What do couples fight about? Money, finances, and even credit lead the list – but it doesn’t have to be that way. 

Ask any couple that’s been married for a while and they’ll probably tell you that marriage is difficult – but well worth it.

Likewise, people in longterm relationships or even just dating often have ups and downs, bumps in the road, and even fights.

But did you know that the number one cause of arguments and disagreements among couples?

You might be surprised that it has more to do with spending, savings, and even use of credit than more romantic concerns.

According to research, here are the top 5 things couples fight about:

1. Money

2. Division of domestic responsibilities

3. Sex

4. Parents

5. Power dynamics

It turns out that the number one cause of relationship disagreements, squabbles, and wars of the roses is money.

What specific money issues count as a relationship red flag?

Here are the most common financial issues or topics we couples fight about:

• The cost of raising children

• Taking care of aging parents or family

• One person makes more than the other

• Risk tolerance

• Financial objectives

• Personalities and values

• Power dynamics in the relationship

• Previous debt or debt accrued during the relationship

So why is money such a hot button issue, to the point that it breaks up so many seemingly happy relationships? 

For most people, money is one of the most stressful and emotional problems. In fact, data from the American Psychological Association reveals that money is the leading cause of stress for Americans today.

Our attitudes, background, and values about work, money, security, and retirement are passed down from our parents starting at an early age, and so they are deeply ingrained, right or wrong.

In fact, many people won’t jump into marriage – or even start dating someone – if they don’t feel they are financially compatible. A recent national survey found that 57% of men and 75% of women say that the other person’s credit score factors into their decision to date them or not. And about 30% of women and 20% of men say they won’t marry a person with a low credit score!

The truth is that arguments over money compound, more than any other reason, except perhaps infidelity, and this type of fight is the most likely signal that the relationship is ending. In fact, studies have shown that fighting over money is a leading indicator of rocky relationship roads in the future. In fact, only substance abuse problems and cheating are bigger predictors of divorce than money issues!

These days, the average couple getting married has a 40-50% chance of getting divorced at some point. But couples with no significant assets at the time of their marriage are 70% more likely to get divorced than couples that are solid financially. In fact, if your income is at least the U.S. median (about $50,000), your risk of divorce is decreased by 30% (compared to those who make $25,000 or less).

It’s no wonder why money plays such a critical role in our relationships, as “financial infidelity” is also on the rise, a form of dishonesty when partners hide their financial dealings from their better half – or even lie about them.

However, if you feel that your spouse spends money irresponsibly, your likelihood of divorce is increased by 45%. Researchers also found that newly married couples who took on a lot of credit card debt became less happy over time. But newlyweds who cut back, saved, and paid off or stayed out of debt measured higher levels of happiness over their marriages.

But before you start second guessing your current relationship because you have disagreements about money from time to time, note that relationship experts and marriage counselors say almost all couples have these heated exchanges over dollars and cents.

“People should expect to fight about finances,” says Laurie Puhn, a New York City-based couples mediator. “It’s a part of any marriage and any long-term relationship. You will fight about finances.”

What’s a “normal” amount of fighting over finances? About 31% of all couples — even the ones that say they are very happy – have at least one fight over finances and money once a month or more.


Look for part two of this blog where we cover tips and tactics to help ensure that money doesn’t ruin your relationship!

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