A husband’s belief that he has a spendy wife is a top source of financial conflict
Quit raising an eyebrow every time she goes shopping.
A husband thinking his wife spends too much — whether or not she actually does — is a top predictor of financial conflict in a marriage, a new study published in the Journal of Financial Planning finds. (Fifty-six percent of men and 59% of women in the study reported conflict on financial matters.)
The Brigham Young University and Kansas State University researchers, using prior work to label “tightwads” (frugal folks who see spending as painful) and “spenders” (people who feel little or no pain spending money), found the greatest contributor to financial conflict for husbands was having a wife they viewed as a spender. Wives’ biggest conflict contributor was having a husband who saw them as spendthrift. The pattern held true across different incomes and spending habits.
The second-highest predictor of financial strife for husbands was having three or more kids, according to the study. For wives, it was lack of communication with their husbands.
“The fact that spouses’ perceptions of each other’s spending behaviors were so predictive of financial conflict suggests that when it comes to the impact of finances on relationships, perceptions may be just as important, if not more important, than reality,” study co-author Ashley LeBaron, a grad student at BYU, said in a statement.
Data came from the 2008 wave of BYU’s Flourishing Families Project, a longitudinal study spanning 2007 to 2016; on average, participants were 45 to 46 years old and had been married 18 years. The study authors limited the scope to heterosexual couples, as same-sex couples comprised less than 4% of the sample.
“Don’t think that financial problems will magically go away when circumstances change,” KSU professor Sonya Britt-Lutter said. “The study showed that circumstances weren’t the issue here, perception was, and perception doesn’t always change when circumstances do.”
Ninety percent of women surveyed said they experienced financial worries, compared to 85% of men. And not surprisingly, nearly one-third of adults with partners point to money as a major source of conflict, according to a 2015 American Psychological Association survey.
Try seeking “clinical help” from a marriage therapist or financial planner, the authors suggest. And for tips on how to better communicate with your partner about money, try some of these.
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