All couples argue, but what they argue about could predict their risk of getting divorced, according to a new study.
“Arguments about money is by far the top predictor of divorce,” said Dr. Sonya Britt, assistant professor of family studies and human services and program director of personal financial planning at Kansas State University. “It’s not children, sex, in-laws or anything else. It’s money — for both men and women.”
For her study, published in Family Relations, Britt used data collected from more than 4,500 couples as part of the National Survey of Families and Households.
“In the study, we controlled for income, debt and net worth,” Britt said. “Results revealed it didn’t matter how much you made or how much you were worth. Arguments about money are the top predictor for divorce because it happens at all levels.”
She noted that it takes couples longer to recover from money arguments and these financial-based arguments are more intense than any other kind of argument. Couples often use harsher language with each other during money arguments, which also tend to last longer, she said.
Continued financial arguments decrease a couples’ “relationship satisfaction,” she said.
“You can measure people’s money arguments when they are very first married,” Britt said. “It doesn’t matter how long ago it was, but when they were first together and already arguing about money, there is a good chance they are going to have poor relationship satisfaction.”
Divorce may not be a possibility for some couples because of low income, according to Britt. Couple that with low relationship satisfaction and the increased stress has a negative effect on children. It also leads to a decrease in financial planning, which actually could help make the situation better, she said.
Financial planners can help these couples reduce their stress through education, according to Britt.
“This is important because people who are stressed are very short-term focused,” she said. “They don’t plan for the future. If you can reduce stress, you can increase planning.”
Britt advises new couples to seek a financial planner as part of premarital counseling, pull each other’s credit reports and talk through how to handle finances. Talking beforehand about tough financial situations, such as paying off student loans or how money will be budgeted if one spouse stays home to raise children, can help decrease potential arguments, she said.
“If the money is not being treated fairly in the household, then the relationship satisfaction is going to be lower,” she said.
Source: Kansas State University