The decision of whether to have joint or separate bank accounts should always be a mutual one. However, it can be a point of contention for couples who don’t agree, couples with vastly different income levels, and one income families with a stay-at-home parent. You’ll have no problem finding supporters and detractors for either approach. Perhaps you and your spouse even have a strong opinion on the matter. But can a joint bank account improve your relationship and reduce money fights? Let’s find out.
Tightly Bonded Couples & Interdependence Theory
Interdependence theory is a psychological and sociologic formula characterizing the unique effects of people’s surroundings, adaptations, and interactions on one another’s experiences and perceptions. When we interact and communicate with one another, slight individual characteristics and behaviors make each of our experiences unique.
The interdependence theory makes four assumptions; their variables are used to assess the relationship between shared finances and better relationships.
- Structure: A Unique Situation that Makes the Outcome Possible
- Transformation: An Internal Calculation of Risks vs. Rewards Possible
- Interaction: Variable Traits Such as Personality & Motives Affecting the Outcome of Interactions between two individuals
- Adaptation: How Social Cues, Religious Beliefs & Previously Experiencing a Similar Situation Affect an Interaction’s Outcome
Research Links Shared Finances with Better Relationship Quality
There’s no “one way” to handle finances and bank accounts within a marriage. But a new paper published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology scores another point for couples who choose to pool all of their money into a joint bank account.
Another study examining the impact of shared income on relationship happiness was led by Emily Garbinsky, an associate professor of marketing and management communication at Cornell University. She and her colleagues outlined their research parameters based on the interdependence theory to evaluate whether and how pooling finances impacted the marriage relationships.
After analyzing data from a total cohort of 38,534 people across a total of six studies, Garbinsky and her colleagues determined that compared to couples who keep some or all of their money separate, couples who pool all their money together experience greater relationship satisfaction and are less likely to break up.
The researchers say couples who pooled their money exhibited greater marital satisfaction and connection and had more positive, stable, and safe interactions. In the Cornell Chronicle Garbinsky explains that she and her colleagues discovered that:
“Couples with pooled financial accounts tended to exhibit a better connection and their interactions were more positive, stable and safe.”
In addition to experiencing happier marriages and a stronger connection they also noted the use of healthier pronouns during communication with others such as pronouns such as “we” and “our”.
The benefit of pooling financial resources was even more pronounced among couples with lower income. However, even in relationships with middle class or wealthy income bracket the studies prove a strong correlation between shared bank accounts and relationship quality and length.
Why Financially Interdependent Couples are Happier
The studies found that pooling resources helped couples become more dependent on one another. Their financial interdependence also helps align couples’ financial goals and interests; these factors indicate better relationship satisfaction based on the principles of the interdependence theory.
In other words, pooling your financial resources could help you and your spouse by:
- Fostering a greater sense of connection and camaraderie
- Helping you both feel safer and more secure
- Keeping your shared goals top of mind
- Help envision yourselves together forever
Is There A Case for Keeping Money Separate?
Of course, plenty of couples keep some or even all their finances separate, yet still enjoy high marital satisfaction. And we’d be remiss to discuss the benefits of joint bank accounts without mentioning the potential benefits of separate bank accounts as well.
For instance, keeping separate bank accounts may make sense for couples who come into the marriage with a lot of pre-existing debt or savings. Individual accounts are also great for partners who enjoy maintaining a sense of autonomy over how they choose to spend “their” money. Plus, separate bank accounts help both partners stay current with their financial skills, such as budgeting, investing, saving, and debt management (as opposed to letting one partner “handle all the money”).
- A Financial Inventory for Couples: Questions to Ask Each Other About Money
- What Surrendering in Your Marriage Means & Why it Builds Trusting Relationships
- What is Financial Infidelity: 8 Signs to Look Out for and What to Do About It
- Money Fights in Marriage: Why Men & Women React Differently
- Immersive Couples Therapy Retreats with Imago Relationship Counseling
Create Ground Rules Before Combining Finances
Whether or not you and your spouse choose to combine all of your finances, keep them separate, or do a mix of both, it helps to establish some financial “ground rules”. These will help to ensure that combining finances enhances rather than detracts from your marriage. Things like “honesty about where and how we spend our money, “paying our bills on time”, and “assigning responsibility for paying recurring bills” are some basic ones.
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- Gladstone, J. J., Garbinsky, E. N., & Mogilner, C. (2022). Pooling finances and relationship satisfaction. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. ISSN: 0022-3514. Retrieved June 28, 2022 from https://doi.apa.org/doiLanding?doi=10.1037%2Fpspi0000388
- Magnus-Sharpe, Sarah, March 24, 2022. Can combining finances lead to long-lasting love. Cornell Chronicle, Cornell University News. Retrieved June 2, 2022 from https://news.cornell.edu/stories/2022/03/can-combining-finances-lead-long-lasting-love
- Peer Reviewed Publication, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Retrieved June 28, 2022 from https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/947663