Who's the Spendthrift, Who's the Miser?

Opposites attract. It's the only possible explanation for why spendthrifts and misers tend to marry each other. Any marriage therapist will tell you it's true, since this is the combination of personality types they see in their offices on a regular basis dealing with marital money strife.

As to why these opposites continue to attract, one could imagine an evolutionary instinct encouraging people to balance their extreme tendencies with the opposite quality. That is, if you tend to compulsively spend, you seek out a compulsive saver to ensure your survival.

Whether this human drive for balance in money styles exists from a scientific perspective is unknown, but it appears to be an unconscious drive for partners in mate selection. Your challenge is to balance each other's more extreme tendencies.

Of course, the combination of two extremes does not ensure balance in money management or anything else. It does, however, ensure friction and conflict if not addressed.

Who Is the Spendthrift?

Put simply, he is the one who spends more money than he has in his pocket or bank account. He's the person who buys things for emotional reasons, or on impulse. He may spend money in order to get external approval based on the things he owns rather than who he is as a person. The spendthrift can also be motivated by a love of risk, with high-risk investments or gambling involved in the games of risk he plays as a way to keep his adrenalin high.

A spendthrift will insist on staying in only four-star hotels on a vacation with his wife so he can enjoy the sense of status he gets in the glances of fellow lodgers, rather than focusing on how he'll balance the couple's budget for the rest of the vacation.


According to a 2008 online survey of 74,000 men and women, about half of all couples said they fight about money at least once a month. Contrary to conventional thinking, couples also said that big money fights rarely lead to steamy make-up sex.

Who Is the Miser?

A miser gets emotional satisfaction or a feeling of enhanced security from not spending her money or by doing without. A miser denies herself things that others might consider necessities, for example, fresh fruit at meals, in addition to obvious luxuries, such as caviar or champagne.

She may be attempting to alleviate a free-floating sense of guilt or an underlying feeling that she does not deserve the “good things in life.” Some call this attitude a “poverty mentality,” where an individual deals with an intense fear of not having enough by not indulging in anything that might not be deemed essential.


Compulsive saving, or hoarding, can be as destructive to financial stability and marital harmony as compulsive spending. Hoarding often reflects a person's obsessive reaction to an underlying anxiety or fear, such as a fear of abandonment or not having enough based on an unresolved childhood trauma. The only way to deal positively with money in marriage is to free it from all hidden attachments and agendas.

Either in Moderation

The problems with both of these money temperaments lay in their extremes. Either set of traits in moderation could represent an entirely appropriate approach to marital money management.

It's possible that neither you nor your partner has an extreme money style. Maybe you are a mix of both tendencies, perhaps at different times and under different conditions. The important process to accomplish by the end of this section is to identify your dominant tendencies regarding money and see how you impact each other.

Do you help each other avoid facing financial realities by both indulging in overspending? Does one of you grin and bear it while watching the other overspend, all the while saving up anger and resentment? These terms are presented to help you reflect and take responsibility for your actions, not to blame each other or provoke conflict.

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