Relationships & Money: Why Couples Fight

Here’s something random and kind-of interesting: The federal government subsidizes programs encouraging low-income couples to marry. By doing that, the government hopes to create families that are more resilient and less likely to break up. But these programs, which have names like the Healthy Marriage Initiative, have one big flaw… they ignore that a lot of the time couples are fighting about money.

Academics Justin Lavner, Benjamin Karney, and Thomas Bradbury wrote a very interesting article in The Conversation that focuses on what goes wrong when the government gives relationship advice.

As in so many things in life, money (and not having in) causes a lot of stress in relationships. But it’s something that these government programs can’t necessarily help.

When Couples Fight About Money

Lavner, Karney, and Bradbury conducted academic research on newlyweds living in low-income Los Angeles neighborhoods and found something surprising. Poor communication between partners wasn’t the biggest problem or stress-causer in the relationships they encountered. For these low-income couples, money was the biggest problem.

As they put it, “They reported that management of money–things like paying bills or not having enough money to both pay for baby items and go out–was their most salient problem. Other issues like household chores, decisions about leisure time, their in-laws and children followed.”

That’s a big problem. Not having enough money and having difficulties paying bills can throw a wrench into the strongest relationship, and money doesn’t just come out of nowhere.

No Money, Even More Problems

You see, there’s a funny thing about not having enough money to pay for expenses. When you don’t have the money to pay for bills or expenses, that creates new problems of its own. And these problems can quickly add up.

Late fees pile on top of late fees, and little things such as parking tickets or bank account overdraft fees can pile up and cause even bigger financial headaches.

Inside a relationship, this creates problems because it tests the patience of each partner and exposes them to additional risk. This makes them inpatient and more likely to have arguments in turn.

In the article, the academics argue that the government should focus more on policies and programs that help with child care, finances, or job training. While we won’t get into politics–that’s an argument for another publication and another day–the idea that financial trouble can cause stress in relationships is a pretty simple one.

So readers, here’s our question: What do you do when lack of money causes strains in your relationships?