7 Hidden Reasons Why You Fight About Money (And How to Fix Them)

What your money arguments are really saying about your relationship.

One of the most common sources of relationship conflict—and reasons for divorce—is money. But arguments about spending and saving tend to be about deeper issues within the partnership. That's the conclusion of a new study by scientists with Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, the Wall Street Journal reported this week. Analyzing 1,000 Reddit posts about monetary conflicts, scientists isolated seven themes that financial fights are really about.

1
Perceived Irresponsibility

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This was the largest issue, detected in 21% of the Reddit posts. If you and your partner fight about lack of financial planning, purchases that one partner deems unnecessary, impulse purchases, gambling, or debt acquired during the relationship, perceived irresponsibility could be damaging your relationship.

2
Job or Income

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This was the second more prevalent issue, found in 19% of posts. "He makes quite a but less than me but he is now thinking about quitting his job and even settling for less money," one person complained. "I'm taking like 13 an hour. This really really bothers me because education and having a career is one of the top things I looked for in a partner."

3
Relative Contributions

An ungrateful-looking young woman holding out a gift while sitting at a restaurant.
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Partners' relative contributions in the relationship were fodder for 15% of posts. Lack of reciprocity, an imbalance in chores or financial contributions were common conflicts. So were receiving too few or too cheap gifts—or too many or too expensive ones.

4
Who Pays?

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Which partner should pay for what was the fourth most common conflict researchers identified. Rent or mortgage contributions, joint expenses, and relationship-enhancing activities such as dates fanned flames in 13% of posts. "I told her enough is enough, I would not tolerate this anymore, especially paying for meals I barely get to eat," one Redditor complained. "Either she starts splitting the bill all the time or no more eating out."

5
Exceptional Expenses

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Misgivings about exceptional expenses were found in 9% of posts—including big-ticket items like cars and homes, and one-time expenses like vacations and weddings.  "I bought a new car to fit the family better which I guess technically is a luxury vehicle," one Redditor said. "He got annoyed that I had a nice new car (…) He makes back-handed comments about my car all the time, saying things like 'for 70K that car should be picking up the kids for you' etc."

6
Terms of Financial Arrangements

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Arguments about financial arrangements were found in 8% of posts. These included lending and borrowing terms between partners, whether finances should be combined, and giving financial help to family. 

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7
One-Sided Decisions

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This was found in about 7% of the Reddit posts. Complaints about hidden expenses or leaving one partner out of the loop is a symptom here. "I feel like I can't trust her anymore– both financially, and in general, since she continued to lie about this until it ballooned to the point where we are seriously looking at starting from square 1 for our wedding fund so that she's not getting destroyed by interest charges every month," one man said.

Michael Martin
Michael Martin is an experienced writer and editor in New York City. He specializes in helping people make life-improving decisions on their health, nutrition, finances, and lifestyle. Read more