By Kate Merrill, WBZ-TVBy Kate Merrill

BOSTON (CBS) – Sex and intimacy aren’t the biggest sources of conflict in a relationship. Research shows, it’s money.

Talking helps, but a recent survey by American Express found that most couples avoid the topic. More than 90 percent of people they surveyed admitted they find reasons not to talk to their partner about finances.

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Money patterns in relationships are changing. Years ago most couples merged their money, with the man taking control. That’s not necessarily the case in today’s families. Forty-eight percent of young professional couples in the survey said they keep their money separate. That compares to just 34 percent of all couples.

This trend doesn’t seem to be helping relationships. Seventy-two percent of those young professional couples say discussing finances leads to arguments. If you ask couples of all ages, only 45 percent of them fight over money.

Kate Merrill reports

Dava Levit of Paragon Financial Advisors in Newton isn’t surprised by these results. “I would say maybe the merged couples might have worked out their money things because they have already had the conversation about where do we want to go, and they have already created that joint vision,” she explained.

After 22 years of marriage, Dana and Bobby Wineski say they don’t clash over cash. “We’ve always kept it together,” Dana said. “I guess that makes you have to talk about things a little more.”

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Jennifer Lundberg Parish has been married for 29 years. She believes sharing her finances with her husband Kevin, “made us more of a team instead of separate entities.”

“It’s kind of good because it’s a check and balance,” her husband added.

The reality today is more women are coming into marriages with their own paychecks and savings, and are not ready to just turn over control.

Levit likes a hybrid approach to marriage money, because it forces a big picture conversation about money, but still gives each partner some autonomy. That way, each person can splurge, whether it’s for a new gadget or a designer outfit, without facing judgment.

“The biggest problem,” Levit said, “people are saying their partner is looking over their shoulder and saying, ‘You spent money on that?’”

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There is never a good answer to that question.

Kate Merrill