Couples who find themselves arguing about money may have a rocky road ahead, according to a new study that shows fighting about finances is the top predictor of divorce.

The study’s lead author, Jeffrey Dew, says couples may have their own deeply-rooted ideas about how much should be spent, and those ideas may not always align.

“We all have our own different ideas about what’s really, really important to use money for,” Dew, an associate professor of family, consumer and human development at Utah State University, told

“When spouses fight about money, they might be attacking each other’s deeply held beliefs about money.”

Sonya Britt, the study’s co-author, said while all couples argue, arguing about money is “by far” the top predictor of divorce.

"It's not children, sex, in-laws or anything else. It's money -- for both men and women," Britt said.

The study titled “Examining the Relationship Between Financial Issues and Divorce,” and published in the Family Relations journal, looked at data for more than 4,500 couples as part of the U.S.-based National Survey of Families and Households.

Researchers examined data related to what couples argue about – including  children, money, in-laws, sex and spending time together – and then looked at which of those couples were divorced four to five years later.

Dew said that for men, arguments about money were the only predictor of divorce.

“For women, it was arguments about money and arguments about sex,” Dew said. “But arguments about money was the stronger predictor there.”

“One spouse might think the best thing to do with money is gain status -- buy the really nice luxury car, wear the really nice suits,” he said. “The other spouse may think that money might be best spent on security, maybe putting a lot of money into a retirement fund or paying off their mortgage earlier.”

Dew said arguments about money could also stem from other underlying issues.

“Maybe one spouse feels like they have less power in a relationship than the other,” he said. “They bring up the money as part of a way to fight about power and decision making.”

Britt noted that it takes couples longer to recover from arguments about money compared to other arguments.

She also said couples tend to use harsher language and the fights last longer when it revolves around money.

The study showed the earlier in the relationship arguments about money begin, the more harmful they are.

"It doesn't matter how long ago it was, but when they were first together and already arguing about money, there is a good chance they are going to have poor relationship satisfaction," she said.

If financial arguments continue, the satisfaction couples find in the relationship diminishes, Britt said.

She recommends that couples who find themselves fighting over money seek help from a financial planner.

"This is important because people who are stressed are very short-term focused. They don't plan for the future” she said. “If you can reduce stress, you can increase planning."

Dew said the study points to the need for couples to have a serious conversation about finances and come to some sort of agreement on certain goals for their money.