Tightwads and Spendthrifts Attract, Marry, Fight

Tightwads are likely to tie the knot with individuals who throw caution to the wind when spending money, often to the detriment of the marriage, new research suggests.

On the mating scene, the adage says opposites indeed attract, though past research suggests the saying has more to do with fantasy than reality. One recent study revealed people are more likely to seek partners with matching personality traits, even while claiming to want someone who is sort of the yin to their yang. And in terms of looks, there's a statistical tendency for hotties to stick together while the not-so-hot also partner up.

The new study, based on surveys of more than 1,000 married and unmarried adults, shows opposites attract in the financial realm of relationships.

Scott Rick of the University of Michigan's Ross School of Business and his colleagues found that whether a tightwad or spendthrift, participants indicated they were unhappy about their emotional reactions toward spending money. (For instance, a penny pincher would experience lots of inner pain when spending money.) The more dissatisfied they were, the more likely each participant was to be attracted to individuals with opposing spending views.

However, in the long run the marriage of opposite spenders results in greater conflicts over money and lower marital satisfaction, the researchers found. These results held even when income, debt and savings were taken into account.

"Even though a spendthrift will have greater debt when married to another spendthrift than when married to a tightwad, the spendthrift is still less likely to argue about money with the other spendthrift," Rick said.

Despite this attraction between spending opposites, unmarried participants said their ideal romantic partner should share their views on spending.

"People tend to have poor introspective awareness of what they will initially find attractive when actually encountering potential mates," Rick said. "Our findings are consistent with the commonly observed disconnect between what people say they look for in an ideal mate and the characteristics of actual mates to whom they are attracted."

The research has been submitted to a journal, though it hasn't been accepted yet for publication.

Live Science Staff
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