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Money Pressure: A Cause of Divorce Thumbnail

Money Pressure: A Cause of Divorce

By Sarah Carlson, CFP®, CLU®, ChFC®

Why is money often cited as the cause of divorce? Why do so many couples have difficulty agreeing to make financial decisions?

Money isn't really about money. Money represents so many emotions and a sense of control and power.

Money represents your conscious and unconscious beliefs about money. So much of your fear and love beliefs wrap around how you view money.

Money represents our hopes and fears. Our personal, familial history with money shapes how we deal with money in our relationships. Many times logic has very little to do with it. Disagreements about money aren't about money; it's about our dreams, fears, and inadequacies.

Research by Jan Andersen, Associate Professor at CSU Sacramento, found other factors such as:

  • Incompatibility
  • Lack of emotional support
  • Abuse
  • Sexual problems

These are more contentious in romantic relationships than money problems.

I disagree. In my decades as a Spokane financial advisor, it is extremely rare to meet with couples who have never had profound conflict regarding money. These are the trends I have seen. Take stock, do you identify with any of them?

Explore the cause of divorce before it's too late

Exploring the Main Cause of Divorce

  1. Communication around money. It's not usually the lack of money that triggers the cause for divorce. It's the lack of compatibility with finances and money imbalance in relationships.

  2. Power struggles over who controls the money. Opposites can attract, but the cause for divorce often ensues when two people are opposites in the financial department. It is easy to imagine the conflict if one partner is a saver and one is a spender.

    One focuses on the future, while the other lives for today. One has no problem buying on credit, while the other saves up for what one wants.

  3. If a spouse feels they have no power financially or otherwise, they will frequently sabotage the family finances by spending money outside the budget. Over time, this conflict can reach heights such that the cause of divorce seems the only logical conclusion.

  4. Lack of self-worth around having a low net worth.

  5. Fear of scarcity. Never having enough money to feel secure.

Renowned research psychologist at the University of Washington, John Gottman, concluded that "the four horsemen" can predict the cause of divorce: 

  • Contempt
  • Criticism
  • Defensiveness
  • Stonewalling

People don't fall out of love; it slowly happens in ways they don't honor and respect each other. Even as couples try to solve their emotional problems within a marriage can be rife with futility.

There can be:

  • Challenges in connecting, especially with a money imbalance in relationships
  • Trying to buy gifts for each other versus being present, such as taking a destination trip together instead of enjoying each other in daily life.

Money is a cause of divorce


The day-to-day process of communication is critical to avoid the main cause of divorce. A couple needs shared financial goals and realistic strategy to achieve them to make financial goals materialize. 

What do you observe in your partnership when it comes to money? Reach out to me, I look forward to hearing from you! 

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Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.

All investing involves risk including loss of principal. No strategy assures success or protects against loss.