Research from the University of Virginia’s National Marriage Project suggests that consumer debt assaults marriages and “plays a powerful role in eroding the quality of married life.” In fact, if spouses argue about finances once a week, their marriage is 30 percent more likely to end in divorce than those who fight about money less frequently.
According to Jeffrey Dew, an assistant professor of Family, Consumer, and Human Development at Utah State University and the author of the Marriage Project’s report Thrifty Couples Are the Happiest, “[c]onsumer debt fuels a sense of financial unease among couples, and increases the likelihood that they will fight over money matters; moreover, this financial unease casts a pall over marriages in general, raising the likelihood that couples will argue over issues other than money and decreasing the time they spend with one another….”
Consumer debt, Dew says, is also “an equal-opportunity marriage destroyer. It does not matter if couples are rich or poor, working class or middle class. If they accrue substantial debt, it puts a strain on their marriage.”
By comparison, assets “sweeten and solidify the ties between spouses. Assets minimize any sense of financial unease that couples feel, with the result that they experience less conflict….”
Fighting over money changes the center of gravity in a marriage. “[C]onflict over money matters is one of the most important problems in contemporary married life. Compared with disagreements over other topics, financial disagreements last longer, are more salient to couples, and generate more negative conflict tactics… ”
Newly wed couples can start out on the right foot steering clear of materialism and consumer debt; they “are much more likely to enjoy connubial bliss.”