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Financial Stress Can Hurt Intimacy in Relationships

Nearly half of American couples experiencing financial tension admit it’s had a negative impact on intimacy with their partner. More often an issue for men than women.


Love is in the air, but so are financial problems. Nearly three in four (73 percent) married or cohabitating Americans say financial decisions are ever a source of tension in their relationship. Of these, nearly half (47 percent) admit this tension has negatively impacted intimacy with their partner.

Intimacy issues are more often experienced by men (52 percent) than woman (41 percent), and especially for those who have children in their household (60 percent). This all according to new research conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA).

“Investing in financial compatibility early on pays dividends in the long run. If left ignored, financial stressors can tear through a relationship and ruin more than just your bank balances,” Gregory J. Anton, CPA, CGMA, chairman of the AICPA’s National CPA Financial Literacy Commission. “It’s important to talk and have a strong sense of financial familiarity in a relationship. When you share your money values and set joint-financial goals together, you help to set your relationship up for success.”

For Richer, for Poorer: Money & Spousal Conflict

The survey found that 7 in 10 Americans married or living with a partner (69 percent) have had a disagreement with their companion about finances in the past year. Those disagreements most often revolve around needs vs. wants (36 percent), spending priorities (28 percent), and making purchases without discussing them first (22 percent). Paying off debt (21 percent) and saving for larger purchases (19 percent) round out the top 5.

“Talking about money can certainly be uncomfortable, but candid discussions about your financial situation and goals are critical,” said David Almonte, CPA/CGMA member of the AICPA Financial Literacy Commission. “Both personal and financial benefits can come from scheduling regular financial check-ins with your partner. Discussing a shared financial outlook will not only bring you closer to your joint-financial goals but can help to bring you closer together as a couple as well.”

Only 56 percent of married or cohabitating Americans say they are very comfortable talking to their partner about finances. Lack of communication and financial problems are both common issues that contribute to divorce. Couples looking for help strengthening their financial compatibility can visit

Financial Infidelity Enough for Some to Throw in the Towel

Cheating is often cited as a major contributing factor to divorce. It may not be limited to physical and emotional affairs but also financial betrayal. Whether it’s a large amount of debt or assets that have been kept concealed or a secret bank account– financial infidelity is destructive to trust, and for some, that is enough to end their relationship.

The survey found that 2 in 5 Americans who are married or living with their partner (41 percent) would be at least somewhat likely to end their relationship if they discovered their partner was dishonest with them about their finances. This includes one in five (20 percent) who would be extremely/very likely to call it quits.

Financial infidelity fast facts:

  • Younger adults are more likely to end the relationship:
    • More than half of Americans age 18-34 (55 percent) said they would likely end their relationship over financial infidelity, whereas less than 1 in 4 of those 65+ (22 percent) said they would.
  • Most likely to end their relationship due to financial infidelity:
    • Males between 30-45 at 60 percent, with Females 18-34 just behind them at 57 percent.
  • Least likely to end their relationship due to financial infidelity:
    • Males 65+ at 13 percent, followed by Females 65+ at 33 percent.

Parents With Children in the Household Having a Rough Time

One third of Americans living with finance-driven relationship tension (34 percent) say the tension has been more frequent since the start of the pandemic. For parents with children in their homes, it is even higher. Those with kids in the home were twice as likely to say financial decisions have caused relationship tension more frequently since the pandemic began (47 percent of those with children in household vs. 22 percent of those without).

Further, three in five of those with children in their home (60 percent) admit that their financially driven relationship tension has had a negative impact on intimacy with their partner, far outpacing the 34 percent of Americans without children at home.

Additional Survey Findings:

  • For one in four Americans married or living with a partner (26 percent), financial decisions are a source of tension in their relationship at least once a month.
  • Just over a quarter of married or cohabitating Americans (27 percent) claim they have not had a disagreement with their spouse about any aspects of finances in the past year.