCoy explains.

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“When we fight over other things in our relationship, they are not finite, like who is taking the garbage out, at the end of the day there are tons of future garbage bags for one or both of us to take out,” he says. . “But when we fight over who can spend what, there is a finite amount of money that we have to share that is limited.”


And ironically, while money can create so much stress in a relationship and lead to breakups, couples tend to downplay money fights, McCoy notes.

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“Many believe that money is not important, so we don’t want to spend so much energy figuring out the role of money in our lives,” he says. “But money is more than the numbers on the Excel sheet.”

McCoy recounts this super moving and relatable quote from a research team led by Natalie H. Jenkins: “Money is a major problem for couples because, like nothing else we know of, it provides the screen on which couples project all their dreams. Deeper fears, hopes and hurts in life. “


Plus, money fights are really about other things. Peel off the layers of that fight you just had over how much to spend at parties and you’ll find that the money arguments are really about what everyone values ​​and prioritizes, Martinez says.

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“For example, with budgets, most of them affect three main areas: paying the bills, saving and investing for the future, and enjoying the money now,” says Martinez. “Couples often argue about the last two. Striking a balance in which both are happy is difficult.”

So now that we’ve gotten to the bottom of why couples can fight so much over money, let’s talk about how to overcome these arguments and strike a balance:

Start by having regular money conventions. Because we tend to avoid talking about money in general, we often only talk to our SOs about finances when there is a 911 situation, McCoy explains. “Because we are under pressure, it tends to be a very little funny discussion about sacrifice.”

And create a spending plan together so you’re both on the same page.

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McCoy agrees with, like 99% of the population, that the word “budget” feels so damn restrictive. “You work hard to earn money, so you should be able to spend it,” he says. “You just have to make sure you spend it on things that make you happy, instead of wasting it mindlessly or because you feel like you have to.”

Instead, here’s what you can do: Create a spending plan together based on allocating cash on what each of you values. Then cut out the things that you don’t need and that don’t make you happy. That’s all it is.

If you are fighting with your partner, you are more likely to approach your finances as a competition. This is my money versus your money. The goal is to shift you to an “our money” mindset so that you can maximize your ability to achieve your goals by pooling resources.

You’ll definitely want to tie your goals to your values ​​and priorities and then give them a specific time frame, Martinez adds. “Start small with a set of three-year goals,” says Martinez. “That gives you a framework to start aligning your budget.”

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Also, when reviewing your expenses and determining what you can cut or reduce, don’t just put up a generic savings account. Instead, tie it to a goal, McCoy recommends – say, Fido Fund 2023, Bombass House 2024, or whatever. “Linking their sacrifices today to you and the dreams of tomorrow from your partners will help them reach their goals more quickly and help them all commit more to each other,” says McCoy. “That’s because those shared future financial goals include both of them.”

Money apps can be your friends. Just like money splitting payment apps like Venmo and Splitwise can make it a lot easier to ask your friends and family for your money back, make the most of money apps that let you keep track of expenses. together and create shared goals.

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“Any type of tracking app or spending plan app will help take some of the stress out of making the right financial decision,” says McCoy. “It will be automated, and in a good way.”

Applications like Qapital and Digit they have characteristics of joint goals. There are also apps designed for couples to make money together, like Honeyfi and Zeta. Use technology to your advantage; they can reduce discomfort and stress.

And if these convos don’t go as planned or you’ve hit a wall, consider working with a financial therapist, a mental health professional or financial professional who has experience working with couples.

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“A couple’s counselor who can mediate on your behalf can help you develop communication and conflict resolution skills,” says McCoy. “Or hire a financial advisor or planner who can help you think about how best to use your money. A financial therapist can help in both areas.”

Have you ever fought over money in a relationship? Let us know in the comments.

And for more posts on life and money, check out the rest of our personal finance positions.

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