The Overindulgence Triangle and Money, Money, Money by David Bredehoft

My last post began by exploring the following questions. Does childhood overindulgenceinfluence our love life? Does it consciously or unconsciously influence the partners we pick and how we interact with them in our adult relationships? I introduced the concept of the overindulgence triangle: the connections between being overindulged as a child, being overindulged by your partner, and you overindulging your partner.

This is the second in a series of posts that delves into the overindulgence triangle by drilling down into the data; specifically into money and its connections to the overindulgence triangle.

Money = Life Stress

Two recent national surveys on behalf of the American Psychological Association show money to be a major stressor in American lives. The 2017 Stress in America: The State of our Nation survey by Harris Poll found 62% of Americans report that money is a significant source of stress in their life. The following year's poll of Generation Z also found that 81% of Gen Zs between the ages of 18 and 21 reported money as significant stress compared to 63% of families.

Money = Couple Stress

When couples experience prolonged stress, they evaluate their relationship in negative terms. A study of 20,000 couples (dating, engaged, and married) identified the top five stressors for couples. Financial concerns and inadequate income are in the top five stressors for each type of couple whether they are dating, engaged, or married.

Couples, Money and the Overindulgence Triangle

follow-up study on childhood overindulgence identified the Relationship Overindulgence Triangle. The sample consisted of 233 individuals who were in a relationship (dating, committed dating relationship, engaged, cohabitating, or married). Participants were asked questions covering childhood overindulgence and four scales including the Financial Management Scale (FMS) from PREPARE/Enrich. The FMSmeasures couple agreement on how to handle money (e.g., decisions on how to spend money, concerns over how partner handles money, savings, debt, etc.). A high score indicates satisfaction with a couple's financial management.

The analysis indicates that if individuals were overindulged as children, money and finances become a concern in their adult relationships. Listed below are the top eight money concerns for individuals in a relationship seen through the lens of the overindulgence triangle.

Top 8 Money Concerns for Those in the Overindulgence Triangle

  1. Difficulty deciding how to handle our finances
  2. Concerned about who is responsible for the money
  3. We don’t agree on how to spend our money
  4. Deciding what is most important to spend our money on
  5. Upset that I cannot spend money without my partner’s approval
  6. We are not aware of our major debts
  7. Credit cards and charge accounts are a problem
  8. I wish my partner was more careful in spending money

These eight money concerns not only support the hypothesis that childhood overindulgence plays a role in finding and maintaining adult romantic relationships, but it also may be a major source of stress in a relationship—money and how to handle it. I was overindulged. I want my partner to overindulge me, and I enjoy overindulging my partner. What better way than with money to do it! We know that children who were overindulged often grow up feeling entitled, they often confuse wants and needs, have poor self-control, poor conflict-resolution skills, and expectations of immediate gratification, and they are more likely to develop materialistic values. These things can make being responsible for money difficult, make financial decisions challenging, and make it harder to agree with your partner on how to spend money.

Parents, teachers, coaches, and anyone who works with children need to know there may be long-term consequences to overindulging children, because overindulging may lead them directly into the overindulgence triangle.

This is the second in a series of posts that explore the relationship overindulgence triangle. My next post will look closer at couples, conflict resolution, and the overindulgence triangle.

Related Posts

Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

- I Just Can’t Get Over It! I Feel Like I’m in a Fight Club

Do all things with love, grace, and gratitude.

© 2020 David J. Bredehoft


Life Innovations, Inc. (n.d.). Top stressors for couples.

Olson, D. H. (1998). PREPARE/ENRICH counselor’s manual: Version 2000. Minneapolis, MN: Life Innovations, Inc.

Bredehoft, D. J., & Clarke, J. I. (2006). Questions about growing up overindulged and adult relationships. Poster presented at the National Council on Family Relations Annual Conference, Minneapolis, MN. 11.11.06.

Bredehoft, D. J., & Armao, C. K. (2008). What teachers can do when overindulged children come to school. Lutheran Education Journal. 142(1), 25-35.

© David J. Bredehoft, Jean Illsley Clarke & Connie Dawson 2004-2022;