A recent survey by Harris Interactive finds one in 10 people who are married or living with a significant other believe they are bullied by their spouse or partner over finances, shedding some new light on one of the oldest arguments between couples: money management.

Flickr user: stevendepolo

"The dynamic of being bullied about money is probably made worse because of the economy and people being worried about finances, and sometimes the man can panic that there isn't enough money to support the family and he may respond in a way that he wants to watch what's going on," said Dr. Marty Tashman, marriage and family therapist. "Also, from the man's point of view, it may be hard for him to understand some of the reasonable expenses and what things may cost in the grocery store."

According to the survey, common complaints included a spouse or partner being made to feel guilty about shopping habits, limiting monthly spending or making the significant other show receipts from every purchase.

"We have many dual income households now, but the old thought with a one paycheck family is that 'I bring in the money, so I have the control,'" said Dr. Tashman. "But, that discounts the value of the woman's contribution to take care of the children and the household. It's a partnership.

"Some of it is from ignorance and some of it is from fear, but the real concern we're going to have is whether this dynamic extends throughout the entire relationship. Is she being bullied or intimidated across the board?"

Communication remains the key to creating healthier financial habits. Tashman suggests:

  • Talking with your spouse or partner in a stress-free environment
  • Approaching the subject in an inquiring, non-accusatory manner
  • Exposing your own vulnerabilities
  • Understanding how tough it is to break certain patterns
  • Setting firm limits, but in a non-hurtful way

"If you can't communicate well, take a step back, take an emotional deep breath and be clear about what you want." said Tashman. "Be persistent, but not obsessive."