Financial communication in romantic relationships

Joy Nichole Smithson


Previous research indicates that financial disagreements are common among romantic couples. However, little theoretical development has been offered to explain such disagreements. This study integrates several areas of research pertinent to financial conflict, and proposes two typologies to explain couples' recurrent arguments over finances. The first typology concerns financial attitudes that work together to create a financial style. The second typology concerns financial power in the relationship, which is comprised of contribution to household funds, dominance in financial decision-making, and keeping money separate from one's partner. Dyadic data was collected from 80 couples to test the typologies. Analyses revealed that some attitude combinations are less conducive to relational harmony than others, particularly for males. Among all respondents, being romantically involved with a liberal spender increased the perception of financial conflict. Additionally, partners who perceived they had the most financial power in the relationship perceived that conflicts over finances were frequent, irresolvable, and predictable.