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  • Decreased financial stress for wives was connected to both wives and husbands reporting better sex lives. Tweet This
  • Husbands who practiced behaviors such as staying within a monthly budget reported more satisfaction with their sex life. Tweet This
  • Habits like sticking to a monthly spending plan may lessen newly-married couples’ financial stress and may even increase their satisfaction in the bedroom, per a new study. Tweet This

We’ve all heard that money and sex are among the leading reasons for divorce. What you might not have heard, however, is that recent research suggests there might be a connection between how couples manage their money and their sex life. Together with colleagues from Brigham Young University, we recently examined this connection—whether couples’ money management predicts satisfaction with their sex life.

A few previous studies provide a foundation for a potential connection between money and sex. One study revealed that husbands who often disagreed with their wife about money were also more likely to disagree with her about sex. Other scholars found that as couples were more stressed about their finances, they were also less satisfied with their sex life—and this link was found again in another recent study.    

This previous research tells mostly the same story: less financial stress, better sex. Scholars had not assessed, however, what role financial management behaviors (such as saving money from every paycheck) may play in these connections. Published recently in the Journal of Financial Therapy, we examined connections between financial management behaviors—which include behaviors like creating and sticking to a monthly budget and paying off a credit card in full each month—and sexual satisfaction in newly-married couples. 

We used data from 1,447 couples who participated in the Couple Relationships and Transition Experiences nationally-representative study. In terms of demographics, wives and husbands were about 28 and 30 years of age, respectively. Many women either had an Associate or Bachelor’s degree, and many men in the study had an Associate degree. About two-thirds of husbands and wives identified as white, and the other one-third identified as Latinx, black, Asian, multiracial, or other. 

We tested whether financial stress linked financial management behaviors and sexual satisfaction. Basically, we made an educated guess that consistently practicing healthy financial management behaviors would be connected to less financial stress, and that less financial stress would benefit a newly-married couple’s sexual satisfaction. 

Our findings partially supported this prediction. Specifically, for both husbands and wives, consistent practice of financial management behaviors was strongly linked to their own reports of less financial stress. Decreased financial stress for wives was connected to both wives and husbands reporting better sex lives. However, husbands’ financial stress was unrelated to their own or their wives’ satisfaction with their sexual relationship. 

The finding that wives’ lower financial stress predicted better sexual satisfaction for them and their husbands was somewhat surprising to us. Previous research suggests that men may experience more financial stress than women and that men might find it more difficult to differentiate their identity from how well they provide income. Because of this previous research, we suspected that when men experienced higher financial stress, their financial stress might be more likely to spill over into their sexual relationship. Nevertheless, we found that wives’ financial stress might matter more for a newly-married couple’s sex life than husbands’ financial stress. 

Somewhat contrary to our hypothesis, husbands’ financial management behaviors were directly connected to their own sexual satisfaction. That is, as husbands practiced behaviors such as staying within a monthly budget, they also reported more satisfaction with their sex life, yet their financial stress did not seem to play a role in these connections.

Although the finding is not particularly new, our results also suggested that consistently managing finances well strongly predicts less financial stress for both husbands and wives—above and beyond the roles of income, age, and education in predicting financial stress. Especially in the context of the financial stress associated with the COVID-19 pandemic—with around 64% of Americans significantly stressed about money—and the current rise of inflation, we recognize that simply suggesting Americans ‘manage their finances better’ might come across as quixotic or insensitive. However, financial counselors and planners agree that consistently practicing healthy financial management behaviors—like sticking to a monthly budget—can solve some financial problems. 

Certainly, there are financial circumstances that are completely outside of an individual’s control. Policy makers should continue to find creative solutions to help families escape the vicious cycle of poverty. Social workers and other clinicians can help low-income families access government aid and other available resources. These efforts may also help alleviate financial stress and subsequently benefit the sexual relationships of newly-married couples. 

One thing that couples can do, though, is create a budget—especially with many free or inexpensive budget tracking apps. Regardless of a family’s financial circumstances, a monthly budget can help couples plan and track spending. This monthly spending plan will likely include restrictions—because money doesn’t grow on trees for most people—but habits like sticking to a monthly spending plan, according to our findings, may lessen newly-married couples’ financial stress and may even increase their satisfaction in the bedroom. 

Matthew Saxey is an M.S. student in Brigham Young University’s Marriage, Family, & Human Development Program who studies the implications of how couples navigate their finances. Dr. Ashley LeBaron-Black is an Assistant Professor in the School of Family Life at Brigham Young University.