Do day-to-day finances play a role in relationship satisfaction? A dyadic investigation

Casey J. Totenhagen, Melissa J. Wilmarth, Joyce Serido, Alejandra E. Betancourt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Prior researchers have found consistent links between financial issues and relationship outcomes. Yet, because most research is cross-sectional or examines these constructs over longer periods of time (e.g., years), the microlevel processes of how and when these changes occur are unclear. In the present study, we use interdependence theory as a guide to examine the daily fluctuations of financial satisfaction and stress as well as their daily associations with relationship quality in married and unmarried heterosexual couples. Using a dyadic 14-day daily diary research design, we found both financial satisfaction and stress demonstrated significant within-person fluctuations, with women demonstrating greater volatility in financial satisfaction than men. Given that individuals varied in their perceptions of financial satisfaction and stress from day to day, we then examined how these fluctuations were associated with daily relationship satisfaction. We expected financial satisfaction would be positively associated with relationship satisfaction for both actors and partners, whereas financial stress would be negatively associated for both actors and partners. Hypotheses were partially supported. Unmarried women's daily financial satisfaction was associated with increased relationship quality for both themselves (marginal) as well as their partners. An unexpected pattern for unmarried men's financial satisfaction was found; their increased financial satisfaction was associated with decreased relationship satisfaction. Increased financial stress was associated with decreased relationship satisfaction for unmarried men and married women (actor effects). We discuss implications for research and practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)528-537
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Family Psychology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jun 2018

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors acknowledge internal funding from the College of Human Environmental Sciences at the University of Alabama.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 American Psychological Association.


  • Daily diary
  • Dyadic data
  • Financial satisfaction
  • Financial stress
  • Relationship satisfaction


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