If You and Your Spouse Disagree About This, You’re Twice as Likely to Divorce

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DATA SHOWED THIS WAS CITED AS THE TOP REASON FOR COUPLES SPLITTING UP.

Even in the best relationships, it’s practically impossible for couples to see eye-to-eye on every little thing. And whether it’s where to spend the holidays or who needs to pitch in more with chores around the house, most tiffs are resolved and love prevails. But some problems run a lot deeper, with one study finding that if you and your spouse disagree on this one thing, you’re twice as likely to get a divorce. Read on to see which issue can tear couples apart.

You’re twice as likely to divorce if you disagree with your spouse on financial risk.

Need some relationship advice you can take to the bank? A recent study conducted by researchers from the University of California-San Diego (UCSD) and published in June in The Economic Journal analyzed data collected on 5,300 German couples between 2004 and 2017. An annual questionnaire given to participants asked how likely they were to take risks in everything from career choices and driving to sports and financial decisions.

Researchers then adjusted for certain control characteristics within couples, such as differences in levels of education, cultural backgrounds, different religions, and region of origin. They found that differences in risk preferences between spouses were the most reliable predictor of whether or not a couple stayed together. However, the data found financial risk to be the top dividing issue, with divorce twice as likely when one spouse disagreed with the other on how carefully to spend money.

“Arguing about money is typically cited as a reason for divorce, but a main potential driver of these fights is differences in risk attitudes,” Marta Serra-Garcia, PhD, associate professor of economics and strategy at the Rady School and the study’s author, said in a release. “Risk attitudes determine investment decisions, such as housing for the family. If spouses have different risk preferences, they will often disagree on common and very important investments in the marriage.”

Pooling resources can sometimes help pad out any long-term disagreements.

Being simpatico on money can also have other long-term effects on the relationship. Results of the study also found that couples who were on different pages when it comes to financial risk were less likely to own a home together or take on a renovation of their property. But Serra-Garcia says pooling resources can sometimes help couples truly tap into the financial benefits of marriage and help pad out disagreements over time.

“On one hand, households share common goods, such as housing, and for that similarity in risk attitudes is optimal,” Serra-Garcia said. “On the other hand, households share two sources of income and income is typically risky. Since spouses pool their incomes, if one has a less reliable stream than the other, differences in risk attitudes can be optimal because they can ‘insure’ each other, but this can also be a source of tension for marriages.”

The study also found that spouses tend to become more like one another over time.

But just like anything else in relationships, the way someone approaches money and their willingness to take financial risks aren’t exactly lifelong characteristics. The study also found that spouses tended to become more like one another over time and that overall views could change. In fact, the results showed that many spouses became more fiscally responsible as a couple overall during the 2009 global recession and that the same marriages were less likely to end in a divorce down the road.

“Preference assimilation could be a mechanism for resolving conflict within marriages,” Serra-Garcia explained. “As a result, these couples have a stronger likelihood of staying together.”

Incorporating risk preference questions into online dating could save some grief down the line.

The study concludes that such findings on financial risk and divorce could help make for better matchmaking. With the researchers citing that one-third of American couples currently meet online, they suggest that adding some simple questionnaires to dating profiles about risk preference could boost success rates.

“Online dating websites often design algorithms that attempt to find the optimal match,” Serra-Garcia said. “If such websites suggested matches between individuals who are similar in their risk attitudes, that could decrease the likelihood that if a couple forms, it will dissolve in the future.”

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